For nearly 35 years, I’ve obsessed over the Sex Pistols’ show at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio on January 8, 1978. Though I’m not a Sex Pistols collector or even that big a fan, the show peeled back the top of my skull and shotgunned everything I believed about music into smithereens. Did this happen to anyone else? I thought so.
I started agitating for something in San Antonio to mark these three and a half decades since the UK’s big bang of punk blazed through Texas. Two of the quartet’s seven/only infamous U.S. dates took place there and in Dallas at Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom, where the marquee famously advertised “Sex Pistols and Merle Haggard,” albeit for separate shows. The San Antonio performance remains notable for a variety of reasons.
They’d played Atlanta and Memphis to so-so crowds, but S.A. was the first show of the tour to sell out – 2,000 people at an unlikely locale catering to a cowboy clientele. Infighting was already spoiling for the breakup in San Francisco the following week, where Alejandro Escovedo’s punk band the Nuns opened. Sid Vicious, addicted to heroin, famously swung his bass at an audience heckler, mere feet from where I stood because Sid was who I wanted to see the most. More importantly, those people I knew who witnessed the show also left with a different attitude about music.
They went on to form bands, start newspapers, make films, write books, and seek other ways to pass the message along. And the message was that music mattered again, thanks to four Brits who frankly didn’t give a shit whether it mattered or not.
The Sex Pistols’ show was also a turning point in San Antonio’s uneven and underappreciated musical legacy. Our sister city’s scene, a driving force in South Texas during the Sixties, had distilled into the hard rock capital of the States thanks in large part to promoters like Stone City Attractions, who riskily brought in the Sex Pistols. That night was the last stand for a certain era of rock, certainly for opening act Ultra, the local hard rock kings, but the gate swung wide for openers the Vamps, whose lead singer Frank Pugliese still herds the mighty Sons of Hercules.
“We’re So Pretty: The Sex Pistols in San Antonio 1978” opens as an exhibit at the South Texas Popular Culture Center in San Antonio today and runs through February, with hints that it may stay open through March for brave South by Southwest attendees venturing south. The exhibit features photos by my first ex-husband, Houston photographer Ken Hoge, who was living in Austin at the time and shooting for the Austin Sun. Some of these 30 images have circulated for decades but never been seen in total.
Tex Pop, as it’s nicknamed, is the younger sibling of the South Austin Popular Culture Center (better known as South Pop), and readily agrees with San Antonio Express-News critic Jim Beal Jr.’s assessment of it as a “clearinghouse for San Antonio and South Texas music.” Tex Pop carries South Pop’s standard of preservation and documentation of popular culture, and opened in May with the exhibit “Doug Sahm: The San Antonio Years.” Conflict of interest note: I’m a co-founder of Tex Pop along with Michael Ann Coker.
Tomorrow night, Saturday, Jan. 5, tribute concert “The Filth and the Flautas” pays tribute to the Sex Pistols music and Texas punk legacy at San Antonio’s Backstage Live! S.A. punk heavyweights Piñata Protest, the Sons of Hercules, Purple Stickpen (Tex Edwards opened the Pistols show in Dallas with the Nervebreakers), Ultra, the Hickoids performing the Pistols’ Randy’s set, Austin street punks the Lower Class Brats, the Next (Raul’s-era punk with San Antonio roots), Joe Strummer/Clash tribute band the Clampdown, San Antonio’s all-female rockers Heather Go Psycho, and Houston’s Chelsea Hotel stack the bill.
By the way, I’m hoping to teach a class in Austin on Wed., Jan. 16, similarly titled “We’re So Pretty: The Sex Pistols in Texas 1978,” which looks at their shows from a statewide point of view. Enrollment is currently dismal, however, so maybe we’ll move it to the spring and all go see Lucinda Williams at the Paramount that night.
She didn’t go the Sex Pistols.
1.8.78 set-list for Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio:
“God Save the Queen”
“I Wanna Be Me”
“Holidays in the Sun”
“Belsen Was a Gas”
“Anarchy in the U.K.”
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