Sex Pistols Ready to Bring Anarchy to U.S.A.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Billboard) – Never mind the bollocks. Can the Sex Pistols sell tickets?
“That’s a good question,” says Jim Glancy, vice president for promoter Clear Channel Entertainment in New York. The answer will come soon enough; the punk pioneers embark on their first tour in seven years this summer.
The Pistols’ John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon has no false illusions that tickets will fly out the window.
“They won’t blow out,” he says with a sneer. “We’re just filling in between . And I don’t care; I just do what I do. Bloody hell.”
Despite punk’s enduring popularity — perhaps best exemplified by the consistently successful Vans Warped tour — the Sex Pistols’ drawing power remains somewhat of an enigma.
Not counting their ill-fated, seven-date 1978 fiasco, the band has only toured North America once, on 1996’s Filthy Lucre reunion tour.
The absence makes the band a bit of an unknown entity. “I have a pretty good idea about what I’m gonna do with something like classic rock, modern rock or country,” Glancy says, “but with the Sex Pistols, I have nothing to compare it to.”
The Pistols package includes Dropkick Murphys and the Reverend Horton Heat. The tour is just 13 dates, beginning Aug. 20 at FleetBoston Pavilion in Boston and wrapping Sept. 7 at the San Diego Street Scene festival.
The 1996 reunion tour did “solid business,” according to Ron Opaleski, agent for the Sex Pistols at the William Morris Agency. Only 11 shows from that tour were reported to Billboard Boxscore, with an average gross of $96,578 and average attendance per show at 4,143.
Lydon considers the ’96 tour “very successful, but not money-wise. How would it be? We’re the Sex Pistols, nobody likes us and we don’t care.”
So why reunite now?
“Who says we reunited?” Lydon asks. “We never separated. We don’t need a reason for anything. Let the copycats sit around and come up with reasons for things.”
Still, Lydon seems to think the time is right to spread a little anarchy in North America. “There is a vast amount of disenfranchised in America,” he says. “It’s important to let them know we’re still here.”
BACK FOR MORE
Glancy would like to do better than the 1996 average on his Aug. 21 show at Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach Performing Arts Center in Wantagh, N.Y.
Break-even is between 5,000 and 6,000, and Glancy says the curiosity factor alone ought to be enough to hit that number. “I’d be disappointed if we didn’t do 6,000-7,000,” he says. Tickets are $27.50 and $47.50 for the Jones Beach show.
Elliott Lefko, VP of artist development for House of Blues Concerts Canada, promoted the Pistols in ’96 and is looking forward to HOB’s Aug. 25 Pistols show at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheater.
Lefko says ticket sales are “about what we thought they would be” in the early going, at between 3,000 and 4,000. He says they ended up at about 5,000 in 1996, but the show was even more successful on another level.
“This was one of the best shows we’ve ever done here, not in terms of sales, but how the joint was rocking,” Lefko recalls. “It seemed like the whole amphitheater was pogo-ing.”
Lefko believes the Pistols tour fills an underserved niche. “This audience doesn’t have much out there anymore,” he says. “It’s a really cool audience, but they’re not gonna go see Korn or a lot of what’s on the radio.”
Individual promoter deals were cut in each market, with buyers including CCE, HOB and independents. “Everyone’s really excited,” Opaleski says. “This is a band that shaped the scope of contemporary music.”
Lydon is not surprised that promoters came to the table. “They always do, mate,” he says. “We need them, and they need us.”
Despite the tour’s brevity, it is unlikely other dates will be added. “We wanted to hit the major majors and keep it short and sweet,” Opaleski says.
“This is all we could get,” Lydon counters. “If we can get more along the way, we will.”
The Pistol’s production will be predictably low-fi. “There will be no twaddling about playing with knobs and all that,” he says. “We’re the smallest-equipped band possible, but we kick up a ferocious sound.”
BIG IN BAGHDAD?
Lydon says he is indeed serious when asked about published reports that the Pistols want to play Baghdad.
“We’re very, very interested in playing Baghdad, and we’re meeting all kinds of denials and red tape,” Lydon says. “I’m slowly cutting my way through it.”
He adds: “If you want to give them democracy, do it properly. Give them the Sex Pistols. Wake up, America.”
Lydon says the band would promote the show “as an act of charity,” adding, “I don’t do these things as a joke or a prank, as strange as that may sound to those of lesser mental abilities that really don’t get the point of being alive.”
Dropkick Murphys, a Boston-based, Celtic-tinged punk band, will hook up with the Sex Pistols following a stint on Warped, bringing some box-office clout of their own to the tour, particularly in their hometown.
According to Somers, “The last time Dropkick Murphys played Boston over St. Patrick’s Day, they sold out four nights at the Avalon in advance — over 8,000 tickets.”
Lydon calls Dropkick Murphys “a good bunch of lads.” But he is mostly unimpressed with today’s punk artists.
“Britney Spears is as punk as that silly Lavigne bird,” he says. “I never, ever cared for Green Day, with their ice cream van and huge video productions. As far as I’m concerned, anything that’s MTV-led I worry about. MTV is like a headless chicken.”
Lydon feels young punk acts might be well-served to see the Pistols in action this summer.
“We can’t find sponsors, we don’t have a record company. But we’re still here. That might be a bloody good little education for anyone out there that wants to be a pop star. They shouldn’t want to be. They should want to be something more serious — a la us.”
Sex Pistols Ready to Bring Anarchy to U.S.A.