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January 3, 2023

Sex Pistols Passport Photos Taken Prior to Their 1978 US Tour

“It wasn’t a question of throwing the band to the wolves when we chose to just play the South during the American tour. We felt that if we were ever going to be taken seriously in America, it would be from a base we built down south. The cowboys seemed to take it for the joke it was meant to be. We weren’t there to destroy their way of life or anything like that. We sought to bring a little freshness into their boring, daily routines.” John Lydon, from his autobiography Rotten.

Renowned in the U.K. for tearing down rock ‘n’ roll and reinventing it as something thrilling, profane and unpredictable, the Sex Pistols arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 3, 1978, for a tour — not of major cities like New York and Los Angeles but run-down ballrooms throughout the South. The tour was doomed — bassist Sid Vicious had a drug problem, and the band’s label, Warner Bros., had to put up a $1 million bond in order to secure two-week visas.

Thus began a spectacle, “deep in enemy territory” — as tour manager Noel Monk put it in his 1990 memoir 12 Days On the Road: The Sex Pistols in America — of out-of-tune instruments, grumpy Johnny Rotten tirades and band-vs.-audience spitting and jeering that transformed into physical violence and, every now and then, moments of greatness. Two dates were canceled and seven went on, including the biggest, an ill-fated finale at Bill Graham’s Winterland Ballroom.


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