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Anarchy at The Urbis

Published on June 2nd 2005.

The Urbis Centre was pretty unvacant as we headed down to the new punk exhibition celebrating the rise and rise of the most explosive genre (if punk can be defined) to hit the UK music industry.

Despite our group having an average age of 28.5 which means we’d have been around 1 and a half years old when the Sex Pistols launched their foul mouthed tirade on Bill Grundy’s Today show, we were still able to take in the media frenzy that shook the nation soon after the Pistols played their famous gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester.

Without sounding as old as Gordo, it may seem strange that someone swearing on the telly could cause such an uproar, but this was in December 1976 at the BBC we’re talking about, not March 2005 in the middle of the Civic Centre in Wythenshawe, a place and time where the kids take to swearing likes ducks to water.

We live in strange times – British pop stars are generally as mad as a balloon with some managing to drive a car over themselves and others generally filling up rehab centres across the country but this is nothing compared to the bewilderment that the likes of the Sex Pistols brought to the music scene in the seventies.

Urbis is showcasing the punk era and charts how it all came about, with a large helping of Sex Pistols memorabilia.

It proves that the punk era was not just bourne out of tabloid sensationalism, teenage boredom and everyone’s parents crying out in despair at the thought of these Londoners stifling their offspring. The exhibition provides a commentary on the relationships between the Sex Pistols, Malcolm Mclaren, Vivien Westwood and Jamie Reid, along with the fashion and cultural icons they created together.

The likes of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious had never been seen before and heralded a complete wave of punk bands across the UK, including a host of Manchester bands such as Slaughter and The Dogs.

A section devoted to Manchester bands that sprung up at the height of the punk era is also included, whilst a film booth charts the succession of punk related movie and TV related material in a more lively, and noisy format.

The Pistols might not have lasted long – they were fired by record label EMI and then A&M in 1977 before Johnny Rotten left in 1978 and Sid Vicious died in New York of a heroin overdose – meaning they survived for roughly the same length of time that Bryan Adams was number one in 90s with snore-a-thon 'Everything I Do'. Luckily, the legacy and legendary status has lived on longer for the Pistols than for the Canadian scouring pad.

Included in the exhibition are a host of Muslin shirts and other fashion items from the era, original gig promotional posters and programmes, as well as hand written lyric sheets penned by the Pistols.

To find out more about the exhibition and the events running in conjunction while the exhibition is on, including Tony Wilson, Paul Morley, Michael Bracewell, Peter York, Peter Shelley, Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks) all speaking about the era, as well as an acoustic session from the Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell, visit the Urbis centre website, or call them.

Tel: 0161 605 8200
Tickets £3
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 6pm

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