Credit: Kevin Cummins

Revisit the Sex Pistols’ secret undercover tour of 1977

On August 19th, 1977, The Sex Pistols began a UK tour at Club Lafayette in Wolverhampton with a difference as they went undercover by going on the road under the pseudonym of The S.P.O.T.S.

The secret identity may seem like a bizarre name to tour under but once you understand that it is actually an acronym for ‘Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly’ it all makes sense. The band were under immense scrutiny from the national media due to being perceived as hell-raisers, a label which would have made the band playing these venues almost impossible and would have likely been shut down from the police.

Each night of the six-night tour saw the Pistols go under the name of a different band for each show in order to ensure that they didn’t get caught. Travelling the country, the band went to six of Britain’s forgotten towns under a different identity every time. In Doncaster, the punk icons went under the name of ‘Tax Exiles’, the deliberately confusing ‘Special Guest’ in Scarborough, ‘Acne Rabble’ in Middlesbrough, ‘The Hamsters’ in Plymouth and for the final night in Penzance they opted for the moniker of ‘A Mystery Band of International Repute’.

The tour was just a few months before they became the most notorious band in the country following the controversial Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, a record which evoked just as much disdain as it did praise with people either seeing the band as the second coming or as the devil incarnated.

“Well, we decided to do these gigs, like, just for one, ‘cause we want to play anyway, and we hadn’t played in England for such a long time,” said drummer Paul Cook in the book Sex Pistols: The Inside Story, by Fred & Judy Vermorel.

“And we couldn’t publicize them, ‘cause if we did, some councillor might just come and say, ‘Right, you’re not playing here,’ which they have done and can do, for any stupid reason,” he added. “So we decided to go to each individual promoter ourselves, who owned their private clubs and who could put us on without having to ask someone else, and told them to keep it secret. But we knew enough word would get out that people would know we were playing – which they did. So it wasn’t totally unfair on the fans anyway, ‘cause most of them who wanted to see us come to see us. And all the places were packed out, so enough word got ‘round for people to know we were playing.”

Word had spread that the band were on this wild undercover tour of England but fortunately for the band, nobody guessed the venues they were visiting which meant that the shows instantly became a thing of legend. It rewarded the fans who made the gamble to watch an unknown band called Acne Rabble in Middlesbrough a night that they would truly never forget.

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