Life is full of chance encounters. We’ve all experienced them, and each occasion has a varying degree of effect on our lives. Whether it be meeting a person who you go on to become close friends with or get married to, it is one of the most peculiar features of human existence. Sometimes, these encounters are so random and trivial that they endure in the memory because of how extraordinary they are. In this category, one of the most random encounters in all of music history happened one night in the late 1970s.
At this unspecified point in the late ’70s, Philomena Lynott had been the joint proprietor of The Clifton Grange Hotel in Whalley Range, Manchester, since 1966, and was well ingratiated into the city’s late-night celebrity culture. This was because she kept the bar open till the very early hours and catered to the needs of celebrities, such as not serving breakfast until noon, so the hedonistic set she welcomed through her doors would feel right at home. Lynott entertained the likes of George Best regularly, reflecting the status of clientele that she was used to.
Then, one night, she had a chance encounter with one of the biggest names of the era who found themselves at her door, with no choice. The band was the Sex Pistols, who had recently cultivated a level of notoriety not yet seen in music. Much of this was attributed to their appearance on the Today show with Bill Grundy on December 1st, 1976.
Profanity-laden and obscene, the band’s appearance on Today polarised the country. Those in the younger generation, who had not yet heard of the band and were sick of the stuffy ways of their parents, lapped it up. On the other hand, the older generations were shocked by the disrespect espoused by this gang of louts. Thus, the band found themselves in a bit of a quandary. They were now commercially very successful but found parts of their day to day lives made difficult, such as when it came to booking hotel rooms.
Philomena, who famously went against the mores of the time, particularly by having a mixed-race child out of wedlock, unsurprisingly had a differing view on Johnny Rotten and Co. than many of her generation. One night, the band turned up at the door of the hotel soaking wet with rain, so she gave them the five-bedroom that she nicknamed ‘The Barracks’.
“They came down to the bar and we had a great night,” she recalled in an interview with Manchester Evening News. “They were the nicest-mannered… I’ve never forgotten them.”
Philomena moved back to her native Dublin in 1980. However, those heady times remain a highlight of her long and eventful life. Not many people can boast that they’ve hung out with George Best and the Sex Pistols.