Never mind four-letter words... here's the Sex Pistols: when television met punk rock

It only happened, ironically enough, because Queen cancelled at the last minute, leaving the producers at Thames Television's evening magazine show Today casting about for a suitable replacement.

The band they found was the polar opposite of Freddie Mercury and the boys. Queen's big hair, tottering platforms and penchant for multi-layered operatic vocal tracks had made them the darlings of the atrophying post-glam rock scene of 1970s Britain. The Sex Pistols, about to embark on their first national tour, titled Anarchy in the UK, were by contrast a snarling reaction to everything Queen stood for.

It is exactly 30 years since Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook unleashed their infamous verbal tirade of four-letter words on tea-time television.

Although tame by 21st century standards, the short exchange destroyed the career of the Today host Bill Grundy, elevated the Sex Pistols to notoriety and heralded the arrival of punk rock.

The Daily Mirror's decision to splash the story on its front page under the headline "The Filth and the Fury", created a rallying cry for a generation. The phrase was emblazoned across thousands of T-shirts and bedroom walls. It was later used by the director Julien Temple as the title of his acclaimed Sex Pistols rockumentary.

A new, two-part documentary, England's Still Dreaming, to be shown on BBC Radio 2 tomorrow, points to the interview as the moment when punk came of age. Interviews with some of the most famous names from the era, including John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), Malcolm McClaren and Bob Geldof and Tony James reveal the profound impact it had on those who watched it or took part.

The show got off to a bad start when Grundy, who had made his name when he introduced the Beatles to television while a presenter at Granada in 1962, weaved unsteadily into the studio, clearly the worse for wear after a long, liquid lunch. "Bill Grundy was a dreadful drunk - I have learnt a lot from him... he was a bumhole," recalls Rotten.

Julien Temple remembered a "buzz" when word got out that Queen were not appearing.

"The Pistols had this chance to go on TV and it was just fantastic to be watching it because it just got better and better. It was what they always were, they were a black comedy, a music hall act and the fact that the guy was so drunk was brilliant," he said. But trouble flared when Grundy flirted with Siouxsie Sioux, then a member of the band's fan group known as the Bromley Contingent, which had accompanied them onto the set.

Guitarist Steve Jones rounded on the presenter, describing him as a "dirty old man" - a phrase made popular at the time by the sitcom Steptoe and Son. Rotten then pretended to apologise for muttering the word "shit". Grundy then turned on the group, urging them: "Go on, you've only got another five seconds, say something outrageous."

Jones, a self-proclaimed career criminal before joining the band, was unfazed by Grundy's attempts to ridicule him. He hit back calling the host a "dirty fucker" and "fucking rotter".

The resulting publicity was pure gold dust for the band and their ambitious manager Malcolm McClaren, coming five days before their first tour date

It had been barely a decade since the critic Kenneth Tynan uttered the word of "fuck" on television prompted four parliamentary censure motions and a storm of protest. Peregrine Worsthorne's use of the same word on the BBC's Nationwide programme in 1973 was greeted with little more enthusiasm by the establishment.

After the Sex Pistols' appearance, Grundy was suspended for two weeks and Today was dropped two months later. Grundy continued presenting in the North-west until the 1980s and died of a heart attack in 1993, aged 69.

England's Still Dreaming, Radio 2, tomorrow, 8pm

A cultural storm

Steve Diggle Buzzcocks

"It was almost like an atom splitting. The next thing you know some truck driver had kicked his TV in because he was so repulsed. That made it all exciting. That just made legends."

Bob Geldof The Boomtown Rats

"John was a very smart guy. The catalyst was this very drunk TV presenter. He had been briefed that they were outrageous and how to be outrageous was to say a naughty word on telly."

Pete Waterman Magnet Records

"It was the most wonderful coup. You couldn't have bought it. Malcolm McClaren must have thought all his days had come at once. Everyone thought this was Clockwork Orange coming true."

Julien Temple Film Director

"They were a black comedy act, a music hall act and the fact the guy was so drunk was brilliant. It was the era of liquid lunches and Bill Grundy was the numero-uno piss artist. He was just led to the slaughter."

News
peopleTop Gear presenter and all-round controversialist is at it again
Life & Style
techHow a 'grey brick' took over the world of portable gaming
Sport
Aaron Ramsey celebrates after opening the scoring in Arsenal's win over Hull `
sport
News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Coren Mitchell, who is the daughter of the late broadcaster Alan Coren and is married to comedian David Mitchell, produced a hand to make poker history at the 98th EPT main event.
peopleJournalist and TV presenter becomes first ever two-time winner of the European Poker Tour
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
food + drinkSprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
politicsLabour launches the 'completely hollow' Easter Clegg
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Last, but by no means least, is Tommy Cooper and the fez. This style of hat became a permanent trademark of his act.
comedyNot Like That, Like This centres on alleged domestic abuse
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Business, Marketing and Tourism Volunteer Projects

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players