Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Opening tomorrow, Friday 13th May, Punk 1976-78 is a small exhibition at the British Library charting the emergence and influence of early punk rock.

Launched on the 40th anniversary of punk, the show explores the early days of punk in the capital and reveals how its remarkable influence spread across music, fashion and design nationwide.


Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

The exhibition looks at punk influences such as the French Situationist movement and New York City art-rock scene, and tracks the wonderfully chaotic rise and fall of the Sex Pistols.

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Noting how the culturally and socially explosive phenomenon of punk rapidly transformed Britain’s musical landscape, the exhibition reveals punk’s pivotal role in the rise of the independent music scene and how it challenged the conventional image of women in rock bands.

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

The exhibition in the Library’s Entrance Hall Gallery features a range of rare fanzines, unique flyers, exclusive audio recordings and original record sleeves, and draws on material from the UK’s biggest punk-related archive held at Liverpool John Moores University.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Rare copy of the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen single, which was never released because the A&M record label signed and dropped the band within one week
  • Unique copies of fanzines from 1977 including the first punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glueand the first and only edition of the Sex Pistols’ official fanzine, Anarchy in the UK
  • Original posters, gig tickets and flyers from the Roxy Club, Covent Garden and Eric’s Club, Liverpool
  • Original clothing from the SEX boutique run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood at 430 King’s Road, London
  • John Peel’s personal copy of the Undertones’ single, Teenage Kicks
  • Filmed interviews for Women in Punk by  Gina Birch, founding member of The Raincoats
  • The Damned drummer Rat Scabies’s leather jacket

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

In recognition of the continuing legacy of punk, there’s an accompanying programme of British Library events, including speakers and creators who witnessed and participated in the events of 1976-78 first-hand.

Event highlights include:

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

I think I have almost all of these singles!

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Andy Linehan, Curator of Popular Music Recordings at the British Library, commented:

Forty years ago punk had a huge impact on many aspects of British culture and continues to do so today, so we’re excited to dedicate an exhibition to it – featuring music, film, magazines and fanzines, record sleeves and more. Punk 1976-78 showcases the British Library’s unique collection of contemporary culture, as well as celebrating a phenomenon that spread across the nation and changed our cultural landscape.

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk literally changed my life.

When I was 17, I co-produced a suitably low-tech Cardiff punk rock fanzine named, “Oh Cardiff, Up Yours!” before moving from Wales to London in a punk rock band – an eventful and generally unsuccessful venture, documented in this feature: From the Valleys to the Roxy: Welsh punk rock dreams from the 1970s

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

One of the Sex Pistols first ever reviews makes for wonderful reading:

“Actually, we’re not into music,” one of the Pistols confided.
Wot then?
“We’re into chaos.”

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

From someone who grew up with – and still feels heavily influenced by – punk, it feels weird seeing punk being turned into such an establishment icon.

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

The exhibition is accompanied by a Punk pop-up shop selling vinyl, t-shirts, prints and books in the British Library Entrance Hall inspired by the objects on display.

The pop-shop opens on 13 May and closes 2 October 2016, and will offer limited edition prints by punk photographer Sheila Rock, along with a range of merchandise including record players, homeware and jewellery.

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Everything gets sold in the end….

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

Punk 1976-78: Sex Pistols and the rise of punk rock documented at the British Library, May 2016

More details

Punk 1976-78 runs from 13th May until 2nd October 2016.

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday 9.30 – 20.00,
Friday 9.30 – 18.00,
Saturday 9.30 – 17.00,
Sunday and Bank Holidays 11.00 – 17.00.

The exhibition is free.
British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB