Never Mind The Bans: Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks [no label 2CD]
CD1 Sex Pistols live in Manchester Electric Circus, Dec 9 1976 + The Clash in support. CD2 Sex Pistols live at Leeds Polytechnic, Dec 6 1976 + radio interviews and Buzzcocks set from Dec 9 1976 in Manchester. This is a historic document of the Anarchy Tour with the Clash and Buzzcocks in support. VG- AUD mono? Some have said there are microgaps between tracks on the silver disc bootleg where this is taken from. Sounds OK to me.

You know you're in the presence of historical greatness when the sound quality sucks, but you listen regardless. Capturing the first two shows on the ill-fated Anarchy tour to actually take place, Never Mind The Bans sounds as though it was recorded through a dustbin lid, and that's exactly how it should be.  The Pistols' set is a wall of mud, with Rotten's vocals and some rotten backing vocals so high in the mix that the band behind them sounds more like a road accident than any kind of musical accompaniment. 

Divorce the songs from their iconic reputation, and this could be the worst bar band in the world. But you can't, because even in the lowest of lo-fi, "Anarchy In The UK" (the opener, of course), "Did You No Wrong," "Lazy Sod," "Submission" ...oh, you know the rest… are performed here with a defiance that simply doesn't exist across other, earlier, Pistols recordings - because really, what did they have to be defiant about? A week before, the Pistols were simply a bunch of snotty loud mouths with a minor cult following. 

Now they were Public Enemy #1, and this is the sound of their rage.

The two discs are each opened by a Pistols show, with the better quality Manchester set kicking things off - Leeds enjoys slightly cleaner fidelity (at least in places), but also suffers from some serious tape problems, and a vocal drop out. The karaoke "Pretty Vacant" is especially eye-opening. 

A clutch of period news reports (including the infamous Bill Grundy interview), are also on board, while the two Manchester support acts, the Clash (on disc one) and the Buzzcocks (disc two) complete the sense of occasion with short, sharp performances that share the Pistols' sound quality, but do reinforce the sheer versatility at work within the punk movement. With Howard Devoto at the yelping helm, the Buzzcocks, in particular, sound almost avant-garde, while the Clash - well, they're the Clash, and if they had never existed, a bunch of bored Rolling Stones fans would have had to invent them. - Dave Thompson

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February 8, 2008