ANARCHY IN THE UK by THE SEX PISTOLS Story by Paulie Stewart

//ANARCHY IN THE UK by THE SEX PISTOLS Story by Paulie Stewart

ANARCHY IN THE UK by THE SEX PISTOLS Story by Paulie Stewart

Paulie Stewart
East St. Kilda and Malvern, 1977

It was the first and only time it ever happened. Mum walked over to the television and turned it off with a loud snap.

“I don’t want you watching this,’’ she huffed leaving the room.

“Mum, what are you doing?’’

I had been watching weekly music program COUNTDOWN when host Molly Meldrum had enthused “um..and now a report on the latest sensation sweeping the UK … PUNK ROCK.’’

Perhaps some premonition had warned Mum I might just like this new phenomena a little too much.

Given she and I use to talk about everything and she was an avid reader, teacher and intellect, I was instantly intrigued as to why she didn’t want me to watch.

Next day at my Catholic boys school the dour Christian Brother headmaster brought another boring assembly to a close with a sudden announcement: “Now boys, you might be aware of this new music style out at the moment called punk rock…well I forbid you from listening to it,’’ he pontificated.

“It is musical pornography not fit for your ears. You must have nothing to do with it.’’

Well, that was it.  I had to hear this shit right now.

I waited until the lunchtime bell rang and then with a classmate I jumped the school’s high fence and ran up to Glenferrie Road Malvern to Gaslight Records.

I asked the guy with the beard and long hair behind the counter if he had heard this new Sex Pistols record and if so could we please listen to it on the store’s headphones.

He sighed. “It is a gimmick. They won’t last more than a month, but I’ll play you their first single.’’

I snatched the headphones and waited for the music to start.

First there was an explosion of guitar and drums and a call to arms from the singer: “Right now!’’.

Then the opening lines hit me like a sledgehammer.


Oh gee, oh golly, oh fuck.

It sounded like the musical equivalent of Attila The Hun sacking Rome.

It made every other song I’d heard seem dated.

I had grown up a Catholic, had even been an altar boy, but had lost my religion big time eighteen months prior to hearing The Pistols when my eldest brother Tony was one of the five journalists killed by Indonesian forces in Balibo in East Timor in 1975.

This had left me confused, sad and angry. It didn’t help when a pious nun who worked with Mum visited not long after the ’incident’ and upon seeing everyone in my family crying whispered to me, “They are ridiculous. They should be happy that Jesus has taken your brother early.’’

I couldn’t believe she had uttered such bullshit.


Yep I sure was now.

Previously I had never even given music much thought. Sure, my elder brothers had Stones, Bad Company, Bob Dylan and Beatles albums but they hadn’t made much of an impression.

This however was my music. If punk hadn’t come along I probably would have willed it to appear anyway.

I loved the way The Sex Pistols sung about the gritty stuff –

the COUNCIL TENANCIES and THE FUTURE SHOPPING SCHEMES and how they were anti-pop stars with names like Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious.

The seemed vital and very much alive compared to the bloated, irrelevant and boring acts that then dominated the pop charts.

I loved it that adults, `proper musicians’, the musical establishment and the guy at the record shop hated them.

It only made me love them more.

I thought it was great how the music was so raw and simple and that The Sex Pistols wore ripped clothes and safety pins.

Anyone could play this.

Years later I got my chance to do just that with a band who were only going to play once. I was asked to play trumpet on one song, so I jumped at it.

We called ourselves Painters And Dockers because of the patrons who drank in the Port Melbourne pub we were playing.

The night ended in a huge brawl.

There was chaos glorious chaos.

For me it was like an alcoholic taking their first drink, a heroin addict having that first taste. I was gone. We have now done more than 1200 shows all over the world.

However, unfortunately like every good revolution, punk came and went.

How do you know when you are old?

When you hear GOLD FM GOOD TIME OLDIES play Anarchy In The UK.

Painters and Dockers, In My Mind. 1988. Red-headed Paulie Stewart on trumpet, in black singlet.

YouTube clip via Andrew Nguyen

Paulie Stewart is a musican with Painters and Dockers, and a project officer with Jesuit Social Services.

By |2018-01-14T08:29:25+00:00January 15th, 2018|Punk|9 Comments


  1. A W Collins January 15, 2018 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Excellent piece…. my first experience of the Pistols was wandering back from lectures at UQ to my College.
    I was in a group. We were all long haired and wearing flared jeans.
    In the distance I heard a magnificent riff..
    As one the group we followed until we came to a third floor room.
    Where blasting out from a stereo was ‘Pretty Vacant’.

    One resident in the room was wearing stove pipe jeans a Afrika Corp Jacket and no shirt. His hair was perfectly short… the only articled clerk in a major law firm in Brisbane who had not been told to get a hair cut.

    Life changed there and then.

  2. Michelle January 15, 2018 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Painters and Dockers were one of the first bands I saw live. We had a gang of us (most of us underage teens) that followed them to every gig. Must have driven them mad! Very fond memories of those days.

  3. David Oke January 15, 2018 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    I remember how confrontational the Sex Pistols were when Never Mind The Bollocks was released – the music, the language, the fashion, their anti-social interviews and their anti-establishment attitude.

    Last year I realised just how much the Sex Pistols punk edginess and meaning had dulled when I heard their song ‘Pretty Vacant’ playing as background music over a shopping centre PA system. That sure would not have happened in 1977!

    • Stereo Stories Admin January 15, 2018 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Well, shopping centres are pretty vacant places when you think about it.

  4. Swish January 15, 2018 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Or as one bloke at work called them out of ignorance, The Piss Whistles.

    Geez Paulie, that priest wouldn’t have lasted long at my school.

    I remember a piece in Creem, wedged in between the Ted Nugent and Foghat articles, that the Pistols were hedging their bets by saying “I wanna destroy, possibly” – idiots.

    I’ll see you at the zoo in a couple of weeks.

  5. Pete January 16, 2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Good stuff. Thanks.

  6. Rick Kane January 18, 2018 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Hi Paulie

    I had a similar moment of realisation with the Pistols. Living in Perth a local radio station played God Save the Queen and asked listeners to vote on whether they would ever play it again. I heard it and it changed my life. I grew ears. Swore I’d never listen to ABBA again!


  7. Docker Hitchins January 21, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    That is a brilliant story Paulie. I’m sure your Mum has changed her tune now (lol). I was lucky that my Mum loved Johnny Rotten. I got my first PIL album when I was 12. How lucky I was. When Johnny came to Melbourne a few years back I took my Mum to see him. As she is English my friend decided she would tell a lot of the crowd that my mum was Johnny’s sister. She was right up the front with many of the crowd surrounding her so she didn’t get pushed around. The barmaid was so impressed all our drinks were triple strength (lol). It’s a great memory I have forever.

  8. John Butler February 23, 2018 at 7:17 am - Reply

    Great words.Great memories. Great clips (Lydon probably had it in for Matlock the moment he wore that top).

    You know you’re getting somewhere when people are really pissed off.

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