Watch BBC current affairs show Nationwide try to make sense of the Sex Pistols and punk rock for Middle England in 1976

Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren on Nationwide, November 1976
(Image credit: Nationwide, BBC TV, 1976)

On November 12, 1976, two weeks ahead of the release of their debut single Anarchy In The UK, the Sex Pistols, along with their manager Malcolm McLaren, were invited to appear on primetime BBC1 TV current affairs show Nationwide.

Less than a year on from their debut gig at Saint Martins College in central London, the quartet had signed a major label deal with EMI, and the Beeb was keen to investigate a group who, as a voiceover informed viewers of Nationwide, one London newspaper had called "the most aggressive, nasty band ever."

"They've already been barred from most of the leading London clubs, both because of their music, and because of the violence they bring with them. And yet this group are leaders of a whole new teenage cult that seems to be on the way to being as big as mods and rockers were in the '60s."

"The cult is called punk," says presenter Maggie Norden, with the sort of solemnity one might adopt when announcing the death of a monarch, or the outbreak of a world war. "The music punk rock... basic rock music, raw, outrageous and crude."

"Punks have multi-coloured hair," the Nationwide audience is told, "vampire make-up, ripped T-shirts held together by safety pins, Swastika armbands, pink plastic trousers and tight leather jeans... you can't buy this sort of gear in Marks & Sparks..."

Norden also informs those watching that punks are acquiring a reputation as "trouble makers", and viewers at home are shown a photo of a youthful Shane MacGowan, later famous as the frontman of The Pogues, sporting a bloody ear following an incident at the ICA where he had his earlobe bitten off by his girlfriend, apparently "driven to frenzy by a punk group, appropriately called Clash."

Grilled by Norden, Malcolm McLaren says that punk exists "because kids want excitement, they want things that are going to transform what is basically a very boring life for them right now."

"Which bands do you think are really old hat now?" Norden then asks John Lydon/Johnny Rotten. "Are you against the Stones and The Who?"

"Yes, of course," says a deadpan Rotten, "because they're established. They just do not mean anything to anyone."

McClaren then suggests that the music industry hates the Pistols, but that all that matters is that the band connect with "the kid in the street" who buys records.

"Does it matter if the record doesn't sell?" Norden asks with a disdainful look.

"There's no question it'll sell," McLaren says in response.

Watch the six minute segment below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.