THE City Halls in Glasgow had never seen anything quite like it. And it wasn’t just down to the young woman with a swastika on her cheek.

It was the night of June 22, 1977. The Stranglers, one of the best-known punk bands, were playing Glasgow at the height of punk’s notoriety. One well-known Conservative councillor, who served as the district licensing committee chairman, was in the audience, and with some distaste he described what he had seen.

The Herald: A young follower of punk around the time of the Stranglers' concert in 1977A young follower of punk around the time of the Stranglers' concert in 1977 (Image: Newsquest)

“It’s a wonder there wasn’t a fatality”, said Bill Aitken after a concert that had featured, in the words of the Evening Times, paint-spraying, spittle, songs with swear-words, and hone-made cocktails. “Twice the stage was invaded as this crowd, suffering from induced hysteria, went on the rampage.

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“I spoke to some of the kids”, he added. “Certainly, there was the odd weirdo but the vast majority were just Glasgow kids… I found it all highly disturbing. I spoke to the group afterwards. They were pleasant enough, although I found difficulty communicating with them.

The Herald: The Stranglers in 1977: Dave Greenfield, Jet Black, Hugh Cornwell and Jean - Jacques BurnellThe Stranglers in 1977: Dave Greenfield, Jet Black, Hugh Cornwell and Jean - Jacques Burnell (Image: Newsquest)

“They maintained they weren’t a punk group, but there is no way they will ever be allowed back to this city again”. His words were echoed by Lord Provost David Hodge, who said: “If these people with their depraved minds want to hear this type of thing, fair enough. But let them do it in private”.

The Herald: Punk fans in 1977Punk fans in 1977 (Image: Newsquest)

The Stranglers’ singer, Hugh Cornwell, had appealed to the fans to desist from their “unhygienic” spitting. And during the first stage invasion, when fans took over the microphone, the bass guitarist Jean-Jacques Burnel “appeared to be overcome by emotion” (the Glasgow Herald reported) “and was seen thudding his head into his amplifier in time to the music before he left the stage in a series of leaps”.

The previous December, the city’s licensing committee had banned the Sex Pistols from playing the Apollo Theatre on the grounds that the concert could be a threat to public order.

The Herald: The Sex PistolsThe Sex Pistols (Image: PR)

The band had recently featured in a notorious TV interview with Bill Grundy. Goaded by Grundy to “say something outrageous”, the Pistols duly obliged. One furious viewer kicked in the screen of his new £380 television set. The interview scandalised British parents and led to a tabloid frenzy. “Punk rock,” the Evening Times observed the following morning, “is a new development whose essence is anarchy and outrage”.

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The ban on punk rock, which materialised as a result of the Stranglers’ concert, had a certain impact. “The city’s scene was momentarily thwarted”, records Vic Galloway in his book, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, “young punks had to travel to The Silver Thread Hotel at nearby Paisley, or head for the east to the Nite Club or Tiffany’s in Edinburgh, to see their safety-pinned heroes throw shapes and incite a little teenage insurrection”.

An Evening Times writer, visiting the Silver Thread Hotel in August, described the youthful punk audiences as “weird creatures who flitted past like figures from Dante’s Inferno”. A crop-haired 19-year-old woman in a torn, inside-out T-shirt and graffiti-spattered jeans told him: “I don’t do this for a laugh. I do it to shock people. Society is garbage. I have tried nearly everything to find a way out of it, and this is the only way out. Now I conform to only one thing – anarchy.”

One 18-year-old named Gerry offered to supply documentary proof that he had changed his surname to ‘Attrick’. “Most of the people here have been in gangs when they were young”, he said, indicating the exuberant throng around him. “They come here to listen to good raw violence in music. It is the only way you can get across to people without battering them.

The Herald: Two punks from Linwood, Renfrewshire, August 1977Two punks from Linwood, Renfrewshire, August 1977 (Image: Newsquest)

“We don’t like anybody telling us what to do. We want to do what we want to do. We want free entertainment”.

A Glasgow Herald journalist, observing punk fans’ wear ­– sunglasses, spiky hair, sometimes accessorised by an old plastic bin-bag – wrote that some of them preferred to take their “outlandish gear” in a bag and dress in venues’ toilets “rather than risk provoking a violent attack from the ‘punk haters’.”

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The Stranglers’ Glasgow ban did not, however, last long: councillors allowed the group to play the Apollo on October 16, 1977. Jan Tomasik, manager of the Apollo, had publicly appealed to the council to see reason. He, too, had been at the City Halls, back in June: “These people should have seen a Bay City Rollers show,” he said. “I’d rather have 12 Stranglers shows than one by the Rollers ... This new-wave music has to be given an airing, otherwise you can turn our entertainment centres into bingo halls.”

The committee’s decision to allow the Apollo concert to go ahead was seen as a common-sense move, given that there had been an endless, over-heated furore in recent months over punk rock. The Stranglers made a point of saying that their "no b-----t attitude had been embraced by the punk movement".

Scotland gave rise to countless punk/new wave groups, some of whom lasted longer than others. The Rezillos’ debut single, I Can’t Stand My Baby, brought them to the attention of John Peel, whose audience had increased hugely as new, younger listeners began to tune into him. The Valves were another of the bands that sprang from the thriving punk scene in the capital. Johnny and the Self-Abusers, a short-lived Glasgow act reportedly banned from the Doune Castle pub in Shawlands for being “offensive and abusive”, quickly gave rise to Simple Minds.

The punk scene in Edinburgh in 1977 is captured splendidly by Mike Scott, of the Waterboys, in his memoir, Adventures of a Waterboy.

The Herald: Mike Scott of the WaterboysMike Scott of the Waterboys (Image: PR)

“Edinburgh, with its castle, cobbled medieval streets and gothic monuments, was an unlikely backdrop for touring punk rock bands”, he writes. "The great gobby snarlers like Joe Strummer [of The Clash] and Johnny Rotten belonged in gloomy Soho alleys, or under yellow-lit London motorway flyovers, or leaning against brick walls in grafitti-blitzed housing projects.

The Herald: Joe StrummerJoe Strummer (Image: PR)

"Strummer, lurching unhealthily up the steep hill of ancient Cockburn Street on his way to an album-signing session in one of Edinburgh's record shops ... was an incongruous sight indeed. Leather-jacketed, grimacing, one shoulder hoisted insolently in a well-practised pose of defiance, brightly-coloured zips mysteriously sewn all over his trousers, and denuded of the camouflage of his native habitat, Strummer looked like a homicidal hunchback who'd found a sewing manual in a landfill".

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Scott also describes how he and his friend came across Johnny Rotten in Frederick Street, the Sex Pistol having agreed to appear at the Virgin Records shop there. "There was Rotten crossing the road in black coat and flat Chinese straw hat, his lips grotesquely puckered outwards according to the strictures of punk fashion, his eye narrowed into snake slits".

The power and raw excitement of the punk/new wave ethos is summed up by Robbie Collins, one-third of The Jolt, a band formed in Wishaw and Shotts.

The Herald: The Jolt, 1977The Jolt, 1977 (Image: Newsquest)

Interviewed on the website, he recalled: “There was a great sense of something happening in Scotland. We felt that anyway and the gigs used to be really great. There was a spirit of being part of some sort of revolution.”

The weekly music magazine, NME, which took an enthusiastic interest in punk and new wave, sent a reviewer to a Jolt concert in Edinburgh in June 1977; their reviewer, Ian Cranna, described the trio as “the most enjoyable British new wave band I’ve yet encountered”.