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This Week in Texas Music History: Sex Pistols at the Longhorn Ballroom

Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about what happened when some imported Pistols went off in a Texas dance hall.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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On Jan. 10, 1978, the British punk band the Sex Pistols played the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. The pioneering punk rockers were an obvious mismatch for a venue which had hosted Bob Wills and many other country artists. As it turns out, however, the Sex Pistols’ manager was looking to cause trouble. So, he booked the Sex Pistols into honky tonks throughout the South, hoping to create controversy among traditionally conservative audiences. As the Sex Pistols took the stage, the Longhorn Ballroom’s country music fans mingled uneasily with the local punk crowd. Tensions escalated, and an audience member actually attacked the Sex Pistols’ bass player, Sid Vicious, during the performance.

The concert at the Longhorn Ballroom would be part of the original Sex Pistols’ only U.S. tour. The following week, singer Johnny Rotten announced the group’s breakup onstage in San Francisco. However, the spectacle at the Longhorn Ballroom lives on in Texas music lore.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a piano playing cowboy who was not really a cowboy at all.

  • Mark Birnbaum

    I worked this “concert” as a camera operator. My camera was on the side of the stage. The company I was working for — I think it was TeleImage — hired a large grip person to stand next to me with a short 2×4 in hand to protect me from the Sex Pistol’s
    “fans.” He was kept busy most of the evening.

    The image forever stuck in my brain is when Sid Vicious grabbed a beer bottle by the neck, smashed it on his amp and drew the knife-edged shard of glass across his bare abdomen, screaming and bleeding.

    That’s entertainment.