Pistols pix by Abba’s photographer: unseen for 33 years

Today THE LOOK unearths a set of stunning photographs of the Sex Pistols not made public  since they were taken by Abba’s favourite photographer nearly 33 years ago.

And even he – Wolfgang “Bubi” Heileman – appears to have forgotten them; not one appears on his site even though Heileman was clearly credited at the time.I went on the trail of the photos following the recent publication of Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming Tapes.

The cover features a crop of Johnny Rotten’s face which appeared as part of a group shot on the covers and dustsheets of editions of the original book.

This defaced image has long intrigued me; the band wear a particular selection of clothes I had seen in one other place, a poster I owned issued by German teen magazine Bravo.

Now, having tracked down a copy of Bravo from September 30, 1976, I see that the poster shot was just one of many in what is arguably the very first article to pick up on the fashion and style aspects of the Pistols.


//Front cover, Bravo, September 30, 1976//

In the magazine’s first five pages, ahead of gooey features on cover star Shaun CassidySlik (whose frontman Midge Ure had already been approached to sing for the Pistols and would go on to form Rich Kids with bassist Glen Matlock) and the Bay City Rollers (whose career model was taken as a cue by manager Malcolm McLaren), the quartet showcase the very latest designs then being created by McLaren and Vivienne Westwood at Sex, alongside Rotten and Matlock’s adaptations.


//Double page spread, Bravo, September 30, 1976//

Journalist Gerald Buchelmater’s feature is based on the band’s performance at the 100 Club Punk Festival on September 20.Pitched somewhere between amazement and amusement – in line with the general reaction to the Pistols at this stage in their career – junkyard typography and “street” graphics (gutters, ring-pulls, dustbin lids, mangy strays) proliferate.

//”Wild backstreet boys…”//

Clothes and personal style are detailed, with special attention paid to Rotten’s ripped and adorned school blazer (which was to inspire Westwood and McLaren to create an inside-out felt version a couple of years later).

There are close-ups of safety pinned rips, scrawled slogans (from God Save The Queen) and examples of the Nazi insignia procured by McLaren from the military memorabilia store in Upper Street, Islington run by 60s singer Chris Farlowe.

Also picked out are Rotten’s Sex studded wristband and guitarist Steve Jones’ signature Nudie pin up decals on his Gibson. Rotten also wears his familiar Let It Rock era silver Lurex threaded Zoot suit trousers, laced brothel creepers and a grey Peter Pan shirt, while his self-made I HATE Pink Floyd tee is sported by drummer Paul Cook.

Glen Matlock has a candy-striped Let It Rock shirt, his Jackson Pollock-ed jeans (which were to be appropriated by The Clash) and the sling-back suede shoes McLaren had picked out of an old George Cox catalogue.

Jones, meanwhile wears two new and significant designs which point to the future direction at 430 King’s Road (within three months of the shoot it was overhauled and renamed Seditionaries).


//Bravo’s Pistols poster 1976//

His hand-painted Anarchy shirt is the Dangerously Close To Love version which he and Sex shop assistant Jordan had exhibited during the band’s performance on So It Goes.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=C8szRgIcYlY">http://youtube.com/watch?v=C8szRgIcYlY</a>

There is a close-up of the Chaos armband as well as the inverted Third Reich eagle and silk portrait of Karl Marx bought in London’s Chinatown.”Only Karl Marx was ever used on the original Anarchy shirts,” emphasises McLaren.

“It was his book (Das Kapital) which started the Socialist and workers’ movements in the 19th century and apart from anything else, Vivienne and I liked his beard.

“Marx was significant because he was a writer/author and creator of ideas, not a politician like Lenin. And he was important to us in particular because he lived in London at one point.”


//”…Trash fashion”//

Jones is also wearing strapped bondage boots in green canvas and and light tan leather; these became a Seditionaries staple in a variety of colourways as a complimentary range to the bondage suit, which was first made public on September 3 when Rotten wore it for gigs at the Chalet du Lac nightclub in Paris.

Immediately prior to that his on- and off-stage attire was what you see here; in fact Rotten wore the pink jacket and zoot trousers for the taping of the So It Goes performance on September 1, so it’s likely that the Heileman session took place around then, a month before the magazine’s publication date.

The final group photograph appears to be from another shoot; Cook is in a You’re Gonne Wake Up tee, Jones wears a sleeveless Cambridge Rapist top, red Sex jeans and black slingbacks, Rotten has the tiny ripped red jumper he wore at early Pistols gigs and Matlock is in a Let It Rock leopard-print waistcoat, as also worn by his replacement on bass, Sid Vicious.

Anonymous said,

July 17, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

It wasn’t a gig at the 100 club, it was just set up to look like one at the Notre Dame hall in Leicester Square…

planet mondo said,

July 17, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

Top work – what a find and so refreshing to see the details of this proto-clothing range. It’s often overlooked how much the Pistols seemed to swap clothing, you’ll regularly see the same (sometimes personalised) shirt worn by various band members.

Did you know you can buy those nudie decals from Ebay – I pimped my Gibson with some last year


rockpopfashion said,

July 17, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

Sorry Glen – should have made it clear – the journalist’s text is based around the 100 Club gig.I didn’t know where the pix were shot so thanks for clearing that up.

I like the way it looks a bit set up; great action shots. Was your shirt a Let It Rock one btw?

See you on the 3. Anyone who is town should make their way to The Water Rats in King’s X. Glen is playing a solo show that night.


jack daniels said,

July 18, 2009 @ 12:57 am

that shoot was so seminal at the time and now seems so FAKE
we lived a much greater reality of punk than those in the so called front lines – lydon is the one who may have “MISSED THE POINT
inspired by few – created and carried by many

rockpopfashion said,

July 18, 2009 @ 8:54 am

Sorry don’t get your drift.

OK in some they’re playing their instruments just for the photographer but that was and is standard procedure.

MarkO said,

July 22, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

Ive got a poster from this session.A Swedish friend gave it to me in ’78 or ’79.I dont know which magazine its from but I presume it was a Swedish music magazine of some description.Its 24″ x 17″ and shows Rotten in full bellow mode,Jonesy just to the forefront,Matlock just to the back a bit pulling a buck toothed flared nostril look(go on,try it) and Cookie doing what Cookie does best.All it says is “POSTER Sex Pistols” in the top right corner. Along the bottom of the picture are 9 smalller pics with a sepia type green finish.4 are of the band from the same session,1 is just Paul Cook in the Pink Floyd shirt,1 close up of the Karl Marx patch on Steves shirt,1 close up of some ring pulls safety pinned onto what I presume is Rottens jacket(theres a “QU” under the safety pin which I’m guessing is from Queen as in”God Save…”)and 1 of the band standing across a road from the other session detailed above(Steve in the Cambridge Rapist,Glen in leopardskin etc.)The 9th pic however is a bit of mystery.As a foolish youth I cut it out to make a badge or collage,now long gone, and I cant remember what it was.
Its a bit tatty on the corners and well creased across the centre both vertically and horizontally but apart from that,its in pretty good nick.Its also a very well travelled poster having been to South America,the West Indies,USA,Canada,Denmark and even Wales.
Ive never seen this picture or poster,original or reproduction, anywhere in the past 32 + years and I’m pretty sure I must have seen every photo, film,book,article,documentary etc. about the Pistols,and I am talking about 1975-78(a few of them courtesy of yourself and Phil Singleton).
Now for the bad news:I havent got a scanner or a decent enough camera to send you a copy.I was thinking of coming up to London on the 3rd so you could have a look at it then but dont know if I can make it.

Perhaps I could send it up to you to copy.You would send it back wouldnt you?


rockpopfashion said,

July 22, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

Dear Mark0

Thanks for your comment but no thanks on receipt of the poster.
We are not geared up to be looking after treasured possessions belonging to others.
Surely it would be safer to pay your local copyshop to have it scanned and send the file across? We’re following up with some more tasty Bravo morsels in a while so it might go with that.

Tomas Andersson said,

October 16, 2010 @ 12:45 am

Ich bin sehr beeindruckt von Deinem Blog, sehr gut!

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