Jason Holmes attended a panel talk in the legendary central London club on 18 September to mark the re-release of Never Mind The B******* by The Sex Pistols, but as a look back at the Punk era, the evening was always going to end in chaos
'I'm not sure about the format,' says Julien Temple in the gents. 'It's a bit...formal.'
Everyone's a few complementary drinks in and tongues are loosening. A shaven-headed oaf has begun to abuse the panel and the bouncers are eyeing him, sharking in from both sides, ready to twist his head from his shoulders.
Kate Nash is the focus of his ire. She sits straight in her chair and waits for Mr Temple to return before telling the oaf to go f*** himself. Said oaf thinks this is a come-on. Bernard Rhodes, former Punk kingpin and one-time manager of The Clash and The Specials, leaps to his feet and cries in Nash's defence 'You couldn't have her if you tried, mate!' The bouncers wait, never taking their eyes from the oaf.
But the moment passes.
The evening was planned as a retrospective of the album that changed everything for British music. Never Mind The B******* sprang angrily into life in 1977, an original musical work that openly criticised a culturally cobwebbed United Kingdom. But the organisers do not get politeness this evening. Instead they get cat calls and verbal threats.
And some great unplanned comedy. The cadaverous John Cooper Clarke, a poet resplendent in shades and black hair dye, has the club roaring with laughter: 'The Seventies, before Punk, had terrible acts like Yes...and Genesis. If any of Phil Collins' daughters are here in the crowd, I don't mean to p*** on your chips by saying that,' he says.
Writer Zoe Howe speaks impotently of 'Punk's potency', but no one is listening to her. We're all waiting for Bernard Rhodes to grab her mic again and bellow about the death of British culture. He's clad in an electric blue suit and beret, looking every inch the jazzer. Behind his sunglasses you can't help but discern a certain disgust at himself for having agreed to the attend this evening.
Cooper Clarke sums it all up when he says 'Look! Don't worry! We'll all be back in time to catch Family Guy!'
Temple swigs his pilsner and eyes the crowd. You can see him think: 'Pearls cast before swine'. Or perhaps he's just blinded by the lights. Or I am. Cameramen scamper. The oaf makes more noise. He sounds like a sealion in mating season, but Nash has no inclination to mate.
Fred Vermorel sits sadly, remembering the glory days with Vivienne Westwood et al. Pat Gilbert, host and former editor of Mojo, is content to let things unravel. For all the bluster of the old guys, they're at least making some sense.
Howe again says something about 'potency' and 'women'. The crowd are going to the bar for the complementary drinks. Images of the Pistols flash up on two screens. A woman in the front row screeches and the cameramen move in for a close up, no doubt filming her fillings.
Rhodes talks about 'spitting' and 'McClaren'. No one mentions Sid Vicious.
When Rhodes finally says 'it's up to us' to start a revolution, the crowd as one mentally checks if they have indeed set their TV recorders for the Seth MacFarlane cartoon.
As John Lydon might have said had he been invited along to this event, 'I can't believe it wasn't better'.
Punk is struggling to reassert itself. Come the revolution...
Photograph by JAH (l-r): Julien Temple, Kate Nash, John Cooper Clarke, Pat Gilbert, Zoe Howe, Fred Vermorel & Bernard Rhodes