We present a stunning collection of post-Pistols-pre-PIL-period photographs taken in London by Paris-based photographer Pierre Benain.
Paris-based photographer Pierre Benain’s pictures were first published in French rock magazine Extra when he was just 15 years old.
At the time, he was a schoolboy on a language exchange in North London where he attended rock festivals and gigs at the Marquee Club. He then returned to Paris with his photographs in his pocket, and showed them to the French rock press. When he was 17, Pierre began writing and publishing pictures in French magazine Rock & Folk and soon after, in 1973, he co-organised the Paris rock film festival Rock Show at the Artistic Voltaire cinema. Over the course of Pierre’s music career, he worked as a photographer, journalist and band manager.
Images from the gallery launch
A selection of photographs showing the exhibition installation.
On his frequent visits to London Pierre discovered Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop Too Fast to Live too young to die, which later became SEX. Soon after, as a contributor to Rock News, Benain was introduced to Malcolm McLaren, and was asked to promote a Sex Pistols gig for the re-opening night of the Châlet du lac club, in the Bois de Vincennes, on the outskirt of Paris. The Sex Pistols played on 3 September 1976 in front of a mixed crowd including the usual regular customers and the Bromley contingent with Siouxsie Sioux, Billy Idol, etc—an explosive combination.
Pierre became friends with McLaren and the Pistols during their Parisian stay, and would meet up with them whenever he was in London.
A few months after the Sex Pistols split, in April 1978, Pierre is asked to write a portrait of Johnny Rotten for French Magazine Actuel. In London, Rotten invites him to his house in Gunter Grove. After a few hours, Rotten invites him to hang around for a few beers and to come back the day after. This turns into a three-day stay, during which various founder members of the London punk scene come by, including Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, Poly Styrene and Don Letts.
Pierre takes pictures of everyone over those three days, and records hours of interviews with John, sadly now lost.
Two pictures of the session showing Sid Vicious playing with a knife and holding it under his girlfriend’s throat became worldwide scoops when Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death months later in a New York hotel room she was sharing with Sid.
Sid Vicious was arrested for her murder and in February 1979 he committed suicide while on bail. The investigation was subsequently dropped and, to this day, Nancy’s murderer remains a much debated mystery.
“He didn’t stand a chance. His mother was a heroin addict. I feel bad that I brought him into the band, he couldn’t cope at all. I feel a bit responsible for his death. There you are, I have confessed my demons.” – John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, 2014