Gob’s Your Uncle

While I’m away at Burning Man, here’s another rock question from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (along with my answer). If you want more of these, you can either visit the Secret Rock Knowledge, or scroll down to the bottom of this page and hit the button that takes you to Amazon to buy Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John? Or both.

How did the British punk tradition of gobbing start?

It isn’t recorded who hawked that first mouthful of saliva, although a good guess would be Johnny Rotten, who was known to spit on Sex Pistols albums when fans asked him to autograph them. Soon enough, fans were returning the favor when the band was onstage, spitting (or “gobbing”) on the Pistols as an antisocial sign of appreciation. The spontaneous gesture became codified in December 1976, on a package tour of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned, according to film director Julien Temple: “There was this pent-up volume of gob, because everybody had read about spitting at punk groups. It was volleys of gob hitting, and they were leaning into it: John looked fantastic with all this snot and gob over his hair.”

You will not be surprised to learn that not all musicians appreciated being spat upon. Bob Quine, who was then playing guitar with Richard Hell, remembered a British tour as just being plain disgusting: “In the beginning of the set, at least they’d have beer to spit on you. But then they’d run out of beer and they’d just hawk up whatever they could. Meanwhile I’m singing background vocals, and spit’s flying in my mouth. Every night I’d go back to my hotel room and rinse my clothes out, wipe my guitar off, and hope my clothes would be dry the next morning.”

posted 28 August 2008 in Buy My Stuff and tagged , , . no comments yet

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