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First Sex Pistols photo

When it comes to rock music, myth and fact are hard to separate. A flip through the dusty history books will tell you that the Sex Pistols first snarled on to the scene in 1976 at the legendary Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gig attended by Morrissey, Ian Curtis and other future music icons. But as this exclusive first ever photo shows, the seminal punk outfit actually began life outside an unassuming London pub with only a camera-clutching pal for company.

The previously unseen photo of the original four-piece (l-r: Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook) gurning before their first rehearsal as the Sex Pistols in August 1975 comes fresh from John Lydon’s limited-edition (only 750 copies will be made), luxury memoir Mr Rotten’s Scrapbook. And it’s a photo that still holds fond memories.

“I remember it was the first rehearsal that everyone showed up to,” says Lydon with a cackle while talking to ShortList. “This photo hones me back to a really good place. Good memories don’t ever really go away, they just get departmentalised [sic]. So you’ve just got to have your memory jogged by something like this and you remember what cupboard you put them in.”

Even though the band were at an embryonic stage, thrashing out covers of The Kinks and The Who before sporadically storming out through “a revolving door of huffiness”, Lydon thinks these early sessions were vital.

“The sheer audacity that the four of us put together from this moment shaped my future,” he says. “That’s why any time there’s a shout for a Pistols gig I’m up for it.”

But how does he explain the uncharacteristically playful pose? “I suppose it looks like a police line-up. Something that I daresay a few of us were used to.”

Mr Rotten’s Scrapbook is released on 1 December, priced £449; concertlive.co.uk