Sex Pistols in Sheffield in 1976
In January 1978 it was all over for the Sex Pistols – only months after they had released their first album.
But their legacy was more than secure - their name was toxic among great swathes of society. They were the subject of random attacks in the street; church groups would hold impromptu services outside their gigs, and public revulsion had even filtered down into the hallowed chamber of the Sheffield licensing committee.
If plans for the Limit – the city’s first club dedicated to the punk movement – hadn't fallen behind schedule, they might not have fallen foul of the Sex Pistols fallout. But it was a crisis of confidence for a club that found itself backed into a corner before it had even opened - they were told they wouldn’t get a license unless they agreed never to book the Sex Pistols. They reluctantly agreed.
Sheffield has always been a city renowned for tenacity and resilience. Some might argue the venue’s immediate steer away from the flagbearers of the movement set them on the path to a new kind of success – electro-pop. It grew to be a movement that would end up as the city’s signature sound of the early ‘80s and a vibe that would be intrinsically linked with the Limit.
But it certainly didn’t stop the venue from throwing itself hook, line, and safety pin into the punk movement. Siouxsie and the Banshees were the first national band to play there, and they were followed by virtually who's who of the punk scene as it evolved through 1978 and 1979 – Adam & the Ants, Generation X, Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects, UK Subs, and many more.
Despite being shut for over thirty years, it’s now regularly hailed as one of Sheffield’s most famous and legendary clubs. The Limit was at the forefront of a group of regional independent venues that opened in Northern England around the same time and went on to help shape the UK music scene in the eighties. Other venues included the Warehouse in Leeds, Eric’s in Liverpool, and the Hacienda in Manchester. They were all essential stop-off points for artists on their ascendency, and each had their own particular traits. If cash was king, it’s arguable that the Limit won hands down. It was hugely successful and even went on to bankroll the transformation of the then derelict Lyceum Theatre into a music venue in the early ‘80s.
The Specials at the Limit - from 'Take It To the Limit'
It thrived in a world without Facebook, mobile phones, and instant messaging. The early Limit promotion machine was a world of DIY handbills, flyposting, and newspaper adverts. The Limit survived and thrived through times of major political and social unrest that proved to be the undoing of many venues. It saw off the Winter of Discontent in 1978-1979; the Miners’ Strike of 1984, and the recession of the 1980s.
The Limit’s early months cemented its status as a cutting-edge live music venue. The B-52’s made their UK debut at the club, and everyone from the Specials to the Undertones performed seminal shows. But the Limit’s influence was probably strongest felt by the local acts it helped nurture and the electro-scene that exploded out of the city in the early 1980s. Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Vice Versa (later to become ABC), Artery, and others all played seminal shows at the venue and regularly frequented it.
Within a couple of years of opening, the Limit was turning its focus to club nights; it went on to become a regional goth-epic-center and was pioneering the rave scene when it shut for the last time.