A Sex Pistols Concert Film Languished for Four Decades. Here’s Why.

From the start, a certain level of gonzo warfare was baked into the project. Mr. Kowalski wanted to capture “the clash between two cultures: the English punk culture and whatever we would meet in America,” he said. He approached Tom Forcade, the chaos-seeking founder of High Times magazine, for funding. Mr. Forcade had made headlines for throwing a pie in a pornography commissioner’s face and antagonizing the writer and activist Abbie Hoffman, and he appreciated the disruptive potential of the Sex Pistols.

Mr. Forcade gave the green light only days before the first concert of the tour, and he and Mr. Kowalski rushed to the airport, first via a speeding limousine and then a helicopter. Stepping out of the chopper, an excited Mr. Kowalski narrowly avoided the rotors. Mr. Forcade “grabbed me affectionately and told me not to walk toward the back,” Mr. Kowalski remembered. “I felt he was mainly sending me a message: Things are going to get wild. Be on your toes, because if not, it can get dangerous.”