40 years ago this week, punk rockers Sex Pistols played a gig in Manchester which would change music forever. But Bolton also had an important part to play in this landmark moment in music, in which punk burst onto the national stage. Reporter Andrew Bardsley explains.

Two students at the Bolton Institute of Technology were responsible for bringing the Sex Pistols to Manchester.

After reading a review of a chaotic gig by the group in London, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto made it their mission to travel to London and find the Sex Pistols.

They sought out the band's manager, Malcolm McLaren, and arranged for Johnny Rotten and co to travel north to play a gig.

And music history would have been much different if things had gone to plan, because the gig was supposed to have been played at the Bolton Institute of Technology, now the University of Bolton.

Shelley and Devoto had arranged the gig but when college bosses heard about the antics of the Pistols, they quickly cancelled the concert.

The pair were forced to scrabble around to find somewhere to host the gig, and eventually came up with the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.

The idea was that Shelley and Devoto's band, Buzzcocks, would be the support band at the gig, which was set for June 4, 1976.

Buzzcocks played their first gig at the Bolton Institute of Technology on April 1 that year, but were not very good, by all accounts, and decided they were not going to be ready to open for the Pistols.

At this point, bassist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher had not joined the band.

Ready to step into the breach were another Bolton band, Solstice. They were about as far removed from punk rock as you could be, grounded in the prevailing prog rock of the 70s.

The band, comprised of Dave Campbell, of Horwich, Geoff Wild, of Bolton, Paul Taylor, of Worsley, Paul Flintoff, of Walkden and Harry Box, of Bolton, has been shrouded in mystery ever since.

Their name was not included on the ticket, with Buzzcocks being afforded that honour despite pulling out. After playing at the Free Trade Hall, the band, who were no fans of punk, decided instead to move into the cabaret scene and the pubs and clubs of the North West.

According to the Bolton Evening News of March 30, 1977, Solstice was by then "making its own mark on the rock scene".

The report said: "On Tuesday, the band have a home gig performing for more than 400 people at Rivington Barn but most of the time they've been playing for next to nothing to get themselves known.

"The hard path to fame has taken them mainly to working men's clubs all over the North but quite often making an appearance lower down the bill to some of the bigger names."

Performing a range of their own tracks and cover versions, Solstice were to play to a much smaller crowd at the Free Trade Hall. But the impact of the concert was much bigger than its attendance.

Author David Nolan has written an updated version of his book, I Swear I Was There: The Gig That Changed the World, in time for the 40th anniversary of the gig.

He eventually tracked down members of long since disbanded Solstice for the first version of his book, published ten years ago for the 30th anniversary, and found some had left the country.

David said: "They were more of a hippy band, but they were the only band Howard Devoto could think of, as he worked with one of them at Beehive Mill for a summer job.

"They went on stage and thought they had played a good gig, but after watching the Sex Pistols they realised music was changing, and they were not part of punk."

The gig has also become the stuff of legend because of those who claimed to be there, and how it inspired those in attendance to form their own bands.

In his research, David found that just 28 tickets had been sold for the concert, but many more over the years have sworn they were there.

He did not attend the gig, but David's inspiration for the book came as a trainee journalist aged 16, when he did not believe a colleague who said he had been at the gig, until he brought in his ticket stub.

Among those said to have been at the Free Trade Hall that fateful night were future Smiths frontman Morrissey, the band Joy Division, The Fall frontman Mark E Smith, Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall and Granada TV presenter and Factory Records owner Tony Wilson.

The scene has since been immortalised in the film 24 Hour Party People, in which Steve Coogan portrays Wilson.

However, in reality David says that the idea that one concert changed everything so drastically represents a manipulation of the truth.

He said: "Sex Pistols played in Manchester four times that year, and I have spoken to several people at the first gig who say Tony Wilson wasn't there, that he was at the second gig.

"As a journalist, Tony knew the power of a good story and he helped to invent it."

So, if you believe the hype, one gig helped to change the future of music and Manchester music in particular, with The Smiths, The Fall, Joy Division, Simply Red and Factory Records all inspired by the Sex Pistols, with the help of two Bolton students who made it all happen.

They didn't do too badly for themselves either, with Buzzcocks scoring a number 12 hit with Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've) in 1978, and Devoto forming his own influential rock band Magazine.