The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks… Here's The Sex Pistols

Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Pistols

Contrary to what some people might believe, The Sex Pistols did not actually invent Punk, although they definitely helped popularize it. And while not the greatest of musicians, the band was at least partly responsible for an entire generation of kids who wanted to make a whole lot of unlistenable noise of their own. Not since the 1950’s had three chords sounded so vital. But not only that, the Pistols had attitude.

Formed in 1975 London, England by Paul Cook (drums), Steve Jones (guitar) and Glen Matlock (bass), it wasn’t until John Lydon, or Johnny Rotten as he came to be known (apparently Lydon had a tendency to let off the odd rotten egg every now and then, hence the nickname) joined the group that the initial line up was complete. They played a few local gigs, supporting Joe Strummer’s 101’ers, and before long had amassed a loyal following, which eventually led to them signing a contract with E.M.I, including a £40,000 advance. However due to unwanted controversy, the Pistols were dropped, even though their debut album had already been released. They then signed to A&M, only for the label to bail out after continued controversy and complaints from other artists on the label. By 1977 the only record company willing to take the band on was Virgin, re-releasing the already infamous Never Mind The Bollocks.

Produced by Chris Thomas, the Pistols’ debut may come across as raw and immediate, with that ‘live in the studio’ feel, though don’t be fooled. Many overdubs were required, especially by Jones, to create that special jaw-clenching sound. All I can say is so much for spontaneity.

One of the most notorious LP’s in Rock and Roll history kicks off with the raucous “Holidays in the Sun”, the band’s fourth single, and which incredibly reached number eight on the U.K. charts. Rotten sneers and snarls his way through the lyrics, while the rest of the boys thrash and bash their way on what could have been the unofficial soundtrack to the Brixton riots. “Bodies” has about as much subtlety as a brain surgeon with a chainsaw (it is about abortion after all), while “No Feelings” is so completely banal that I wouldn’t be surprised if a few million of my neurons weren’t about to threaten me with mutiny. At least “Liar” contains a few chord changes every now and then, which isn’t to say that they don’t sound like a quartet of teenage Neanderthals belting out their own little piece of Paleolithic rock and roll.

The band’s most defining moment is arguably “God Save the Queen”, a song resembling just about every other song on the album; however it’s Lydon’s lyrics and unique vocal delivery which truly stand out, and a ditty which remains to this day as one of the most original youth anthems ever pressed on vinyl (copies of the original 7” apparently sell for a small fortune). By the time “Problems” and “Seventeen” roars out of your speakers the novelty factor begins to wear off. Diversity wasn’t one of the band’s strong points – that much was obvious. “Anarchy in the U.K.” seems pretty tame today, but back in the ‘70s, it was nothing less than an inflammatory statement of rebellious intent, and made “Heartbreak Hotel”, recorded some twenty years earlier, seem conservative in comparison. And while Elvis invited the Beatles to Graceland, I can’t imagine he would have been too happy playing host to the likes of The Sex Pistols (imagine Sid Vicious, drink in hand, gobbing over the palatial decor).

The nihilism continues on the remainder of the album, where apart from the lyrics, nearly every song is the same as the last. And unless you’re some fifteen year old pissed off with the world and his or her parents, a lot of the energy and urgency on display here can become rather difficult to digest, even a tune such as “Pretty Vacant”.

Without a doubt The Sex Pistols are one of the most overrated bands in the history of popular music. Yet the fact that they’ve endured for nearly forty years is a testament to the myth which surrounds them. That of the ultimate snot-rockers, shoving their middle finger at authority and all it represented. For me personally, listening to these songs is not unlike wiping your arse with sandpaper. A painful experience to be sure, but one you’re unlikely ever to forget.