The ongoing tradition of rock n roll has always been to push conventional boundaries and be a voice for the youth. In the 1950s, Elvis dared to sway his hips in a “scandalous” fashion. In the early sixties, The Beatles grew their hair “long” by fashioning their mop tops. Later in the sixties, artists like Jim Morrison pushed the envelope onstage. Through the early seventies rock stars dressed in freakish ways and the world had become accustomed to the hedonistic drug and alcohol-laden lifestyle that was the rock and roll world. But by the mid seventies what was left to do in showcasing shocking rebelliousness? Enter the Sex Pistols.
This short-lived band turned the rock world on its ear by managing to be irreverent and creative all at the same time. Although they ranted about living for the present, they were actually forging the future on a daily basis. They lived for the moment like no one else – whatever felt good at the time was what they did and whatever absurd thought came to mind is what they said. This is a classic youth rebellion, but the Sex Pistols took it to an absurdly unrefined level. In their wake, spawned the new genre of punk rock along with several sub-genres which rippled through pop culture for several decades.
Although this London band had roots back to the early seventies, they didn’t really get much attention until 1976 when they added lead vocalist Johnny Rotten, who would perform crazy antics on and off the stage with a wild vocalization style. But the band also had some musical credentials, led by guitarist Steve Jones the band had developed into a tight live act. The instrumentalists experimented with overload, feedback and distortion which accented their overall attitude. By late 1976, the Sex Pistols were signed to the major EMI label and entered the recording studio.
However, a profanity laced tirade by Jones on live television, a vomit and spit fest at Heathrow Airport, and other shock incidents wore thin with the label as well as bassist Glen Matlock, who left the band and was replaced by Rotten’s friend and Sid Vicious in early 1977 with virtually no experience at all on his new instrument, the bass guitar. Although Vicious would ultimately become the most famous (or infamous) Sex Pistol, he only played on one track of their debut Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Steve Jones played most of the bass parts on this one and only studio album .
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
|Released: October 27, 1977 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Chris Thomas & Bill Price
Recorded: Wessex Sound, London, October 1976-August 1977
|Side One||Side Two|
|Holidays In the Sun
God Save the Queen
Anarchy In the UK
|Johnny Rotten – Lead Vocals
Steve Jones – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Paul Cook – Drums
Glen Matlock – Bass
Sid Vicious– Bass
The album contains fresh guitars and nicely layered tracks, with simple driving drumlines by Paul Cook. The production is almost slick, with Rotten’s vocals cutting throw with a quasi rap/chant rather than traditional singing. There is nothing at all complicated about this music and there aren’t groundbreaking musical techniques or virtuoso performances here. The irreverence of this music is what sets it apart. The music
is short and to the point with not much more to it.
However, there are some musically rewarding moments on the album, starting with the opener “Holidays In the Sun”, with a musical intro which sounds similar to material Mott the Hoople, at least until the the vocals start. The second side contains the gem “Submission” with a good beat, hook, and almost melodic vocals.
“God Save the Queen” is not so much a message as an attitude; “we will be irreverent just because we can…” The scabrous lyrics prompted widespread outcry and an unintended marketing boom for the band as the song was released to coincide with the height of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. The single reach number two in the UK, with many conspiracy theorists claimimg that it was actually number one but the chart had been rigged to prevent a spectacle.
“Anarchy in UK” is most famous for its sneering opening lyric “I am the anti-Christ” and became the defacto punk anthem, labeled by some as “the clarion call of a generation.” It contains an interesting, decending guitar riff by Jones and some of the best playing by the band as a whole.
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is not influential for being cutting-edge music but more for simply cutting-edge attitude. It was a true spark of fire that burned in a flash. By January 1978, the Sex Pistols split and this ever-so-short chapter of rock history was concluded.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.