The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)
By 1976 rock music had become bloated, self-indulgent and dull. Paul McCartney was dragging Wings on a US tour which he saw fit to commemorate with a dreadful triple live album, The Rolling Stones had slid almost the full way into self-parody with an average at best album called Black and Blue, and ELO had released a ludicrously titled atrocity called A New World Record. Bryan Ferry had taken to wearing suits and had grown a spiv-moustache, John Lennon had chosen the domestic life and David Bowie was coked off his nut and pretending to be a Nazi. Led Zeppelin released the album of their 1975 tour in 2003 on which six songs breach the ten minute mark and three breach the twenty minute mark. Prog had become the alternative music of choice; two years previously, Genesis had released The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, which contained tracks with titles such as The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging, The Chamber Of 32 Doors, and Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats. Emerson, Lake and Palmer started their campaign for the crown of Worst Band Of All Time and Rick Wakeman recorded The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur and The Round Table. Then performed it on ice at Wembley Arena. If you can get hold of the Best Of The Old Grey Whistle Test DVD Vol1, which covers this period, you’ll notice that every member of every band on it looks like they stink.
So in this landscape of Cambridge graduates with hair down to their arses slurring merrily about elves dancing round mulberry bushes or spaceships sailing to Narnia while their mate wearing pantaloons puts his spliff down in time to play his eight minute theremin solo, can you imagine how terrifying it must have been to see a bug-eyed spiky-haired ginger waif twitching hyperactively and snarling to two hundred people in a tiny little sweatbox about abortions and overthrowing the government? Can you imagine how upset all the keyboard players were that no-one wanted to hear their twenty banks of synths and their mellotron anymore, and they just wanted three chords on a Les Paul? Can you possibly comprehend how perturbed these classically trained “progressive musicians” must have felt when they realised that their delicate twenty minute “rock symphonies” were blown out of the water by violent three minute slabs of racket? Or when their masterpieces with titles such as The Battle Of Marston Moor (July The 2nd 1664) were deemed utterly irrelevant by a song called Pretty Vaaaaaacunt? Just for one moment can you try and understand how scared all the Middle England parents must have been when they heard “You fucking rotter” on The Bill Grundy Show, or how emphatically “not amused” The Queen must have been to ban The Pistols from the number one spot, even though they’d sold 47,000 more records than Rod Stewart?
No. You can’t. And neither can I, because nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime, and will never happen again. The most important British group of all time.
Best Tracks: Bodies, God Save The Queen, Pretty Vacant
Best Moment: The sheer violence of Lydon’s voice throughout is astonishing, but the way he sings the line “She was a bloody disgrace,” in Bodies is genuinely eye-opening.
Like This? Try: Raw Power by Iggy and The Stooges, 1973