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 NEVER MIND THE FACTS - HERE'S THE SEX PISTOLS BIOGRAPHY
The Story / REVIEWS CD/ RECORDS

  The Story

When Steve Jones and Paul Cook first decided to form a band in 1972 they

could hardly have predicted the effect they were to have on so many on a

world wide scale. Little did they know then that the group which eventually

became known as the Sex Pistols would split after a mass notoriety, and then

reform in 1996.

 

Originally the band came about when Steve and Paul, along with schoolmate

Warwick Nightingale formed The Strand. Jimmy Mackin and Steve Hayes augmented

the original line-up while instruments and equipment were provided or, more

practically, stolen by Jones.

 

Jones regularly spent his weekends at the"Let It Rock" shop in the Kings Road

which was run by Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Jones badgered McLaren

into finding the group somewhere to rehearse. The location Mclaren found was

Covet Garden Community Centre, and his Saturday lad Glen Matlock joined the

band as bass player.

 

A major priority, as McLaren saw it, was to find a vocalist. Cook and Jones

had each tried their hand but the desire for new blood led to the departure

of Nightingale. McLaren was becoming acquainted with a regular visitor to his

shop which was now known as "Sex", the green-haired teenager John Lydon.

Lydon auditioned for the band by accompanying Alice Cooper on the shop's

jukebox. As a result of Jones' continual comments about the state of Lydon's

teeth he became Johnny Rotten, McLaren meanwhile borrowed a slogan off one of

his T-shirts and dubbed the band "Sex Pistols". Initially they worked mostly

on 60's covers with the likes of the Small Faces. They also began to write

their own material.

 

Their first venture was as support to Bazooka Joe (complete with Adam Ant) in

November 1975 at St. Martins College in London's Charing Cross Road. It was

hardly a success however, with the plug promptly pulled after a short set. A

memorable debut but for the wrong reasons ! Other dates were forthcoming

though and the band slowly gained a following, sparked by Simon Barker who

formed the "Bromley Contingent", an ardent group of Pistols followers.

Violence at Dingwalls brought an expulsion from that venue. and because of

their growing reputation they were barred from playing the Mont De Marson

Punk Festival in France.

Following the U.K. tour, which included a performance at Chelmsford Prison,

they played at the 100 club in September 1976 at a Punk Festival, which also

featured a line-up of Siouxsie & The Banshees with future Pistols bassist Sid

Vicious (real name John Simon Ritchie) on drums. On October 8th the Pistols

signed to EMI, recording their debut single "Anarchy In The UK" shortly

afterwards. An event then occurred that anyone who hadn't previously heard of

the band would now be well aware of them. On December 1st the band appeared

on Thames TV's "Today" program as late replacements, only arriving around

five minutes before going on air. They were interviewed live by Bill Grundy,

who proceeded to provoke the band and encourage them to "say something

outrageous". For Steve Jones in particular this was an open invitation and he

happily obliged with a number of expletives stunning (to put it mildly) the

early evening audience. The next day the front pages of the daily newspaper

were covered with pictures of the band, prompting EMI to drop them. Anxious

promoters canceled all but three of the shows booked for December's "Anarchy"

national tour and in February 1977 Glen Matlock left the group. His

replacement was the before mentioned Sid Vicious who first had to learn how

to play bass!

 

In March 1977 the Pistols signed a new recording deal with A&M Records. As

their first single was to be "God Save The Queen" they signed the contracts

outside Buckingham Palace and were photographed doing so. Just days later

however A&M kicked the band off the label as well, prompting plenty of

McLaren hype about the large pay-offs they were receiving, a point he made

sure was driven in "The Great Rock 'N' roll Swindle" film some time later.

In May the Pistols signed their third and final record deal, this time with

Virgin, and "God Save The Queen" was promptly released. Jamie Reid's sleeve

design depicted the Queen's face with a safety pin through her nose in true

punk tradition and it came as no surprise when the single was widely banned.

The Pistols marked Jubilee Day in their own inimitable fashion by staging a

performance on a riverboat on the Thames and were arrested and charged by the

police on their return ashore.

 

Two more singles followed, "Pretty Vacant" (performed on "Top of the Pops")

and "Holidays In The Sun", preceding the group's eagerly anticipated album

"Never Mind The Bollocks - Here's The Sex Pistols" in November which went

straight to the top of the charts despite many outlets refusing to stock it.

After a secret tour to avoid bans the Sex Pistols' final UK performance took

place at Ivanhoes in Huddersfield on Christmas Day 1977 before they took off

for the ill-fated eight show American tour in January 1978. Enough was enough

for Rotten by the end and on the final date at the Winterland Ballroom in San

Francisco he snarled "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?", a now

infamous remark which sparked his departure from the band the next day.Days

later, Cook and Jones travelled to Rio with McLaren to meet and record with

Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber. Rotten would go on to form Public Image

Limited.

Sid Vicious recorded a version of "My Way" and performed his farewell UK gig

at Camden's Electric Ballroom under the guise of The Vicious White Kids, with

ex-Pistol Glen Matlock on bass. In October 1978 Sid's girlfriend Nancy

Spungen was found dead in the couple's New York hotel room, and Sid was

jailed for the murder. He was released on bail but died from a heroin

overdose on February 2nd 1979 whilst awaiting the murder trial.

The Sex Pistols were over.

 

Biography By Jim Henderson

 

 

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In 1996, 20 years after anarchy first ruled the nation, Rotten, Jones,

Cook and Matlock reformed for the highly successful Filthy Lucre Tour. The

tour would take the Sex Pistols around the globe, ending in Santiago, Chile,

on 7th December '96.

 

Then in 2002....Pistols At The Palace. On 27th July, Steve, Paul, John, and

Glen reunited to celebrate their own Jubilee with a concert at Crystal Palace,

London. This was followed by, on 14th September, Inland Invasion 2:

Blockbuster Pavilion, Devore, California.

 

THE FINAL END?


REVIEWS CD/ RECORDS

 

 

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Archive Singles Reviews

 

 

“Anarchy In The UK” (EMI)

Review by Caroline Coon, Melody Maker. 27th November 1976

 

Anarchy, venom, outrage, fury!

The first time the pistols performed this number the audience surged in front of the stage, ripping at each other’s jackets and T-shirts, throwing themselves at each other and bouncing off again – a seething, gleeful mass of bodies forming a trampoline of human flesh.

 

It was obvious that if ever there was to be a single, then this should be it. But it was difficult to imagine how the band could capture all that excitement on vinyl. They HAVE done it though.

 

The single is an epitome of their sound, at the band’s most furious, venomous best. The song is a threat, a malediction. In the last bar Johnny Rotten (19), with the feel of an urban desperado, yells “D-E-S-T-R-O-Y!”

 

Earlier on he asks, “Is this the UK or just another country, a council tenancy?” He seems outraged, surprised, betrayed perhaps. As if he still can’t believe how utterly without hope his childhood was and how callously (or so he believes) he and his friends were written off as factory fodder.

 

They scrapped the first try at recording the single after an abortive weekend where good fun and liquid refreshment flowed to the detriment of music. They re-recorded it with Chris Thomas producing.

 

This time they were meticulous and their care and attention pays dividends, totally destroying the myth that UK punk rock revels in untuned instruments and sloppiness.

 

All though the track bassist Glen Matlock and drummer Paul Cook grind out a demon rhythm which is, compared with other numbers like “No Feelings” or “Submission,” laidback for them!

 

Guitarist Steve Jones, in two sparse breaks, kicks the track to new levels of white hot power with the strength of a Chieftain tank. Rotten enunciates every word with the clarity of a branding iron.

 

It’s great. It’s startlingly harsh, loaded with cynical irony and too concerned with urban reality to appeal to those settled into the thrill of romance.

 

But for restless young renegades bored with sugar and spice images, which are about as far removed from the life they know as Venus and Mars, it will be an instant hit.

 

 

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“God Save The Queen” (Virgin)

Review, NME, 28th May 1977

 

Single(s) Of The Week

Ramalamafa fa fa! Just in case there was any danger of forgetting the Pistols are a rock band instead of just a media hoax / guaranteed talk-show laffgetter / all-purpose scapegoat or whatever, here’s a record which actually managed to squeak it’s way past the official guardians of our morality and may well be in your shops any minute now. It may even stay there long enough for you to buy it. It comes out on Saturday and it’ll probably be banned by Monday, so move f-a-s-t.

 

The “real” title of this song is “No Future”, but it’s received so much notoriety as “God Save The Queen” so that you can get what you ask for when you ask for it, and what you will get when you ask for it (and you will ask for it) is a remorseless, streamlined crusher of a single that establishes the Pistols’ credentials as a real live rock and roll band.

 

 

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“Pretty Vacant” (Virgin)

Review by Roy Carr, NME. July 1977

 

Another Sex Pistols Record…turns out to be the future of rock & roll.

 

Picture yourself trying to describe the sheer overwhelming impact of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “My Generation,” “Raw Power” or even “Dancing In The Street.”

 

Truthfully, there aren’t any appropriate words. And, unless you’re terminally insensitive, you can’t possibly fail to recognize the numbing shock of reality when, on such rare occasions as these, it presents itself with all the subtlety of an earthquake.

 

The Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” is one such instance.

 

With this disc, the Pistols positively cream their closest competitors with muscle to spare.

 

Forget about the acceptable face of outlaw chic. The Sex Pistols are a band virtually unable to perform before a public who helped to create them. It’s a vacuum in which no other band has, until now, found itself thrust. As a result of this dilemma, the only positive outlet for their frustrations is the comparative isolation of the recording studio and it’s from here that “Pretty Vacant”- the music, the noise, the intense atmosphere – boils over in sheer anger and desperation.

 

People have been trying to get this pitch of intensity throughout the ‘70s and the cumulative desperation seems finally to erupt on this seminal single.

 

 

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“Holidays In The Sun” (Virgin)

Review, NME. October 1977

 

No Chewn, My Babe, No Chewn.

 

And the triumphant path blazed by “Anarchy in the UK,” “God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant” begins to falter. “Holidays in the Sun” – the first Pistols A-side composed by Jones / Cook / Rotten / Vicious as opposed to Jones / Cook / Rotten / Matlock – has two out of the three elements that have graced the classic triad of hits: it has great lyrics and a wild-eyed mean-machine of a riff, but it lacks the structure and immediacy that was, presumably, the contribution of the more pop-oriented Glen Matlock. The result is a shapeless rant rather than a song… The other singles were great POP as well as great rock and roll – plus I thought formless self-indulgence was a BOF failing. Tighten up, star.

 

 

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“The Biggest Blow (A Punk Prayer By Ronnie Biggs)” / “My Way” (Virgin)

Review, Sounds. June 1978

 

Biggsie blows it

 

Imagine the Nuremberg Rally colliding with the World Cup Final Glencoe. And Sid Vicious on bass.

 

Despite a marvellous chorus effectively countering Ronnie’s erratic and wayward rantings on “Blow”, colliding with the Massacre of the shoddy gimmickry of it all serves to demean the worth and importance of the previous work under the Sex Pistols banner.

 

Sorry to throw the stuffy moralist bit at you, but this glorification of Uncle Ronnie as a loveable outlaw in the Robin Hood tradition (when he was merely an unwanted passenger in the train robbery) is rather foolish; and the Pistols’ pose as fellow wronged renegades is utterly juvenile.

 

Lyrics which urge “God save Martin Bormann and Nazi’s on the run / They wasn’t being wicked it was their idea of fun” don’t exactly inspire sympathy.

 

And with Myra Hindley, Ian Brady and Idi Amin also getting honourable mentions, it’s several miles the wrong side of the healthy outrage they’ve perpetrated in the past.

 

Sid’s “My Way” is slightly more wholesome, opening with a Vicious portrayal of Sinatra, then launching into a furious full assault – I keell’d a K.A.T., not eena shy W.A.Y……AAH” – over typical “Anarchy” thrash. It’s much better, but even this palls quickly. Wonder what Johnny the Unpleasant One thinks about it all?

 

 

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“Silly Thing” (Virgin)

Review, Smash Hits. March 1979

 

From the better half of the “Swindle” album, a familiar Pistols’ treatment of a so-so song, written by, and featuring the “survivors” – Paul Cook and Steve Jones. Unsensational but commendable, no-nonsense punkarama; unlike the orchestrated silliness on the flip, “Who Killed Bambi”, featuring Ten Pole Tudor. Who cares?

 

 

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“C’mon Everybody” (Virgin)

Review, Smash Hits. June 1979

 

Here’s where I upset the applecart again. I guess you’ll think I’m anti Punk if I say one word against the Pistols. But if I’m deeply suspicious of most Pistols “product” that’s precisely because I’m pro Punk. Yes, they shook up a lot of stuffy bozos. Yes, they helped to inspire a new wave of talent. Yes, they recorded some stupendous tracks. But below the superficial image they were as contrived and as phoney as a 7p piece. As for Sid Vicious, judging by his commendable performance on “Something Else”, and his slightly less worthy version of this other Eddie Cochran classic, he’d have done better to join a rock ‘n’ roll band than to clown his way to the mortuary, desperately trying to live up to an image which was nothing if not pathetic. R.I.P.

 

 

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“The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle” (Virgin)

Review, Sounds. October 1979

 

Now at least this admits it’s blatant exploitation from the start instead of hiding it under words “art” and “experimentation”. The whole Pistols vision has been turned on its head here in an openly mercenary exercise. ‘Course you’d have to be a real div to buy this – about the fifth single from the apt “Swindle” LP which you’ve got already, but you will anyway, won’t you? Cash from chaos.

 

Meantime rock brains might not go a bundle on Jonesy’s silly swastika t-shirts or pulling techniques but you gotta admit he’s got a great guitar sound. This is the best newie on “Swindle” and it thunders along like a good ‘un, blessed with Ten Pole Tudor’s pogoing vocals and an hilarious Rotten piss-take. “Ian Dury – Cockney Pride. Mick Jagger – white nigger. Elton John – hair transplant”. Sex Pistols – C.O.D.

 

 

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“(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” (Virgin)

Review, Smash Hits. June 1980

 

“The Swindle continues…the song isn’t even in the film,” the sleeve proudly announces underneath the advertisement for “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”. Heed those first few words, please, you may love the S(ex) Pistols for nostalgic reasons or whatever, but this record is unlistenable through its deliberately distorted, destructive production job. THERE IS NO SONG TO LISTEN TO – don’t be swindled again!

 

 

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Ten Pole Tudor with Sex Pistols: “Who Killed Bambi?” (Virgin)

Review, Sounds. 5th September 1981

 

Virgin, as ever, step in at the commercially opportune time to rake more cash from the Great Swindle. Recent chart following converts to things Tudorpolean be warned that this is not the battle cries and guitar led chargings of today.

 

It must be admitted however, that this top side and the flip, the sublimely barmy “Rock Around The Clock” are the only decent things on the soundtrack elpee and as such are worth owning.

 

The loud (as in obvious, vulgar) latino brass intro to “Who Killed Bambi” puts me in mind of the ribald humour of the Sid James, Barbara Windsor school. Carry On Up The Charts. Imagine this as the summer hit. Phew…

 

 

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“Pretty Vacant (Live)” (Virgin)

Review, NME. July 1996

 

Flash guitar work, click-drum accuracy, pinpoint vocals and a million sheets a man – they sound pretty f***ing clued up to us.

 

 

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Archive Album Reviews

 

 

“Never Mind The Bollocks” (Virgin)

Review by Julie Burchill, NME. 5th November 1977

 

What are you waiting for? True love, school to end, Third World / civil war, more wars in the Third World, a leader, the commandos to storm the next aeroplane, next weeks NME, The Revolution?

 

The Sex Pistols album! Hail, rock and roll, deliver them from evil but lead them not into temptation. Keep them quiet / off the street / content.

 

Hey punk! You wanna elpee-sized “Anarchy” single? You wanna original “Anarchy” in a black bag? You wanna bootleg album? You wanna collect butterflies? Very fulfilling, collecting things…very satisfying. Keep you satisfied, make you fat and old, queuing for the rock and roll show.

 

The Sex Pistols. They could have dreamed up the name and died. The hysterical equation society makes of love / a gun = power / crime shoved down its own throat, rubbed in its own face. See, I’m just as repressed and contaminated as the next guy. And I like the Sex Pistols. Aesthetically, apart from anything else. Three of them are very good looking. And the sound of the band goes…”I don’t wanna holiday in the Sun / I wanna go in the city / There’s a thousand things I wanna say to you…” All very Weller, but is this Jagger I see before me? No it’s the singles, all four of them – “Anarchy In The UK,” “God Save the Queen,” “Pretty Vacant” and “Holidays in the Sun” – constituting one third (weigh it) of the vinyl. Of course, there are other great songs. This is no first-round knock-out. This is no Clash attending the CBS Convention; no Damned fucking an American girl with a Fender bass; no Stranglers distorting Trotsky and Lenin for their own cunt-hating, bully-boy ends.

 

No, this is the Sex Pistols. The band which (so I’m told – I wasn’t there in the beginning) started it all. Great songs like “Submission,” a numb-nostrilled “Venus In Furs” / “Penetration” / “I wanna be your Dog,” in form hypnotic, in content writhing. Pain through a dull, passive haze. Is that a whip in your hand or are you abnormal? Submission / Going Down. Down, dragging her down / Submission / I can’t tell you what I’ve found. Smack? Geeks? What’s the mystery and who grew up on the New York Dolls? Dogs yelp as the drill continues. Most unhealthy and ya like it like that? Well, it grows on you. A bit like cancer.

 

Great songs like “No Feelings”: “I got no emotion for anybody else / you better understand I’m in love with myself / My self / My beautiful self.” Ah, solipsism rules, as Tony Parsons used to say before he got wise. Good dance tune, anyway, while “Problems” says it all: “Bet you thought you had it all worked out / Bet you thought you knew what I was about / Bet you thought you’d solved all your problems /But YOU are the problem.”

 

Whatcha gonna do? Vegetate? Listen to the Sex Pistols album? Great songs gone, ineffectual flicks of the wrist like “New York,” which probably has David JoHansen quaking in his heels, and “EMI” – you guessed it, they’re bitching. “You’re only twenty-nine / You gotta lot to learn”. In spite of this inspired opening. “Seventeen” rambles a little and the guitars do go on a bit. “I just speed / That’s all I need.”

 

Whaddyathink of it so far. Well, I’ve saved the best bit for you to linger over. You’ve already heard two songs the band co-wrote with Sid Vicious (as opposed to Glen Matlock, The True Pop Kid): “E.M.I” and “Holidays In The Sun.” here’s the third. It’s called “Bodies.” She was a girl from Birmingham.

 

What? Good God. Was I shocked? Did I jump! Is that what they wanted, to shock people? Smart boys. Do they mean it? Is it satire of the most dubious kind? Did John’s Catholic schooling leave it’s mark? I don’t know where “Bodies” is coming from and it scares me. It’s obviously a gutter view of sex / dirt / blood / reproduction and if the song is an attack on such mentality it’s admirable.

 

But, as with “Holidays in the Sun,” Rotten never allows himself to make a moral judgement and, going by things he’s said, he seems refreshingly capable of making them. I wish he would. I wish he would say that East Germany is presently organising itself better than West Germany – or vice versa, if that’s what he believes. I wish the Sex Pistols had said in “Bodies” that women should not be forced to undergo such savagery, especially within a “Welfare” State.

 

I’m sick of unlimited tolerance and objectivity, because it leads to annihilation. I wish everyone would quit sitting on he fence in the middle of the road. I think “Bodies” will be open to much misinterpretation and that to issue it was grossly irresponsible.

 

Many of these songs (under new names) also crop up on their bootleg album – plus “Satellite” in which the Pistols give the finger to the provinces, and “Just Me” which has a nonexistent tune and frightening words: “You wanna be me / Didn’t I fool you?” The singing is done with much less expertise, Rotten sounding sick to death. It’s a much better record.

 

I don’t really know anything about music but the Sex Pistols seem to play as well as anyone I’ve heard, and I’ve heard Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend records. I never knew what was meant by “guitar hero” – it sounds like the kind of phrase a mental retard might mouth. “Guitar hero” – you mean as in “was hero,” that kind of thing?

 

Why should anyone wish to play more usefully than Steve Jones. Or drum more elaborately than Paul Cook, or play better bass than Sid Vicious? What purpose could it serve to outdo them?

 

So what are the Sex Pistols? For the tabloids a welcome rest from nubiles (sex and violence in their name alone and drugs too, if you count Rotten’s speed dalliance); for the dilettantes, a new diversion (Ritz has a monthly punk column); for the promoters, a new product to push; for the parents, a new excuse; for the kids, a new way (in the tradition of the Boy Scouts, the terraces and One-Up-Man-Ship) in which to dissipate their precious energy. Johnny Rotten, Oliver Twist of this generation; “I wanna some MORE, Malcolm!”

 

 

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“The Great Rock And Roll Swindle” (Virgin)****(out of 5)

Review by Pete Silverton, Sounds. February 1979

 

SOME FIVE years ago I bought a Chuck Berry t- shirt down the Kings Road in ‘Let It Rock’, the original fore-runner of ‘Sex’/’Seditionaries’. Smart little number it was too — black with capsleeves and a big white Chuck Berry splashed across the front duck-walking away from you. I was never too keen on the ‘Rock And Roll Lives’ slogan running across the top but the Chuck Berry signature under the picture was something else again. Then I found out it was McLaren’s hand guiding the pen. and I liked it even more.

 

Nowadays Malcolm McLaren (a.k.a. Levi. a.k.a. Edwards) has got better things to do with his life than imitating fifties rock ‘n’ roll stars’ signatures. He’s making solo albums.

 

Ignore the Sex Pistols name on the spine. This is Malcolm’s first (in along line if he can get the money?) solo album, Just like when you bought a Ronettes record, you knew it was really the latest Phil Spector — there were endless black girl singers who could match Veronica grunt for gasp but there was only one man who could encase them in such a grandiose vision. And there’s more than a handful of guitarists and drummers who could fill the Jones and Cook role — even if they might not have quite the same cut to their glide.

 

Point number two. This is a soundtrack album and must be judged accordingly. Concepts or conceits which might seem painfully slight after the tenth time of hearing maybe work well in the context of a movie where they’d only be heard once. I.e. I’ve got no plans to put Malcolm intoning ‘You Need Hands' (which, by the sound of it, leaves a gap for the man to twinkle his toes) on my juke box but I’ve got to admit it’s funny— especially when it’s listed on the sleeve in a letraset approximation of its Hebrew equivalent. Neatly, McLaren re­inforces/turns on its head the whole Yid haberdasher view of him.

 

That’s the key-note of the whole affair —McLaren’s use of various rock and roll (plus some others) cultural myths, icons and standards. Rather, use ‘em and invert ‘em. From Steve Jones singing the mild changing room smut of Friggin’ In The Riggin’ with a Gilbert and Sullivan orchestration to the Black Arabs disco medley of the Pistols chart hits (’Anarchy’, ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘No-One Is Innocent’ — whither ‘Holidays In Sun’?) it’s all Malcolm’s idea of serious fun. Right down to the subversion of the Virgin -cataloge prefix — VGD becomes VD. That’s what I call true attention to detail.. - and a rather jejune sense of outrage.. - but then whoever said the Pistols were adult entertainment!

 

PUSHING the point further, the whole of the two albums could be seen as an embitteredly smiling catalogue of Malcolm’s own loss of innocence. Always fascinated by the uncluttered naivity of fifties rock and roll, McLaren sometimes seems to feel he was let down after that. Why else get Sid to celebrate the object fetishism of ‘Something Else’ or the high-school myth of ‘C’mon Everybody’? And don’t forget what happened to Eddie Cochran, - or the state of his corpse when they pulled him out of that wreck on the A4.

 

Indeed why else dig out the skeletons from Rotten’s closest forcing him to remember what the Pistols sounded like doing cover versions? ‘Substitute’, Dave Berry’s ‘No Lip’ and the Monkees ‘Stepping Stone’, they’re all here. Plus a very spontaneous thrash through ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Roadrunner’. “Oh fuck I don’t know the words, this is the pits” groans Rotten when he isn’t scat singing like a Van Morrison pushed through the wall of fifteen years. I smiled but maybe Mr. Lydon will blush.

 

IN THIS FINAL version of the set Malcolm stamps his vision even more firmly over the whole project by introducing the album. He explains lesson one of the great swindle (the other three are on the sleeve) over an orchestrated ‘God Save The Queen’:

 

“This is Malcolm McLaren. I’ve done a lot of things in my time but the most successful of all was an invention of mine they called punk rock. Let me start from the beginning: Find yourself 4 kids. Make sure they hate each other. Make sure they can’t play.” Delivered in a wonderful Fagin voice, Ron Moody should suck on his false nose.

 

The orchestra also crops up beneath Steve Jones treating ‘God Save The Queen’ like Peter Sellers doing ‘Hard Day’s Night’, while Ten Pole Tudor (who auditioned as Rotten’s replacement last summer) romps through ‘Who Killed Bambi’ with Viv Westwood and gets to sing ‘Rock Around the Clock’ in a rather bizarre fashion — various words are squeaked out. Maybe I’m wrong but it seemed like a passing comment on censorship.

 

The famous Jerzimy — oh him, I used to know him when he was a Parisian street-singer — cops the delight of skipping around the French version of ‘Anarchy’ (pronounced añarshee poor loo ka’) aided and abetted by a sprightly accordion.

 

And, the concepts and the inclusion of previously released material (‘No-one Is Innocent’, ‘My Way’ and the Steppenwolf riffing of ‘l Wanna Be Me’) aside, you’re left with the original Goodman —produced ‘Anarchy’ and four new Pistols songs, ‘Lonely Boy’, ‘Silly Thing’. ‘The Great Rock And Roll Swindle’ plus two versions of ‘Belsen Was A Gas’, one live with Rotten, one studio with Biggs and a sax. ‘Lonely Boy’ is a shallowly amusing run through every cliche of fifties unrequited love songs (with the addition of a line about the girl’s crutch —Bobby RydeIl would never have touched on that) and ‘Silly Thing’ is a masterful combination of Thin Lizzy strut, Clash swagger and Ramones tunnel vision.

 

It’s good, very good in fact but it could never match the sheer vigour of ‘Anarchy’. “Vinyl quotation number one” announces Rotten, the pent up frustration of not being heard dripping from every syllable. Given his chance to preach to the world, he grasps the opportunity like a man possessed. Awe-full in its intensity it’s not even let down by the slightly sluggish playing and is utterly bereft of the irony of the vocal on the released version. An almost flawless gem from the days when he really did mean it, maaan.

 

The title track is the band’s answer to McLaren’s introduction and despite its rather close affinities to other Pistols songs (especially ‘No-one Is Innocent’) somehow works, notably because of the wonderful Rotten impersonation — ‘Hiya boys. I’m the chosen, one, can’t you see?’—and ‘his’ jibes at the likes of Rod Stewart, Dylan, Elton John and Sid Vicious.

 

I doubt if I’ll ever play this album everyday — or even once a week —and I’ve no idea what the movie will be like but if it’s anything like the pictures this collection of musical extracts puts in my head, it could well be one of the movies. If nothing else a testament to the ghost of Johnny Rotten.

 

God save us lepers, indeed. And l can still hear Sid’s silly giggle at the start of ‘My Way’ ringing in my ears.

 

 

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“Some Product (Carri On Sex Pistols)” (Virgin)

Review, Smash Hits. July 1979

 

I thought I was going to hate this money grabbing exercise but instead it’s both entirely honest and entirely brilliant. For £3.20 you get 42 minutes of the Pistols talking, plus odd snatches of music, banned radio ads, stupid interviewers, Grundy swear words etc., all very cleverly and wittily put together. Best of all is the American radio phone-in session. Away from all the intellectualising and idolising – both equally stupid and wrong – the sound of four irreverent kids enjoying the chaos they create says more than 100 Sex Pistols features. Buy it. (9 out of 10).

 

 

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“Sid Vicious – Sid Sings” (Virgin)

Review, Smash Hits. December 1979

 

Oddly enough this album – raucous racket, four letter words and all – is still quite enjoyable, not least because Sid could actually handle a tune quite well. But TERRIBLE sound quality, a mere 27 minutes (including some real barrel scraping) for your £5 – what was that about a swindle? Best tracks: “My Way”, “Stepping Stone”. (6 out of Ten).

 

 

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‘The Very Best Of’ (Nippon Columbia YX7247AX Japanese import)***(out of 5)

Review by Sandy Robertson, Sounds. January 1980

 

THE PERFECT contradiction: The Japs offer such fine press­ings, this album’lI cost you about £9 if you want it - . and l’m reviewing it as usual on a pair of broken headphones connected to the speaker sockets of my ancient amp. So like the Pistols themselves; sold as untainted, priceless rebels, but turning out to be dirty product. Or was it the other way around?

 

Offered in revised ‘Bollocks’ packaging, this is a single LP slab of excerpts from same, snips of ‘Swindle' singles, B-sides, high points, low dives and two unreleased tracks. ‘Pretty Vacant’, ‘Anarchy’, ‘God Save The Queen’ still hit, but quaintly; encrusted in the shrewd fustian of Malcolm’s invention. ‘No Fun’ remains unconvincing when uprooted from Ann Arbor. ‘I Wanna Be Me’ is a drag. ‘Did You No Wrong’ a gem. Odd choices. ‘Satellite’, ‘Silly Thing’, ‘C’mon Everybody’, ‘Rock’n’RoIl Swindle’. ‘My Way', of course, done Viciously. Flyover Records awaits!

 

The unissued tracks are from ­the fag-end Cook-Jones era. ‘Here We Go Again’ is another of those football-chant singalongs artlessly tacked on to the standard Pistolero chords, and ‘Black Leather’ is guitar hero junk about messy sex and all that guff. The latter has already been heard in a marginally less awful version by The Runaways; and that didn’t make it to your local jukebox.

 

C’mon, don’t be churlish, the Sex Pistols were surely one of the better jokes by/on the music business in the 70’s. Blow-jobs against the empire! Scholars will debate for centuries: Could Ten Pole Tudor have been big in Japan? The most fun can be had here by reading the inept Jap transcription of the lyrics while you listen to “Johnny Lotten’s” fake anger in ‘Anarchy In The UK’: “I wanna destroy, possibly ‘cause / I wanna be anarchy / No doubt funny… No doubt at all.

 

 

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“Flogging A Dead Horse” (Virgin)

Review by Garry Bushell, Sounds. 9th February 1980

 

THIS RECORD gets no stars all ‘cos it’s totally worthless, all the tracks included are still readily available elsewhere, Pistols fans will have them already, and, if you’re mug enough to cough up a bluey for it, you and Richard Ransom were obviously made for each other.

 

All sense of outrage at Virgin’s tedious, tireless celebration of the rock ‘n’ roll swindle died, got buried, and eaten away by maggots long ago and by now the whole thing’s achieved the yawnometer topping status usually reserved for reading NME or listening to Scratchers strident tirades against so-called ‘greedy workers’.

 

The album, if such an epithet can be used for such a useless chunk of plastic waste, consists of the first three ‘proper’ Pistols singles, plus b-sides, and Holidays In The Sun’ on one side. While side 2 consists of the post-Pistols split singles (plus ‘Stepping Stone’ all available on the ‘Great Cock ‘N’ Hole Swindle’ which you’ve got at home anyway.

 

As side two runs out there’s the witty sound of a cash register ringing which’ll be duplicated all over the country by gullible youths who think punk means wearing safety pins and going on Sid Vicious Marches. And like Sid the Div this record is naturally nothing at all to do with Punk as she was meant.

 

On the back there’s a final attempt to outrage with a picture of a dog turd planted on a gold disc of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’.

 

Suitably even the dog shit is plastic.

 

 

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“Kiss This” ( Virgin / Two CD box set)

 

PHLEGM WERE THE DAYS

Review by James Brown & Dee Tension, NME. October 1992

 

NEVER MIND The Box Here’s The Sex Pistols, rising again like the most filthy and glorious cadaver ever to rest its bones in rox coffin. Here the band finally make the transformation from good looking corpse to attractive corporate venture—and a lot of fun it is too. Fans of the band’s music don’t particularly get anything extra from the rag-arsed studio orphan ‘Don’t Give Me No Lip Child’ or the ‘Live At Trondheim’ CD which ends, in tribute to ‘Metallic KO’ with the sounds of dumped instruments and broken bottles. But perhaps they’re allowed a new perspective.

 

To understand the rage you had to see the age, when art curses and kicks society so much it changes it you have to realise they arrived in a perfect time-spot. No matter what the intellectual window dressers did to make these boys seems less attractive, the fact of the matter is Guy Debord could never play guitar like Steve Jones, and the only Society Of The Spectacle anyone in rock ‘n’ roll is interested in nowadays is that of Messrs Bausch & Lomb of California. Shame.

 

Creative politics may well have served the lads handsomely at their inception, but it’s the studio sounds that secure their place in history. Lie-don’s lyrics, his jack-knife turns on single words like ‘Va-cunt’, the inspiring segueing of jackboots marching, hands clapping, and a drum’s beat and the basic thrill of the most rancid and magnetic voice in rock made the Sex Pistols the most intimidating and exhilarating fanfare of contempt and discontent going.

 

And at the heart of all this is a thuggish rock ‘n’ roll band not too distant from the young Who or Slade – though historians would prefer The Stooges—singing songs about laziness, boredom, theft and sekshual anguish. Kicking in the brains of anyone intent on settling down. If the unique guitar/drum intros of many of the recorded works here (you know them all) are proof of their creative gift, the live CD is an example of the contempt they had for the carnival going on around them.

 

“Gud Seive The Quinn. Gud Seive The Quinn” chant the lambchop Euro punx, much to the disgust of the band who can be heard narkily having a go at the audience and each other between the awful squawl of their live sound. If it’s attitude you’re after, there’s gobfuls of it. Suspicion, contempt, hunger and aggression, but that’s enough of me. The package leans nicely towards self-parody with the title of the album drawn by hand in a pool of phlegm.

 

Considering the amount of Pistol-packing product available (and you could print a booklist here). ‘Kiss This’ does actually add more, if only for the sleevenotes. The memoirs of four men sitting back in The Garrick, perhaps. “The fanatics out there take things far too seriously. They’d probably be appalled by the way we view our own material,” says Honest John. If you’re looking to history for inspiration or entertainment, or an indecently brilliant rock’n’roll story then come feast on ‘Bodies’, ‘Anarchy’, ‘Problems’, the finer recorded works of Ye Olde Sexe Pistols. If you’re Pist Off by the ‘Sellout’, forget it. But remember this:

 

“I recommend a lousy record company every time you run out of songs. The material is glorious.” Today’s rebels have good intentions and weedy records. The Pistols had bad intentions and brilliant records. May history preserve them in venom. (9/10)

 

 

 

 

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"Never Mind The Bollocks" / "Spunk" (Virgin)

 

"Filthy Lucre Live" (Virgin)

 

First, the reissue of the one great album, complete with demos, then the arrival of a live record of Finsburv Park. Now much do you need to hear of THE SEX PISTOLS?

 

Review by Neil Kulkarni, Melody Maker. 27th July 1996

 

And so they’re slotted in, the punk chapter in every Big Book Of Rock. Flick through the index and they’ll be there between Santana and Del Shannon in bold type; the next time they do one of those 100 Best Albums Of All Time radio votes they’ll be nestling neatly at about number twenty-six, betwixt Blonde On Blonde and Dark Side Of The Moon, processed, placed, understood. McLaren, born smirking and uncaring, will recline with a cigar and a smug sense of vindication and wait for his cheques. The band will stand another round in the local. Lydon, who you hope is past caring, will fly home and feed his plants and die. The Sex Pistols are history, meaningful figures, boring, everything they resisted, everything it was inevitable they’d become. But “Never Mind The Bollocks”, as a human transmission, as a piece of plastic, as an idea, even through the putrid rose-tints of retrospect, even with the distance of time and the accumulation of official sanction, is still a bomb beyond appraisal, impossible, UNDENIABLE.

 

I was five when this was released. It sparks no recollections. I remember Sham 69 on “Tiswas", The Boomtown Rats, Sid Snot, “Vague”, and that’s punk for me. But “Bollocks” reaches over time, culture, memory and f**ing chokes you. “Holidays ln The Sun” engulfs you, with too many thoughts, too much to be sated, a sound that’s still unsurpassed, still unmediable, still resistant to everything but its own demented logic. “Bodies” is the closest music has ever got to pure nihilism, grooves steeped and knee-deep in loathing, gasping in disgust sinking in infinite hatred. “Anarchy” will place demands on the rest of your life if you are mad enough to let it, “Pretty Vacant” is for jukeboxes and Dave Lee Travis, the rest is kindling or gospel depending on your mood or your inclination.

 

What’s true is that it’s all uncomfortable, all unbreakable, it’s all still here, out of time, but creating its own context in ‘96 as you let it in. What’s curious is how a band of chancers and ne’er ­do-wells could pretty much perfect rock music 3O years after it started and 20 years before it began to die. No other band before or since had sounded quite so driven, quite so urgent, quite so up at you and gouging. What’s weird is that Johnny Rotten’s voice doesn’t sound like a relic from a bygone age, it sounds as unanswerable and distressingly human as it ever did. What’s strange is that this stuff touches you, after 20 years that have been cursed by its continued worship and acceptance.

 

Oh, forget the live LP (not because it’s sad or a betrayal or a live album, just because it’s dull basically, “Bollocks” with a sagging paunch and a few thousand cider-punk screams) and forget the extra tracks (on “Spunk” the bootleg demo LP hawked about before the original release of “Bollocks”; interesting for the deeper wail of Lydon’s proto-P.i.L. vocals but not much else). Forget the filling in of gaps in the story (stories have endings), the footnotes and footholds and explanations. Forget the archaeology and listen to “Holidays In The Sun”. It makes you want to change the world, it makes you want to kill the Pistol’s stranglehold on pop for good and go one better. That’s all that matters, that’s enough for now

   

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