9 October 2013

Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols


Let's get one thing absolutely clear. The Sex Pistols were not the first punk rock band nor were they trendsetters in any way at all and I won't make any apologies for that. For the roots of this genre you have to look further back before 1976, when US acts like the New York Dolls and The Stooges were considered the forefathers of what I term essentially is garage music, i.e. music you could easily record from a rag tag of instruments and produce something that sounded a bit rough but at the bare minimum listenable.

Brains behind the whole concept of bringing punk to the UK public was a one Malcolm McLaren, who with his then girlfriend Vivienne Westwood helped to shape the image of a burgeoning generation disillusioned with the peace/not wars ideals. One of his shop assistants was bassist Glen Matlock who McLaren brought together Paul Cook (drums) and Steve Jones (guitars) although Wally Nightingale was deemed unsuitable and "too nice" and was soon replaced by John Lydon. As far as MM was concerned, any publicity is good publicity and that infamous profanity laden appearance on Bill Grundy's prime time show only served to improve the Sex Pistols' stock as well as performing "God Save The Queen" next to The Houses Of Parliament during the Jubilee celebrations.


Now to the Bollocks, not literally of course. The title itself was of much controversy back in 1976 when it was the subject of a court case until the defence revealed that bollocks, and I'm not making this up, was actually an old English world for a priest. Needless to say, the court reluctantly found The Pistols and Virgin Records not guilty and I'd like to think that everybody apart from the censorship obsessed bureaucrats walked away happy. I didn't like too much of their music 30 years ago I gotta admit, but remarkably this has got better with age. The sleeve is a simple dayglo red and yellow cover with the lettering made up from cut strips of newspaper which, along with the music and title, fulfils the sole purpose. To draw maximum attention.

Incredibly, this is officially their only full studio album. They did record other songs, but the majority have ended up in semi compilations, and without some of the members, so onto their, erm, sole record. Aside from being an anti-establishment piece and a struggle against the classes in Anarchy In The UK and Pretty Vacant, there are some important narratives here. Holidays In The Sun, for example, tells of their experiences in Berlin when they tried to take a break somewhere in the UK but couldn't so the East German capital with its eerie tranquil yet austere surroundings seemed ideal.

Bodies tell of a disjointed young woman hinging on an abortion, although the lyrics "I'm not an animal" suggests Mr Rotten is against the idea, and it's Sid Vicious' only musical contribution on the release. He really couldn't play bass or indeed any other instrument and it was left to Jones to fill in instead of Matlock (sacked because apparently he liked The Beatles). It's an egotistical trip down the Johnny Rotten path with Feelings while Liar! is yet another straightforward scene setter and again not hard to picture what's happening in the storyline, but it's also remarkably melodic and seems like the most diligent recording in the 45 minutes of play before the anti-sovereign God Save The Queen which needs no mention. Problems I've also enjoyed with some addictive hooks keeping the song structure sound although the excess use of the title track at the end is a little laboured. Fortunately, good order is restored in the brief Seventeen (I'm A Lazy Sod).


Submission just leaves me astounded. Any angry energies that are left in the group's fibres are out of the window and, dare I say, it's the most harmonic and mellow tune on The 'Bollocks. However, E.M.I. closes proceedings with an obvious scathing dig at the record company and as with previous tracks, the lyrics and story are extremely simple.

Almost 40 years ago, this was considered as offensive as a Richard Pryor stand up routine, and maybe as a punk hating teen would I have given this zero marks, but of course, that naivety is missing the point of this album given its cultural importance and the impact it made on society even if society would never accept the changes. And the constant bursts of obscenities I was semi expecting are confined to only one track on the whole album. In all, a not so quiet revelation and one that has earned its spurs in music history not just because of its significance but simply because this is a purely enjoyable record to listen to. Had the Sex Pistols been around long enough to do a follow up, I seriously doubt that it would ever match this.

10 out of ten. This is proof there is a God.

Official Website here
Buy Never Mind The Bollocks here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Deezer

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