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Profiles :: Sex Pistols
Always more of an influence than a musical force, the Pistols were almost an inevitability. By 1976 British popular music had reached an impasse.
Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Yes had reached behemoth proportions and Glam's crown prince, David Bowie, had turned his back on the UK for the plastic soul of Philadelphia. Even the grittier, grass roots pub rock bands drew on a love of old blues and West Coast country rock. What to do if you were 16 and bored?
Meanwhile in London's King's Road, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Sex boutique was becoming a focal point for a number of movers and shakers destined to become the iconoclasts of their generation. Musicians Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock had been hanging around on a Saturday afternoon when, one day, in walked John Lydon a disaffected youth wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt defaced with the addendum 'I Hate'. McLaren (a chancer who had already cut his management teeth trying to rescue the New York Dolls at the end of their career), saw something promising in Lydon's cynicism. Using the model of the New York bands who were stripping rock back to its basics. Lydon was re-christened 'Johnny Rotten' (after his poor dental health) and the Sex Pistols were born.
Originally covering old Monkees and Dolls tunes, they quickly welded Rotten's sneering wordplay to a driving, 3-chord sound and, along with the Clash, they became feted as record companies vied to sign something new and controversial. Initially signing with A&M (and releasing the single "Anarchy In The UK"), their reputation for not playing by the rules quickly saw them paid off and dropped. They then signed to EMI. A notorious appearance on the Bill Grundy TV show (where Jones infamously uttered the 'f word') made the label realise they'd bitten off more than they could chew. They were out on the streets again.
Luckily Richard Branson's Virgin label came to the rescue and in the summer of the Queen's silver jubilee they released "God Save The Queen" - most definitely not a royalist tract! Their gigs, by now, were attracting far too much attention from the police and local councils and were regularly cancelled. Not only that but their bass player Matlock had fallen from favour and in came Rotten's childhood pal (and non-musician) Sid Vicious. Meanwhile the fantastic debut album Never Mind The Bollocks was causing outrage due to its title.
Never built to last, the Pistols took their publicity circus to the States. Controversy followed outrage and it became apparent that the band were not going to withstand the media attention. Vicious developed a drug habit, Rotten hated everyone and the even less tolerant USA drove them to finally split onstage in San Francisco with Rotten's historic phrase 'ever get the feeling you've been cheated?' Posthumous collections and a film did little to add to their reputation, instead serving as McLaren's self-mythologising vehicles. Rotten went on to create art of a kind with PiL while Vicious died in sordid circumstances and a murder charge hanging over him. Inevitably, the original line-up emerged again for some lucrative gigs in the 90s.
Never Mind The Bollocks - Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1979)
Some Product - Carri On Sex Pistols (1979)
Flogging A Dead Horse (Virgin 1980)
:: /music - Pistols profile
:: Wikipedia - Pistols profile
:: sex-pistols.net - fan site
:: thefilthandthefury.co.uk - fan site
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