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Sex Pistols

Related: UK music - John Lydon - punk

Era: 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977

Jamie Reid's 1977 appropriation/détournement of Cecil Beaton's portrait of the Queen's coronation, 1953


Despite their short existence, the Sex Pistols were perhaps the quintessential British punk rock band. Whilst The Clash were both more articulate and politically motivated, and The Buzzcocks had more astute pop sensibilities, no other group better exemplified the punk movement's spirit and inherent contradictions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_Pistols [Oct 2004]

John Lydon

John Lydon (born January 31, 1956), also known as Johnny Rotten (a nickname coming from the state of his teeth) was the iconoclastic lead singer of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd (PiL). With his leering, swaggering and sarcastic manner he laid down a new template for rebellious youth and band frontmen that continues to be imitated today. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lydon [Feb 2005]

Situationism and Rock

by Paul Fitzpatrick (October 2000) via http://www.furious.com/perfect/situationism.html


‘Your God has gone away’
"No Feelings," Sex Pistols

When he sang "Pretty Vacant," Johnny Rotten claimed the right not to work, and the right to deny all the values that went with it - perseverance, ambition, piety, frugality, honesty and hope. The past that God had invented work to pay for, the future that work was meant to build- there was none.

These were echoes of another recurrent situationist theme: the idea of the "vacation" as a sort of loop of alienation and domination, a symbol of the false promises of modern life, a notion that, as CLUB MED-A CHEAP HOLIDAY IN OTHER PEOPLE’S MISERY, would become graffiti in Paris in May 1968 and then turned up in the Pistols’ fourth single, "Holidays in the Sun," released in 1978.

The situationists were notorious for falling out with each other and many members were excluded over the years, including Ralph Rumney, an early casualty, writer Alexander Trocchi and, in 1967, the entire English Section.

The English formed King Mob, while in America, Situationists in New York banded together as the Motherfuckers. Within the ranks of King Mob were two art students: Malcolm McLaren and Jamie Reid.

During the May 1968 revolt in France, future Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren had been involved in setting up solidarity demonstrations in London while the early '70's saw McLaren on the Kings Rd flogging t- shirts decorated with the recycled slogans of May '68.

In 1974, McLaren and Jamie Reid helped to publish ex-situationist Chistopher Gray’s Leaving the 20th century, the first English language anthology of situationist writings. It included Jamie Reid’s cartoons and graphics to give the situationist message some more aesthetic appeal. He would later use this collage style to startling, iconic effect in the graphics for the Sex Pistols’ record covers.

A poster by the May '68 art student collective Atelier populaire showing a young woman covered in surgical gauze and a safety pin jamming her lips closed was appropriated for the cover of God Save the Queen: HRH with a safety pin through her lips.

By 1975, McLaren was with the defunct Situationiste Internationale looking to create his own situation, then along came a boy called Johnny...

Source: http://www.furious.com/perfect/situationism.html

Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) - Sex Pistols

Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) - Sex Pistols [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Never Mind the Bollocks is an album by the British punk rock band the Sex Pistols. Released October 28, 1977 (see 1977 in music) on Virgin Records, it was the only 'official' album of their career, although after the band split up numerous compilations and bootlegs including The Great Rock And Roll Swindle (the soundtrack to Malcolm McLaren's film loosely based around the Sex Pistols) and Spunk (pirated unreleased versions of basically the same songs as NMTB recorded for A&M Records) were to appear.

The album's release was met by a hail of controversy, and an attempt was made to prosecute a record shop in Manchester for displaying the 'obscene' cover in their window. However the case was overturned when defending QC Sir John Mortimer produced expert witnesses who were able to prove that the word "bollocks" was a legitimate old English term originally used to refer to a priest, and that in this context it meant 'nonsense'. Further outrage was sparked by tracks like "God Save the Queen" and "Anarchy in the U.K.", which were perceived as musical assaults on the monarchy and capitalist society, although such notoriety did little to harm the record's sales in the UK.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols is now considered a highly influential 'rock classic'; lyrically and musically it was a violent assault on contemporary British foibles and frailties. Lead singer Johnny Rotten's slurred, angry vocals scream about corporate control, intellectual vacuity and political hypocrisy, whilst Steve Jones' multi-layered guitar tracks created a much emulated 'wall of noise' foil to this sneering contempt (Producer Chris Thomas took a different approach from earlier punk records, achieving a very clear sound layered with multiple guitar overdubs). Some have however argued that the album is over-produced, and that the Pistols had lost their initial spark of energy and exuberance by the time it was recorded. The band's previous singles, such as "Anarchy in the U.K.", were re-recorded for the album, and many fans believe they lack the energy of the originals.

It peaked at #106 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart (North America). Though sales were slim throughout the world, the Sex Pistols established a wild reputation in the burgeoning punk scene; they were never able to capitalize on their celebrity, though, with the band falling apart before their career could progress much beyond Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.

It was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. In 1998 Q magazine readers voted Never Mind the Bollocks the 30th greatest album of all time; in 2003 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 17. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Never_Mind_the_Bollocks%2C_Here%27s_the_Sex_Pistols [Apr 2004]

Sid & Nancy (1986) - Alex Cox

Sid & Nancy (1986) - Alex Cox [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Sid and Nancy is a movie directed by Alex Cox and released in 1986 . Originally titled Love Kills, Sid and Nancy emerged during a period of renewed fascination in the life of the Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious, and stars Gary Oldman as Sid and Chloe Webb as his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.

The movie is largely based on the mutually destructive, drug and sex filled relationship between Sid and his girlfriend. Anne Beverly, Sid's mother, tried to prevent having the movie made, but Alex Cox was very insistent. She met with him and she decided to help out in the making of the movie.

Gary Oldman slimmed down to play the extremely lanky Sid, and soon bore such an uncanny resemblance to Sid that he even got to wear Sid's trademark heavy metal chain and padlock in the movie. Malcolm Butt, in his book Sid Vicious: Rock N' Roll Star, described Webb's performance as Nancy as "intense, powerful, and most important of all, believable." Courtney Love narrowly missed out on the role and was cast instead in a minor part as a friend of Nancy's called Gretchen. Cox was impressed by Courtney Love's audition and cast her as the lead in his movie Straight to Hell, alongside Joe Strummer.

Alex Cox told the New Musical Express: "We wanted to make the film not just about Sid Vicious and punk, but as an anti-drugs statement, to show the degradation caused to various people is not at all glamorous."

The film was widely hailed by critics, but strongly condemned by Sid's friend and ex-colleague, John Lydon.

US Rating: R, for drug use, language, violence, sexuality and nudity. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sid_and_Nancy [Apr 2005]

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