THE SEX PISTOLS – “Holidays In The Sun” / “Satellite” (Virgin VS-191) October 1977

The Sex Pistols ‘Holidays In The Sun’ – And the triumphant path blazed by “Anarchy In The UK”, and “God Save The Queen” begins to falter. “Holidays In The Sun” – the first Pistols, Jones, Cook, Rotten, Vicious as opposed to Jones, Cook, Rotten, Matlock – has two out of 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 the was, presumably, the contribution of the more pop-oriented Glen Matlock.

The result is a shapeless rant rather than a song, which is a pity, since Rotten’s lyric – basically a critique of the parasitic element of tourism (“a cheap holiday in other people’s misery”) deserves better.

It’s even got the now-obligatory references to the Berlin Wall. 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. (NME)

One of the most frightening records ever made, “Holidays In The Sun” captures the Pistols’ disintegration in sound. Starting with goose-stepping feet and a classic broadside – “a cheap holiday in other people’s misery” – this psychodrama resolves itself in a riff nicked from The Jam’s “In The City” and some of Lydon’s sharpest lyrics.

Political polarisation

Just after this session Lydon was injured by knife-wielding royalist thugs, and the song captures the political polarisation and violence of ’77 – this time, the Pistols were not instigators but victims. (Mojo)

This single was released just after my thirteenth birthday and it was the fourth killer Sex Pistols 45 after ‘Anarchy In The U.K’, ‘God Save The Queen’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’ or as we schoolboys used to say ‘Pretty Va-cunt’…..

The fierce intro gives way to a screaming guitar riff that sounds like Paul Weller’s on ‘In The City’ which had been released some 6 months before ‘Holidays In The Sun’.

According to John Lydon, he wrote the lyrics of the song after spending a brief holiday in Berlin……“A cheap holiday in other people’s misery” – Top 10 hit. (EXPO67)

Sex Pistols - Smash Hits

Another Pistols’ single, another scene on the diorama, another crack in the plaster, another flake in the gloss, another daylight robbery, another council tenancy.

Jackboot intro could have been longer, thump, pick up and guitar. Now that riff is familiar, yeah, ‘In The City’, The Jam scam, only more muscular and then Rotten tearjerker:

“I don’t want a holiday in the sun,
I wanna go to the new Belsen,
I wanna see some history
‘cos I got a reasonable economy.”

from ‘Holidays In The Sun’

It ain’t didactic, it ain’t eclectic but it sure is electric. Don’t compare it with the past, don’t be the automaton putting the boots in ‘cos it don’t match up to previous Sex Pistols numbers.

It’s just another Pistols’ single. And that’s ALL that matters. (Record Mirror)

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