THE SEX PISTOLS – NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS

 

1977 original press

“Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” (Virgin V 2086) October 1977

The Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ – What are you waiting for? True love, school end, Third World / civil war, more wars in the Third World, a leader, the commandos to storm the next aeroplane, next week’s NME, The Revolution?

THE SEX Pistols album!

Hail, 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 satisfied, make you fat and old, queueing for the next rock and roll show.

 

promo shot

The Sex Pistols. They could have dreamed up the name and died. The hypocritical 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 the the city
There’s a thousand things I wanna
say to you. . .”

All very Weller, but is this a Jagger I see before me? No, it’s the singles, all four of them – ‘Anarchy In The U.K’, ‘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. There is no Clash attending the CBS convention; no Jam voting Conservative; no Damned fucking an American girl with a Fender bass; no Stranglers distorting Trotsky and Lenin for their own cunt-hating, bully boy ends.

 

tour poster

No, this is The Sex Pistols. The band which started it all.

submission

Great songs like ‘Submission’, a numb-nostrilled ‘Venus In Furs’ / ‘Penetration’ / ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, in from hypnotic, in content writhing. Pain through a dull, passive haze. Is that a whip in your hand or are you abnormal?

“Submission, going 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 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 a cancer.

Great songs like ‘No Feelings’

“I got no emotion for anybody else
Y
ou better understand I’m in love with myself
Myself, 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 ‘E.M.I’. 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.”

Whaddya think 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 apposed 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
She had just had an abortion.
She was a case of obscenity
her name was Pauline.
She lived in a tree
She was a no-one who killed her baby
She was an animal, she was a bloody disgrace
Bodies, I’m not an animal
Dragged on a table in a factory
An illegitimate place to be
In a packet in a lavatory
Died in a baby screaming, bodies
Screaming fucking bloody mad
Not an animal, it’s an abortion
Bodies, I’m not an animal
Look at it squirm, gurgling bloody mess
I’m not a discharge
She don’t want who likes that
I don’t want a baby who looks like that
I’m not an animal, I’m not an animal
I’m not an animal, Mummy”.

What/ Good God? Was I shocked! Did I jump! Is that what they wanted, to shock people? Do they mean it? Is it satire of the most dubious kind? Did John’s Catholic schooling leave its 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 a 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 The Sex Pistols had said in ‘Bodies’ the woman should not be forced to undergo such savagery, especially with a “Welfare” State.

 

iconic cover

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

mental retard

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 Townshend 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 “war 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; 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!” (NME)

pre-release review: Another load of . . . forget everything that’s gone before – you can’t compare anything with the new Sex Pistols album.

As the evening sun sank slowly behind the filling station on the horizon, a thin miasma of mist began to curl upwards from the banks of the canal gradually obscuring the gaunt shapes of the prefabricated sheds clustering around the used tyre dump at the side of the motorway. Lights flickered on at the town’s outskirts as cars, lorries and coaches sped disinterestedly past.

Hitch-hiking is, like, really interesting man. Or is it if you’re listening to the Sex Pistols’ album. Yeah, forget the time, the place, the motorways 1 to 62, the Ten Commandments and pretty nearly every damn album in the Rolling Stone book of Rock. The lift starts here . . . .

What we’ve been waiting to see or hear and what whoever-it-is-out-there has been stopping us from for so long. All those songs and all that energy – a full-tilt careering commitment to vinyl . . . headlong into history . . . the re-definition of rock . . . the sledge-hammer spirit of the seventies . . . etc etc.

All that stuff which doesn’t mean anything – and the album which does. A lot. Take the first impression; eleven tracks that are all as exciting / intense / original / honest, as ‘God Save The Queen’ or ‘Pretty Vacant’; the impossible dream. It’s almost true.

Flip to front and front to back it’s fine you can’t define. Play it again – an unlimited amount – and there’s excitement, energy and any other words beginning with “e” that fit the bill. The job’s been done – excellently and eagerly executed. Too much.

To put it another way. It’s simply one of those ones that gets you up, gets you out (to lunch) and . . . and . . . and gets you thinking that there’s nothing – really nothing at all – that you can compare it to.

The beginning is a two second “Ugh!”; a deep studio grunt leading into ’17’ (aka “I’m A Lazy Sod”). The well-known anthem gets the full treatment; guitar punching up front, controlled vocal aggression from Rotten and an echoed chorus slipping in the odd “I’m a lazy sod Sid . . . “

Just for a start it’s got the live power that doesn’t falter once – real thorough romance. But ‘Pretty Vacant’ (originally next in line) is the space to watch. Another track presently being recorded – will appear on the album since this has already been released as a single.

Then ‘New York’ – Guitar thrash and staccato vocals punctuated with the demoniacal laughter / asides that Johnny Rotten excels in give this a punishing two minute climax, leading into ‘Holidays In The Sun’. Economic and strongly traditional, riffs carry the Rotten rant here – Rock ‘n’ Roll and an insurgent speed rap that hits the end-before-it’s-begun. Again.

And ‘Liar’ takes over with the Pistols in full stride. With the strident chorus of “lie, lie, lie, liar” the melody comes across fast and strong; a shouted, goading hook of “you’re in suspension” adds to the tuneful turmoil, giving the song all the frothing urgency it needs.

‘Problems’ – again, old and famous already – takes the first side out. A resonant and echoey vocal rides the backing thump and thrust to build repeatedly to the cutting taunt: “the problem is you . . . and watcha gonna do?” Dance? The fall-out is a crushing, mantra-like repetition of “problems”. Fade and end.

Side the second (for the moment at least) is kicked off with ‘Anarchy In The UK’, a spot-the-difference job to compare with the EMI mix, and a welcome chance to get the single that started it all for those who got stopped in their tracks by the ban last year. ‘Anarchy’ is followed by another established song, ‘Submission’. Someone will call this the ballad of the album. Certainly it’s a slower brain-punch than the others – an instrumental back-up reminiscent (even) of Blue Oyster Cult, grinds relentlessly over a chillingly distant vocal and wailing ‘effects’. Effective it is, and this, the longest track by far, ends with sustained vocal and a distant, distinctive Rotten splutter.

You’re whacked out of lobotomy immediately with the chopped-chord adrenalin of ‘No Feelings’. One of the most perfect “songs”, here it’s again got all the raw power and savage, sardonic exhortation that, simply, is both the invention – and prerogative – of one J. Rotten. For 1977 or any other time.

‘Satellite’ keeps the pace up. The sarcastic lyrics lead into an incredible “and . . . I love you” chorus that is a dead ringer (and perhaps a loving one) for the Gary Glitter battle cries of old. Really. The massed singing ranks trade off a crazed and frantic lead – ending with a wry pseudo-wall of ‘nobody loves me’ and dog-like yelps.

So to the killer. For last, blast and knockin’ out the past. ‘EMI’. This one’s unbelievable and here it is. The song about the company. “I tell you it was all a frame, they only did it for the fame” Rotten opines, before whining the chorus “EMI . . . EMI . . . EMI”

Sarcastic, angry and snarling the power of this song defies description. It runs through three gut-churning riffs with every throwaway, every lip-curl and every bit of spitting fury included. The massed ranks join the end:

“And blind acceptance is a sign
Of stupid folk telling lies
Like EMI . . . EMI”

from ‘EMI’

The rasping, croaked conclusion of “EMI . . . goodbye . . . A&M”. And the ‘problem’ mantra returns.

Nothing to pinpoint and everything to go for. This is music, this is modern rock ‘n’ roll. The “group sound” is threshing and dynamic – totally cohesive. And singer-wise Johnny Rotten is so completely different that he can’t be part of anybody’s plan.

Totally good – in an unlimited amount – with another track to come. Erase. So good I’ve never heard anything like it outside the Pistols live. Ever. This is the one we’ve been waiting for . . . this is the one.

(Record Mirror, 13/08/77)

 

This descent into the maelstrom is merely a reaffirmation of the Pistols’ secular position in the shape of things. The presence of the band’s four singles to date – ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Holidays In The Sun’ – indicates a desire to strengthen and gather together the incidents of the past eighteen months. McLaren more than anyone realises that disparity leads to maladjustment.

Then again they might have been included ’cause the band didn’t have any more songs.

Anyway, they’re there and you can’t do much about them except maybe listen again. After all, they are four of the best ten singles released this year. If only the band themselves didn’t say a few months back that they were only going to include ‘Anarchy’ ’cause they felt singles on albums were a rip-off.

And it hasn’t hampered sales either. The album’s gone gold on advance orders alone.

‘Never Mind . . . ‘ is a predictable Pistols album, i.e. an exciting mess, a torture chamber mind game full of perverse caricatures and verbal defecation.

Most of the songs have been performed live since the band’s inception and ten of the twelve titles include Glen Matlock credits. Only ‘Holidays In The Sun’ and ‘Bodies’ mention Vicious alongside Rotten, Jones and Cook.

A lot of knowledgeable people reliably inform me that Matlock was the real talent in the band, the instigator of the music. I profess total ignorance to the backstage Pistol squabbles but I do have ears and ‘Bodies’ is one of the standout tracks on this album.

It traces the heart warming story of a young Birmingham girl who has a baby, wraps it up in a package and leaves it in a public toilet. She had just had an abortion as well.

“She was a case of insanity,
She was an animal.
She was a bloody disgrace,
She was a screaming fucking bloody mess,
She was a gurgling bloody mess.”

Rotten spews “She don’t want a baby that looks like that.”

And amid the squirms and gurglings that swill around the dying moments of the song Rotten becomes the baby in the toilet: “Bodies – I’m not an animal. Mummy?”

Confused speed, revolting treatment and totally intoxicating.

Then there’s ‘No Feelings’, a tribute to narcissism reminiscent (in sentiment only you understand) of 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’.

“I saw you in the mirror when the story began,
I love your company . . . you better understand.
I’m in love with myself, No Feeeelings.”

The tinsel teenie with the jackboot streak –

“You never realise I take the piss out of you,
Come up and see me and I’ll beat you black and blue,
No feelings except for myself, my beautiful self.”

Again the affected brainwave guitar of Steve Jones churns the whole thing up and spurns it into more appealingly repulsive heights.

Rotten’s “nobody’s fool” in lie – lie – lie – ‘Liar’. “You’re in suspennnnsion” he screeches over cook’s beautifully deranged drumming.

In ‘Problems’ those that have seen The Pistols as the saviours of ’77 youth are pilloried.

“Too many problems, why am I here?
And I conceded there’s something wrong with you,
What do you expect me to do?
At least I got to know what I wanna be.”
So you gotta “eat your heart out on a plastic tray.”
“Bet you thought you knew what I was about,
Bet you thought you solved all your problems.
But the problem is YOU.”

‘Seventeen’ and celluloid Pistols with cinematic reality;

“You’re only 29 got a lot to learn
But when your mummy dies she will not return,
We like noise, that’s our choice,
It’s all we want to do,
Cos – I’m a lazy sod.” Speed’s all I need.

The love song of the album ‘Submission’ is also the slowest (that means it’s faster than ‘Virginia Plain’). The Doors’ ‘Moonlight Drive’ immediately springs to mind.

‘New York’ is a little ambiguous. The lyrics are difficult to decipher with references to faggots (“give us a kiss”), pills, cheap thrills and bullshit.

‘EMI’, a fitting finale, a golden lesson in vehement retribution, a cackling bit of fun:

“An unlimited supply,
That’s the reason why
I tell you it was all a frame
They only did it for the fame.
WHO? EMI!!! . . . “

Rotten’s unique r-r-roll and vindictive vowel succulence have never been so effective. The public toilet backing chorus has never been so public toilety.

“You thought we were faking,
That we were just money making,
You didn’t think we were for real.”

Oh yeah, but readers. It appears they were erroneous though ‘cos “We will be ruled by no one.” So there.

The end is glorious. “Hullo EMI – GooadiiiiA&M” (a raspberry is then blown).

A Pistols album could only end on a raspberry when you REALLY think about it.

And doesn’t Johnny Rotten bear a remarkable resemblance to Stan Laurel?

(Record Mirror, 05/11/77)

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