We travel back to 1977 for this one, and anybody who doesn’t know this album must have been living under a rock. What can I say about the Sex Pistols that hasn’t already been said? Not much. When you talk about influential albums, this is one of the best examples. Some say that the Pistols weren’t the first punk band, or that others were better, but stuff them. The Sex Pistols put together an album that stands the test of time. They successfully fused punk with radio friendly songs and had a charismatic and in your face frontman. Perhaps the Ramones came close (I really like their music), but there is nothing they produced that resonated so hugely. Punk was an underculture until the Pistols hit the scene and took it into the mainstream.
Never Mind the Bollocks starts with the sound of marching boots, steady drums, and some strong chords, before the real song starts with the guitar riff and the line ‘Cheap holidays in other people’s misery’. Johnny Rotten’s voice has a wailing, sneering arrogance. The tone of the album has been well and truly set as Holidays in the Sun cranks along. Next comes Bodies, an in-your-face song about abortion, followed by one of my favourites – No Feelings. My favourite line in the whole album is in this song. Who can go past I’m in love with myself, my beautiful self. The satire of many of the songs, it’s comment on society, and many others, can get lost in debates about the musical genres etc, but is to gloss over the thought that went into them.
Other highlights on this album are the classics God Save the Queen & Anarchy in the UK, and of course Pretty Vacant (this along, with No Feelings, is my favourite songs). Pretty Vacant is just an awesome pop song (more comment and satire in this one).
A scan of the rest of this completely solid album (Liar, Problems, Seventeen, Submission, New York, E.M.I.) reveals good quality punk songs, excellent musicianship, and an uncompromising approach.
Steve Jones is a perfect guitarist for the band, he also played bass on all but two songs (Sid Vicious played on Bodies and Glen Matlock on Anarchy in the UK), and Paul Cook’s drumming drives the whole machine. As I said earlier, Johnny Rotten’s voice wails over the top of this, which is what stiches it all together.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Records took the risk with the Sex Pistols when other majors were not interested, probably seeing the band as too controversial (a fact not lost on the band – see last track E.M.I) and more power to him for doing that. He knew what he was doing. This is a defining and influential album, the sound of a generation of dissatisfied youth. It had energy, it had anger, and it had balls. They don’t make albums like this anymore. Pity.
Full album here. When you listen to it, turn it up LOUD! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bucVwI0RfEg