Greatest Rock Albums: Never Mind the Bollocks – Here’s the Sex Pistols

When Fleetwood Mac published their trademark album Rumours in 1977 I was much too young to understand that kind of music, I had to grow into the westcoast sound. Weirdly I immediately understood and loved another influential and genre-creating rock album that appeared already one year prior to Rumours:

sex pistols

Never Mind the Bollocks – Here’s the Sex Pistols was a record that never should have been made. It was primitive on a whole new lowlow level, it was incompetently played, recorded and produced. The songs on the other hand had a certain poppy quality that made them stick in teenager’s minds and soon became like anthems for a generation of fucked up younglings who incidentally hated anthems.

Sex Pistols Oxford Street Glitterbest photosession
Sex Pistols Oxford Street Glitterbest photosession
Iggy-Pop_1977
Iggy Pop

A genre for this music and its fans was quickly found: Punk! Now there are too many legends and rumours and origin stories around to say with certainty that the Sex Pistols, respectively their maniac manager Malcolm McLaren had invented punk. Many people claim that punk was indeed invented in New York/USA. And they claim a whole number of American bands as protopunks. New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, MC5 and others. But for the European teens Never Mind the Bollocks marked the start signal for punk. And it’s not by incident that another famous rock album was called Nevermind, like ca. 20 years later. Maybe I’m gonna write about that album as well.

Aitken7
Laurel Aitken

And rarely ever since the days of Bill Healey and Elvis did a simple music style polarize society as much as punk did in the second half of the 70s. And simple it was indeed. There was no finesse involved in punk but it had other qualities that were much more important than musical quality. Punk was loud, punk dared to be queer, dirty, obscene, self destructive and generally anti, anti-everything.

220px-Marcus_Garvey_1924-08-05
Garvey
CheHigh
Guevara

Punk was a revolution … kinda. Not really. Punx didn’t believe in anything, not even in revolution. Revolution was for the hippies of the 60s, the same hippies that were now acting as our school teachers, police officers and politicians. They were traitors, pure and simple. They had betrayed their own revolution. They had become the establishment they had fought so vehemently not even ten years prior. My generation had to avoid that. So how to do a  revolution when you don’t have trust in the concept of revolution? What to do when you see your heroes either killed and dead – like Che Guevara, Marcus Garvey at al. – or tired and fat and established and transformed like our teachers and politicians?

VICIOUS Q
R.I.P. Sid and R.I.P. Nancy

Total denial was the only possible way for most of the early punx (not punks), nihilism and barbarism. This was a generation without any idols, without any ideology, without anything to believe in. One could say a generation without a future. And exactly that No Future battle cry turned into the motto of a whole generation after Johnny Rotten, “Un-Singer” of the Sex Pistols, had blared it out to his growing audience of misfits. If punk had any culture it was the culture of No! No money, no feelings, no pain, no love, no effort, no future, no past. Punk was a culture of the here and now, of beer and parties and bloody noses.

And still, if you believe the punk historians, music journos and Malcom McLaren’s self confessions (for example in the 1980 mockumentary The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle) punk wasn’t even true. Punk was a clever marketing stunt by McLaren and his London-based clothes shop. A calculated fashion rather than a grassroots movement by frustrated teenies. A cynical money making scheme, nothing else. Maybe even without doing it consciously McLaren’s punk empire was a perfect mirror of everything that was wrong with the Western world. The way he fooled the most important record companies and made lots of money for the Pistols without them even having to play a single tune was genious. And the many scandals around the Sex Pistols could’ve been products of clever planning and manipulation by McLaren as well as the Pistols’ own doing.

RnRswindleOpenly insulting the queen equaled calculating on being banned from many music venues. The Pistols conned the British establishment by offending its most primitive roots. They wreaked mayhem, caused chaos and held a mirror to the establishment’s fugly mug. Simply by being the offspring of that very society.

cropped-johnnyrotten.jpg
Johnny Rotten

It’s hard to believe because punk was real in many heads, the hopeless punk feeling was as real as the fear of the future, the fear of Ronald Reagan and his neo-fascism. The youth was wasting their best times away with drugs and alcohol and really really bad music. So they could proudly keep their heads up high and claim lateron they had nothing to do with Reagan and the NATO Double Track Decision. In short, we were innocent children of a broken world. And Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious of the pretty bad band Sex Pistols were our role models. These drugs addicted murderous and suicidal wrecks were more adorable for us than any politician, teacher, revolutionary or other person. The original punk band Sex Pistols had a very short lifespan, same as its most iconic member, Sid Vicious.

In 1978 punk was established in the hit parades, in 1980 it was mainstream. Every girl had to sing in a punk band and be like Siouxsie Sioux. Not because we were any good but because the boys in the band were so bad they couldn’t do anything but drink lots of beer and strum like three chords on their cheap Korean electric guitars.

ramones
Punk made in USA: Ramones
Siouxsie_sioux
Siouxsie Sioux

And in the second wave of punk, when punk became political again, we imagined punk’s roots in Jamaican ska, roots reggae, and dub. Punk became a real ideology, the music became more clever and post-punk was born. But that’s not part of Never Mind the Bollocks. An album that never was to be but became reality, an album that was shitty and hardly worth mentioning but changed the world forever.

SidVicious
R.I.P. Sid Vicious +

God Save the Queen:

Anarchy in the U.K.

Sid Vicious: My Way

 

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s