Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bullocks

09 Jan

Sex Pistols
Never Mind the Bullocks
October 28, 1977
Warner Bros

Johnny Rotten – Vocals
Steve Jones – Guitar, Bass
Paul Cook – Drums
Glenn Matlock – Bass on “Anarchy in the U.K.”
Sid Vicious – Bass

1 – Holidays in the Sun 3:22
2 – Bodies 3:03
3 – No Feelings 2:51
4 – Liar 2:41
5 – God Save the Queen 3:20
6 – Problems 4:11
7 – Seventeen 2:02
8 – Anarchy in the U.K. 3:32
9 – Submission 4:12
10 – Pretty Vacant 3:18
11 – New York 3:07
12 – E.M.I. 3:10

What can I possibly say about this album that everyone in the world hasn’t already? While a bunch of us knew it was an incredible album, the rest of the world still hated it. That’s how we knew it was ours.

I remember hearing about them in 1976, but it wasn’t until sometime in 1977 that I caught a glimpse of them on a news show, like 20/20, or something. The camera was doing close-ups of John snarling into the camera, and Sid with his cut-up chest and Steve with some t-shirt that they were blurring the image of. The narrator was describing this as if it was a trailer for a horror film. The commentary ended with a statement about the Pistols being scheduled to come to America in 1978. I remember the feeling of seeing them for the first time, was almost like “music is, finally, dangerous.”

I can’t remember exactly when I bought this record; I think it was in 1980, when I was about 14 years old. It was the first time I ever heard someone British sing, and heard their accent come through. The tone, and accent sounded so guttural, you couldn’t help, but pay attention.

At the time the Pistols formed, the UK was enduring a huge labor worker strike, Sanitation Workers, Miners and Gravediggers were all striking. The economy was in ruins. The garbage was piled, sometimes, up to five foot high in the gutters. The dead were left unburied. The Queens army would come through, and collect bags that had toxic written on them. This became the ultimate breeding ground for the punk movement, much the same way the Regan era spawned punk here in America.

I heard, and read many versions of who played on this album. Sid is credited as being the bass player, the producer Chris Thomas said that it was all Steve Jones, because Sid was in the hospital on an overdose. But all the original tracks were recorded with Glen Matlock, with pieces replaced by Sid. So, in the end who knows whose bass tracks remained.

There was a story that was printed in the British tabloids that cracked me and my brother up something fierce at the time. The night the Pistols appeared on the infamous Bill Grundy show, there was a guy and his kids were watching the show and when Steve Jones started his cursing the guy was so outraged by the language he jumped up, and kicked his TV In, and was subsequently electrocuted, and shot across the room, and bounced off the wall. He recovered a day or so later. We loved that story. I guess the moral to that story is mindless violence is always better than a few curse words.

The British were outraged by the lyrics of the songs God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the U.K., as well as Jamie Reid’s cover art for the single of God Save the Queen. Both were perceived as musical assaults on the monarchy and civil society. In particular, God Save the Queen was viewed as a direct personal attack on Queen Elizabeth. Jones, and Rotten, have both insisted that it was not the Queen that the band directed their animosity towards, but other members of Parliament, and the British government in general. In either case, the notoriety did little to harm the record’s sales in the UK.

God Save the Queen
“God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb

God Save the Queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
In England’s dreaming

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future, no future,
No future for you

God Save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God Save the Queen
‘Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
All crimes are paid

When there’s no future
How can there be sin
We’re the flowers in the dustbin
We’re the poison in your human machine
We’re the future, you’re future

God Save the Queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God Save the Queen
We mean it man
And there is no future
In England’s dreaming

No future, no future,
No future for you
No future, no future,
No future for me

No future, no future,
No future for you
No future, no future,
For you.”

Another track from the album, Pretty Vacant also angered the British music industry. In his delivery of the song’s title in the chorus, Rotten heavily accents the second syllable of the word vacant, and clips it very short in stark contrast to his drawn out delivery of the first syllable. Critics and fans alike have noted that it actually sounds like cunt. Some allege it was deliberate; others say that it’s actually Rotten’s accent leading people to the misinterpretation. It does seem unlikely that Rotten would have failed to notice the wordplay.

The album was released on October 28, 1977 on Virgin Records, it is the only “official” album recorded by the Sex Pistols in their short 2½ year career, the songs themselves have appeared on many compilation albums, and the group had effectively disbanded less than three months after its release. Additionally, many of the songs were featured in the film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. Older versions of most of these songs also appear on a bootleg album called Spunk, which consists of demo recordings the band had made during 1976, and early 1977, which was released shortly before Bollocks.

Producer Chris Thomas took a different approach to recording Bollocks, than was to become the norm on later punk albums. Instead of capturing a “raw” or “live” sound, Thomas achieved a very clear, broad, and layered sonic palette via multiple guitar overdubs, and extremely tight musicianship. He said: “Anarchy has something like a dozen guitars on it; I sort of orchestrated it, double-tracking some bits and separating the parts and adding them, et cetera … It was quite labored. The vocals were labored, as well.” However, some, purists in particular, have argued that the album is over-produced, and that the impact of the songs is diminished by the refined sound quality. Some critics contend that the Sex Pistols had lost their initial spark of energy and exuberance by the time Bollocks was recorded, and that any anger present in the songs sounds contrived. Nonetheless, the album’s anger and energy are considered to have been precedents for the then-new punk movement.

If you don’t have it, go buy it. An absolutely great album.

Rating: *** three out of three stars

On to the story . . .

It’s always weird when people change their names in mid-life and get mad when you don’t adapt.

My late uncle Rick had been Rick from the 1960′s and then at some point in the 1990′s he was Richard. He and everybody would get offended when I would call him Rick. Then in the early 2000′s he passed away and I never got used to the Richard thing. Even now when I bump into any of his friends and say, “Rick,” they get wide-eyed on me.

Talked to a guy to today who is married to a girl I’ve known for about twenty years. I called her by her name that I knew, he corrected me and said her, I guess, “birth certificate” name, which I didn’t even know.

Why? Am I more dignified going by Michael? Nope.

Hell, I’m easy . . . bring me some homemade carnitas and you can call me Miguel.



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4 Responses to “Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bullocks”

  1. 1
    Eddie Cook Says:

    Mike~ another cool review. I like the bit about the name changing — been through that myself a few names with friends no longer wanting to answer to old nicknames as well.

  2. 2
    Mike E. Says:

    Hey Eddie:

    Thanks for writing in.


  3. 3
    ikonoklast44 Says:

    I saw a documentary in which it was shown how Steve Jones played the bass parts on most of the album on guitar. Also, I was under the impression that Glen Matlock played on more than one song.

  4. 4
    Mike E. Says:

    3ikonoklast44: You know honestly, everything I read and watch says something different. Some things say Matlock played everything, some stuff says Sid did and the documentary eluded to Steve Jones playing guitar and bass parts. So, I don’t know which is the right info.


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