God save the Sex Pistols

By Sergio Ariza

The appearance of 'Never mind the bollocks, here's the Sex Pistols' was one of the biggest convulsions that rock has experienced in its 60 year plus history. In the last 40 years, only the appearance of Nirvana (a group that was so influenced by the Pistols that it called its masterwork 'Nevermind'), over a decade later, can compare with it. The Ramones had come before, but it was the Sex Pistols that converted punk into a real threat to the antiquated 'star system' of that time. In any case what remains, almost 40 years after its release, is not so much the scandal and the frontal attack to British conservative society, but rather 12 songs as 12 temples; one of the most perfect rock records that exists, where everything is necessary. It is a kind of greatest hits in every second - from the sound of miitary boots on 'Holidays in the sun' to the raspberry that Johnny Rotten blows at 'E.M.I.' - where everything fits to perfection. So much so that one of the biggest egos in music history, Noel Gallagher, said "I have released over ten records and in my head none is as good as that... and I am quite an arrogant bastard."  

The recording was as chaotic and disconnected as the group's history. In October 1976 the Sex Pistols had recorded the seminal single 'Anarchy in the UK', but afterwards were expulsed from two separate record companies, protaganised the infamous incident on the Bill Grundy Today show that produced the headline 'the filth and the fury', had lost their original bassist (and main composer), Glen Matlock, and had replaced him with Johnny Rotten's friend, Sid Vicious, who did not know how to play - and, as if that was not enough, they were already considered to be the country's number 1 enemy. For the album's recording they contracted the reputed producer Chris Thomas (whose curriculum included the Beatles and Pink Floyd) and this brought them a perfect point of professionalism without losing the abrasiveness of their live performances. If Johnny Rotten's lyrics and his way of (not) singing brought scandal, the great protaganist of the music on the record was Steve Jones. This disciple of Johnny Thunders
 and Mick Ronson plays all the lead and rhythm guitar parts on the record (there were many overdubs) besides almost all the tracks' bass parts (Matlock only appears on 'Anarchy in the UK' and Vicious on 'Bodies') with a Fender Precision. But if one thing really stands out, it is Steve Jones ferocity on guitar. He is far from being masterly but gives everything with his mythic Les Paul, a white 1974 Paul Custom (that Ronson was said to have robbed) and a black 1954 Custom, and returns Chuck Berry's energy to rock, with the dirt of Thunders and the speed of Johnny Ramone.
 

 

The Pistols were like a flame that burns out quickly, as after the record's release, almost 40 years ago, the band split up. There are bands that are born to last but the Sex Pistols was not one of them. There role was to be a glorious gob of spit at the fossilisation of rock that led thousands of young people to grab a guitar and express their dissatisfaction to the cry of "do-it-yourself".   

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