The Sex Pistols
are an English punk rock
band that formed in London in 1975. They
are responsible for initiating the punk
in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk
and alternative rock
Although their initial career lasted just two-and-a-half years and
produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the
Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
, they are regarded as one
of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.
The Sex Pistols originally comprised vocalist Johnny Rotten
, guitarist Steve Jones
, drummer Paul Cook
and bassist Glen
. Matlock was replaced by Sid
in early 1977. Under the management of impresario
, the band created
controversies which captivated Britain. Their concerts repeatedly
faced difficulties with organisers and authorities, and public
appearances often ended in mayhem. Their 1977 single "God Save the Queen
attacking Britons' social conformity and deference to the crown,
precipitated the "last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral
In January 1978, at the end of a turbulent US tour, Rotten left the
band and announced its breakup. Over the next several months, the
three other band members recorded songs for McLaren's film version
of the Sex Pistols' story, The Great Rock 'n' Roll
. Vicious died of a heroin overdose in February
1979. In 1996, Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock reunited for the
Filthy Lucre Tour
; since 2002,
they have staged further reunion shows and tours. On 24 February 2006,
the Sex Pistols—the four original members plus Vicious—were
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling
the museum "a piss stain".
Origins and early days
The Sex Pistols evolved from The Strand, a London band formed in
1973 with working-class teenagers Steve Jones
on vocals, Paul Cook
on drums, and Wally Nightingale
on guitar. According to
a later account by Jones, both he and Cook played on instruments
they had stolen. Early line-ups of The Strand—sometimes known as
The Swankers—also included Jim Mackin on organ and Stephen Hayes
(and later, briefly, Del Noones) on bass. The band members hung
out regularly at two clothing shops on Kings Road, in London's Chelsea
neighbourhood: John Krivine and Steph Raynor's Acme Attractions (where Don Letts worked as manager) and Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Too Fast to Live, Too
Young to Die.
The McLaren–Westwood store had opened in 1971
as Let It Rock, with a 1950s revival Teddy
theme. It had been renamed in 1972 to focus on another
revival trend, the rocker
associated with Marlon Brando
later observed, "Malcolm and
Vivienne were really a pair of shysters: they would sell anything
to any trend that they could grab onto." The shop was to become a
focal point of the punk rock scene, bringing together participants
such as the future Sid Vicious
, Marco Pirroni
, and Mark
, among many others. Jordan
, the wildly styled shop
assistant, is credited with "pretty well single-handedly paving the
In early 1974, Jones convinced McLaren to help out The Strand.
Effectively becoming the group's manager, McLaren paid for their
first formal rehearsal space. Glen
, an art student who occasionally worked at Too Fast to
Live, Too Young to Die, was recruited as the band's regular
bassist. In November, McLaren temporarily relocated to New York
City. Before his departure, McLaren and Westwood had conceived of a
new identity for their store: renamed Sex
, it changed its focus from retro couture
with a billing as "Specialists in rubberwear, glamourwear &
stagewear". After briefly managing and promoting the New York Dolls
, McLaren returned to London in
May 1975. Inspired by the punk
that was beginning to emerge in Lower Manhattan
—in particular by the radical
visual style and attitude of Richard
, then with Television
—McLaren began taking greater
interest in The Strand.
The group had been rehearsing regularly, overseen by McLaren's
friend Bernard Rhodes
, and had
performed publicly for the first time. Soon after McLaren's return,
Nightingale was kicked out of the band and Jones, uncomfortable as
frontman, took over guitar duties. According to journalist and
former McLaren employee Phil Strongman, around this time the band
adopted the name QT Jones and the Sex Pistols (or QT Jones &
His Sex Pistols, as one Rhodes-designed T-shirt put it). McLaren
had been talking with the New York Dolls' Sylvain Sylvain
about coming over to England
to front the group. When those plans fell through, McLaren, Rhodes
and the band began looking locally for a new member to assume the
lead vocal duties. As described by Matlock, "[E]veryone had long
hair then, even the milkman, so what we used to do was if someone
had short hair we would stop them in the street and ask them if
they fancied themselves as a singer." Among those they approached
was Midge Ure
, who was involved with his
own band, Slik
—who would cofound Dexys Midnight Runners
later—auditioned, but except for Matlock, no one was impressed.
With the search going nowhere, McLaren made several calls to
Richard Hell, who turned down the invitation.
Johnny Rotten joins the band
In August 1975, Rhodes spotted nineteen-year-old Kings Road habitué
John Lydon wearing a Pink Floyd
with the words I Hate
handwritten above the band's name
and holes scratched through the eyes. Reports vary at this point:
the same day, or soon after, either Rhodes or McLaren asked Lydon
to come to a nearby pub in the evening to meet Jones and Cook.
According to Jones, "He came in with green hair. I thought he had a
really interesting face. I liked his look. He had his 'I Hate Pink
Floyd' T-shirt on, and it was held together with safety pins. John
had something special, but when he started talking he was a real
asshole—but smart." When the pub closed, the group moved over to
Sex, where Lydon, who had given little thought to singing, was
convinced to improvise along to Alice
's "I'm Eighteen
" on the shop
jukebox. Though the performance drove the band members to laughter,
McLaren convinced them to start rehearsing with Lydon.
Lydon later described the social context in which the band came
Early Seventies Britain was a very depressing place. It
was completely run-down, there was trash on the streets, total
unemployment—just about everybody was on strike. Everybody was
brought up with an education system that told you point blank that
if you came from the wrong side of the tracks...then you had no
hope in hell and no career prospects at all. Out of that came
pretentious moi and the Sex Pistols and then a whole bunch
of copycat wankers after us.
—a writer for the New Musical Express
)—used to jam occasionally with the band, but left
upon Lydon's recruitment. "When I came along, I took one look at
him and said, 'No. That has to go,'" Lydon later explained. "He's
never written a good word about me ever since." In September,
McLaren again helped hire private rehearsal space for the group,
which had been practicing in pubs. Cook, who had a full-time job he
was loath to give up, was making noises about quitting. According
to Matlock's later description, Cook "created a smokescreen" by
claiming Jones wasn't skilled enough to be the band's sole
guitarist. An advertisement was placed in Melody Maker
for a "Whizz Kid Guitarist.
Not older than 20. Not worse looking than Johnny Thunders
" (referring to a leading
member of the New York punk scene). Most of those who turned up to
audition were obviously incompetent, but in McLaren's view, the
process created a new sense of solidarity among the four band
members. The one talented guitarist who tried out, Steve New
, was brought on. Jones, however, was
improving rapidly and the band's developing sound had no room for
the sort of technical lead work at which New was adept. He departed
after a month.
Lydon had been rechristened "Johnny Rotten" by Jones, apparently
because of his bad dental hygiene. The band also settled on a name.
After considering options such as Le Bomb, Subterraneans, the
Damned, Beyond, Teenage Novel, Kid Gladlove, and Crème De La Crème,
they decided on Sex Pistols—a shortened form of the name they had
apparently been working under informally. McLaren later explained
that the name derived "from the idea of a pistol, a pin-up, a young
thing, a better-looking assassin". Not given to modesty, false or
otherwise, he added, "[I] launched the idea in the form of a band
of kids who could be perceived as being bad." The group began
writing original material: Rotten was the lyricist and Matlock the
primary melody writer (though their first collaboration, "Pretty Vacant
", had a complete lyric by
Matlock, which Rotten tweaked a bit); official credit was shared
equally among the four.
quartet's first gig was arranged by Matlock, who was studying at
Saint Martins College.
The band played at the school on 6 November
1975, in support of a pub rock
called Bazooka Joe
, arranging to
use their amps and drums. The Sex Pistols performed several cover
songs, including The Who
", the Small Faces
' "Whatcha Gonna Do About It
", and "
famous by The Monkees
; according to
observers, they were unexceptional musically aside from being
extremely loud. Before the Pistols could play the few original
songs they had written to date, Bazooka Joe pulled the plugs as
they saw their gear being trashed. A brief physical altercation
between members of the two bands took place on stage.
Building a following
The Saint Martins gig was followed by other performances at
colleges and art schools around London. The Sex Pistols' core group
of followers—including Siouxsie
, Steve Severin
and Billy Idol
, who would go on to form bands of
their own—came to be known as the Bromley Contingent
, after the
neighbourhood several were from. Their cutting-edge fashion, much
of it supplied by Sex, ignited a trend that was adopted by the new
fans the band attracted. McLaren and Westwood saw the incipient
London punk movement as a vehicle for more than just couture. They
were both captivated by the May 1968
radical uprising in Paris
, particularly by the ideology and
agitations of the Situationists
well as the anarchist thought of Buenaventura Durruti
and others. These
interests were shared with Jamie Reid
old friend of McLaren's who began producing publicity material for
the Sex Pistols in spring 1976. (The cut-up lettering employed to
create the classic Sex Pistols logo and many subsequent designs for
the band was actually introduced by McLaren's friend Helen
Wellington-Lloyd.) "We used to talk to John [Lydon] a lot about the
Situationists," Reid later said. "The Sex Pistols seemed the
perfect vehicle to communicate ideas directly to people who weren't
getting the message from left-wing politics." McLaren was also
arranging for the band's first photo sessions. As described by
music historian Jon Savage
, "With his
green hair, hunched stance and ragged look, [Lydon] looked like a
cross between Uriah Heep
Sex Pistols gig to attract broader attention was as a supporting
act for Eddie and the Hot
Rods, a leading pub rock group, at the Marquee on 12
Rotten "was now really pushing the barriers
of performance, walking off stage, sitting with the audience,
throwing Jordan across the dancefloor and chucking chairs around,
before smashing some of Eddie and the Hot Rods' gear." The band's
first review appeared in the NME
, accompanied by a brief
interview in which Steve Jones declared, "Actually we're not into
music. We're into chaos." Among those who read the article were two
students at the Bolton Institute of Technology, Howard Devoto and
Pete Shelley, who headed down to London
in search of the Sex Pistols.
After chatting with McLaren at
Sex, they ultimately caught the band at a couple of late February
gigs. The two friends immediately began organizing their own
Pistols-style group, the Buzzcocks
Devoto later put it, "My life changed the moment that I saw the Sex
Pistols were soon playing other important venues, debuting at
Club on 30 March.
On 3 April, they played for the
first time at the Nashville, supporting The
. The pub rock group's lead singer, Joe Strummer
, saw the Pistols for the first
time that night—and recognized punk rock as the future. A return
gig at the Nashville, 23 April, demonstrated the band's growing
musical competence, but by all accounts lacked a spark. Westwood
provided that by instigating a fight with another audience member;
McLaren and Rotten were soon involved in the melee. Cook later
said, "That fight at the Nashville: that's when all the publicity
got hold of it and the violence started creeping in.... I think
everybody was ready to go and we were the catalyst." The Pistols
were soon banned from both the Nashville and the Marquee.
On 23 April, as well, the debut album by the leading punk rock band
in the New York scene, the Ramones
released. Though it is regarded as seminal to the growth of punk
rock in England and elsewhere, Lydon has repeatedly rejected any
suggestion that it influenced the Sex Pistols: "[The Ramones] were
all long-haired and of no interest to me. I didn't like their
image, what they stood for, or anything about them"; "They were
hilarious but you can only go so far with 'duh-dur-dur-duh'. I've
heard it. Next. Move on." On 11 May, the Pistols began a
four-week-long Tuesday night residency at the 100 Club. The rest of
the month was mostly devoted to touring small cities and towns in
the north of England and recording demos in London with producer
and recording artist Chris Spedding
following month they played their first gig in Manchester, arranged by Devoto and Shelley.
Pistols' 4 June performance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall set off a punk rock boom in the city.
On 4 July and 6 July, respectively, two newly formed London punk
rock acts, The Clash
—with Strummer as lead
vocalist—and The Damned
their live debuts opening for the Sex Pistols. On their off night in
between, the Pistols (despite Lydon's later professed disdain)
showed up for a Ramones gig at Dingwalls like virtually everyone else at the heart of the
London punk scene.
During a return Manchester engagement, 20
July, the Pistols premiered a new song, "Anarchy in the U.K.
elements of the radical ideologies to which Rotten was being
exposed. According to Jon Savage, "there seems little doubt that
Lydon was fed material by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, which
he then converted into his own lyric." "Anarchy in the U.K." was
among the seven originals recorded in another demo session that
month, this one overseen by the band's sound engineer, Dave Goodman
. McLaren organized a major event for 29
August at the Screen on the Green in London's Islington district: the Buzzcocks and The Clash opened for
the Sex Pistols in punk's "first metropolitan test of
Three days later, the band were in Manchester to
tape what would be their first television appearance, for Tony Wilson
's So It Goes
. Scheduled to perform
just one song, "Anarchy in the U.K.", the band ran straight through
another two numbers as pandemonium broke out in the control
The Sex Pistols played their first concert outside Britain on 3
September, at the opening of the Chalet du Lac disco in Paris. The
Bromley Contingent accompanied them, with Siouxsie Sioux's swastika
armband causing a stir. The following day, the So It Goes
performance aired; the audience heard "Anarchy in the U.K."
introduced with a shout of "Get off your arse!" On 13 September,
the Pistols began a tour of Britain. A week later, back in London,
they headlined the opening night of the 100 Club Punk Special
. Organized by
McLaren (for whom the word "festival" had too much of a hippie
connotation), the event was "considered the moment that was the
catalyst for the years to come." Belying the common perception that
punk bands couldn't play their instruments, contemporary music
press reviews, later critical assessments of concert recordings,
and testimonials by fellow musicians indicate that the Pistols had
developed into a tight, ferocious live band. As Rotten tested out
wild vocalization styles, the instrumentalists experimented "with
overload, feedback and distortion...pushing their equipment to the
EMI and the Grundy incident
On 8 October 1976, the major record label EMI
signed the Sex Pistols to a two-year contract. In short order, the
band was in the studio recording a full-dress session with Dave
Goodman. As later described by Matlock, "The idea was to get the
spirit of the live performance. We were pressurized to make it
faster and faster." The riotous results were rejected. Chris Thomas
, who had
produced Roxy Music
mixed Pink Floyd's The
Dark Side of the Moon
, was brought in to produce. The
band's first single, "Anarchy in the U.K.", was released on 26
November 1976. John Robb
to be a cofounder of The Membranes
later a music journalist—described the record's impact: "From Steve
Jones' opening salvo of descending chords, to Johnny Rotten's
fantastic sneering vocals, this song is the perfect statement...a
stunningly powerful piece of punk politics...a lifestyle choice, a
manifesto that heralds a new era". Colin
, who had just cofounded the band Wire
, heard it as "the clarion call of a
"Anarchy in the U.K." was not, in fact, the first British punk
single, pipped by The Damned's "New Rose
"We Vibrate" had also appeared from The
, a pub rock band formed early in 1976 that had become
associated with punk—though "with their long hair and mildly risqué
name, the Vibrators were passers-by as far as punk taste-makers
were concerned." Unlike those songs, whose lyrical content was
comfortably within rock 'n' roll traditions, "Anarchy in the U.K."
linked punk to a newly politicized attitude—the Pistols' stance was
aggrieved, euphoric and nihilistic, all at the same time. Rotten's
howls of "I am an anti-christ" and "Destroy!" repurposed rock as an
ideological weapon. The single's packaging and visual promotion
also broke new ground. Reid and McLaren came up with the notion of
selling the record in a completely wordless, featureless black
sleeve. The primary image associated with the single was Reid's
"anarchy flag" poster: a Union Flag
ripped up and partly safety-pinned back together, with the song and
band names clipped along the edges of a gaping hole in the middle.
This and other images created by Reid for the Sex Pistols quickly
became punk icons.
The Sex Pistols' behaviour, as much as their music, brought them
national attention. On 1 December 1976, the band and members of the
Bromley Contingent created a storm of publicity by swearing during
an early evening live broadcast of Thames Television
programme. Appearing as last-minute replacements for fellow EMI
, band and entourage were
offered drinks as they waited to go on air. During the interview,
Jones said the band had "fucking spent" its label advance and
Rotten used the word "shit." Host Bill
, who had earlier claimed to be drunk, engaged in
repartee with Siouxsie Sioux
declared that she had "always wanted to meet" him. Grundy
responded, "Did you really? We'll meet afterwards, shall we?" This
prompted the following exchange between Jones and the host:
- Jones: You dirty sod. You dirty old man.
- Grundy: Well keep going chief, keep going. Go on.
You've got another five seconds. Say something outrageous.
- Jones: You dirty bastard.
- Grundy: Go on, again.
- Jones: You dirty fucker.
- Grundy: What a clever boy.
- Jones: What a fucking rotter.
Although the programme was broadcast only in the London region, the
ensuing furore occupied the tabloid newspapers for days. The
famously ran the
headline "The Filth and the Fury!"; other papers such as the
Filthy TV Chat") and the Daily
("4-Letter Words Rock TV") followed suit. Thames
Television suspended Grundy, and though he was later reinstated,
the interview effectively ended his career.
The episode made the band household names throughout the country
and brought punk into mainstream awareness. The Pistols set out on
the Anarchy Tour of the UK, supported by The Clash and Johnny
Thunders' band The Heartbreakers
over from New York. The Damned were briefly part of the tour,
before McLaren kicked them off. Press coverage was intense, and
many of the concerts were cancelled by organisers or local
authorities; of approximately twenty scheduled gigs, only about
seven actually took place. Packers at the EMI plant refused to
handle the band's single. London councillor Bernard Brook Partridge
declared, "Most of these groups would be vastly improved by sudden
death. The worst of the punk rock groups I suppose currently are
the Sex Pistols. They are unbelievably nauseating. They are the
antithesis of humankind. I would like to see somebody dig a very,
very large, exceedingly deep hole and drop the whole bloody lot
Following the end of the tour in late December, three concerts were
arranged in Holland for January 1977. The band, hungover,
boarded a plane at London Heathrow Airport early on 4 January; a few hours later, the
Evening News was
reporting that the band had "vomited and spat their way" to the
Despite categorical denials by the EMI
representative who accompanied the group, the label, which was
under political pressure, released the band from their contract. As
McLaren fielded offers from other labels, the band went into the
studio for a round of recordings with Goodman, their last with both
him and Matlock.
Sid Vicious joins the band
In February 1977, word leaked out that Matlock was leaving the Sex
Pistols. On 28 February, McLaren sent a telegram to the
confirming the split. He claimed that Matlock had been
"thrown out...because he went on too long about Paul McCartney
was too much." In an interview a few months afterward,
Steve Jones echoed the charge that Matlock had been sacked because
he "liked The Beatles". Years later, Jones expanded on the matter
of the band's issues with Matlock: "He was a good writer but he
didn't look like a Sex Pistol and he was always washing his feet.
His mum didn't like the songs." Matlock told the NME
he had voluntarily left the band by "mutual agreement". Later, in
his autobiography, he would describe the primary impetus as his
increasingly acrimonious relationship with Rotten, exacerbated—in
Matlock's account—by the rampant inflation of Rotten's ego "once
he'd had his name in the papers". Lydon would later claim that
"God Save the
", the belligerently sardonic song planned as the band's
second single, had been the final straw: "[Matlock] couldn't handle
those kinds of lyrics. He said it declared us fascists." Though the
singer could hardly see how antiroyalism equated with fascism, he
claimed, "Just to get rid of him, I didn't deny it." Jon Savage
suggests that Rotten pushed Matlock out in an effort to demonstrate
his power and autonomy from McLaren. Matlock almost immediately
formed his own band, Rich Kids
, with Midge
Ure, Steve New, and Rusty Egan.
Matlock was replaced by Rotten's friend and self-appointed
"ultimate Sex Pistols fan" Sid Vicious
Born Simon John Ritchie, later known as John Beverley, Vicious was
previously drummer of two inner circle punk bands, Siouxsie & the Banshees
The Flowers of
. He was also credited with introducing the pogo dance
to the scene at the 100 Club. John
Robb claims it was at the first Sex Pistols residency gig, 11 May
1976; Matlock is convinced it happened during the second night of
the 100 Club Punk Special in September, when the Pistols were off
playing in Wales. In Matlock's description, Rotten wanted Vicious
in the band because "[i]nstead of him against Steve and Paul, it
would become him and Sid against Steve and Paul. He always thought
of it in terms of opposing camps". Julien
, then a film student whom McLaren had put on the Sex
Pistols payroll to create a comprehensive audiovisual record of the
band, concurs: "Sid was John's protégé in the group, really. The
other two just thought he was crazy." McLaren later stated that,
much earlier in the band's career, Vivienne Westwood had told him
he should "get the guy called John who came to the store a couple
of times" to be the singer. When Johnny Rotten was recruited for
the band, Westwood said McLaren had got it wrong: "he had got the
wrong John." It was John Beverley, the future Vicious, she had been
recommending. McLaren approved the belated inclusion of Vicious,
who had virtually no experience on his new instrument, on account
of his look and reputation in the punk scene.
Pogoing aside, Vicious had been involved in a notorious incident
during that memorable second night of the 100 Club Punk Special.
Arrested for hurling a glass at The Damned that shattered and
blinded a girl in one eye, he had served time in a remand
centre—and contributed to the 100 Club banning all punk bands. At a
previous 100 Club gig, he had assaulted Nick Kent with a bicycle
chain. Indeed, McLaren's NME
telegram said that Vicious's
"best credential was he gave Nick Kent what he deserved many months
ago at the Hundred Club". According to a later description by
McLaren, "When Sid joined he couldn't play guitar but his craziness
fit into the structure of the band. He was the knight in shining
armour with a giant fist." "Everyone agreed he had the look," Lydon
later recalled, but musical skill was another matter. "The first
rehearsals...in March of 1977 with Sid were hellish.... Sid really
tried hard and rehearsed a lot". Marco Pirroni, who had performed
with Vicious in Siouxsie & the Banshees, has said, "After that,
it was nothing to do with music anymore. It would just be for the
sensationalism and scandal of it all. Then it became the Malcolm
Membership in the Sex Pistols had a progressively destructive
effect on Vicious. As Lydon later observed, "Up to that time, Sid
was absolutely childlike. Everything was fun and giggly. Suddenly
he was a big pop star. Pop star status meant press, a good chance
to be spotted in all the right places, adoration. That's what it
all meant to Sid." Westwood had already been feeding him material,
like a tome on Charles Manson
to encourage his worst instincts. Early in 1977, he met Nancy Spungen
, an emotionally disturbed drug
addict and sometime prostitute from New York. Spungen is commonly
thought to be responsible for introducing Vicious to heroin, and
the emotional codependency between the couple alienated Vicious
from the other members of the band. Lydon later wrote, "We did
everything to get rid of Nancy.... She was killing him. I was
absolutely convinced this girl was on a slow suicide mission....
Only she didn't want to go alone. She wanted to take Sid with
her.... She was so utterly fucked up and evil."
“God Save the Queen”
March 1977, at a press ceremony held outside Buckingham
Palace, the Sex Pistols publicly signed to A&M Records (the real signing had taken
place the day before).
Afterward, stoked on booze, they made
their way to the A&M offices. Vicious smashed in a toilet bowl
and cut his foot (there is some disagreement about which happened
first). As Vicious trailed blood around the offices, Rotten
verbally abused the staff and Jones got frisky in the ladies' room.
A couple of days later, the Pistols got into a rumble with another
band at a club; one of Rotten's pals threatened the life of a good
friend of A&M's English director. On 16 March, A&M broke
contract with the Pistols. Twenty-five thousand copies of the
planned "God Save the Queen" single, produced by Chris Thomas, had
already been pressed; virtually all were destroyed.
Vicious debuted with the band at London's Notre Dame Hall on 28
March. In May, the band signed with Virgin Records
, their third new label in
little more than half a year. Virgin was more than ready to release
"God Save the Queen", but new obstacles arose. Workers at the
pressing plant laid down their tools in protest at the song's
content. Jamie Reid's now famous cover, showing Queen Elizabeth II
with her features
obscured by the song and band names in cutout letters, offended the
sleeve's platemakers. After much talk, production resumed and the
record was finally released on 27 May.
The scabrous lyrics—"God save the queen/She ain't no human
being/And there's no future/In England's dreaming"—prompted
widespread outcry. Several major chains refused to stock the
single. It was banned not only by the BBC
also by every independent radio station, making it the "most
heavily censored record in British history". Rotten boasted, "We're
the only honest band that's hit this planet in about two thousand
million years." Jones shrugged off everything the song stated and
implied—or took nihilism to a logical endpoint: "I don't see how
anyone could describe us as a political band. I don't even know the
name of the Prime Minister." The song, and its public impact, are
now recognized as "punk's crowning glory".
The Virgin release had been timed to coincide with the height of
Queen Elizabeth's Silver
celebrations. By Jubilee weekend, a week and a half
after the record's release, it had sold more than 150,000 copies—a
massive success. On 7 June, McLaren and the record label
arranged to charter a private boat and have the Sex Pistols perform
while sailing down the River Thames,
Pier and the Houses of Parliament.
The event, a mockery of the Queen's river
procession planned for two days later, ended in chaos. Police
launches forced the boat to dock, and constabulary surrounded the
gangplanks at the pier. While the band members and their equipment
were hustled down a side stairwell, McLaren, Westwood, and many of
the band's entourage were arrested.
With the official UK record chart for Jubilee week about to be
released, the Daily Mirror
predicted that "God Save the
Queen" would be number one. As it turned out, the record placed
second, behind a Rod Stewart
its fourth week at the top. Many believed that the record had
actually qualified for the top spot, but that the chart had been
rigged to prevent a spectacle. McLaren later claimed that CBS Records
, which was distributing both
singles, told him that the Sex Pistols were actually outselling
Stewart two to one. There is evidence that an exceptional directive
was issued by the British Phonographic Institute, which oversaw the
chart-compiling bureau, to exclude sales from record-company
operated shops such as Virgin's for that week only.
Violent attacks on punk fans were on the rise. In mid-June Rotten
himself was assaulted by a knife-wielding gang outside Islington's Pegasus pub, causing tendon damage to his left
Jamie Reid and Paul Cook were beaten up in other
incidents; three days after the Pegasus assault, Rotten was
attacked again. A tour of Scandinavia, planned to start at the end
of the month, was consequently delayed until mid-July. During the
tour, a Swedish interviewer observed to Jones that "a lot of
people" regarded the band as McLaren's "creation". Jones replied,
"He's our manager, that's all. He's got nothing to do with the
music or the image...he's just a good manager." In another
interview, Rotten professed bafflement at the furore surrounding
the group: "I don't understand it. All we're trying to do is
destroy everything." At the end of August came SPOTS—Sex Pistols On
Tour Secretly, a surreptitious UK tour with the band playing under
pseudonyms to avoid cancellation.
McLaren had wanted for some time to make a movie featuring the Sex
Pistols. Julien Temple's first major task had been to assemble
Sex Pistols Number 1
, a twenty-five-minute mosaic of
footage from various sources, much of it refilmed by Temple off of
television screens. Number 1
was often screened at concert
venues before the band took the stage. Using media footage from the
Thames incident, Temple created another propagandistic short,
(aka Sex Pistols Number 2
During summer 1977, McLaren had been making arrangements for the
feature film of his dreams, Who Killed Bambi?
, to be
directed by Russ Meyer
from a script by
. After a single day of
shooting, 11 September, production ceased when it became clear that
McLaren had failed to arrange financing.
Never Mind the Bollocks
Since the spring of 1977, the three senior Sex Pistols had been
returning to the studio periodically with Chris Thomas to lay down
the tracks for the band's debut album. Initially to be called
God Save Sex Pistols
, it became known during the summer as
Never Mind the Bollocks
. According to Jones, "Sid wanted
to come down and play on the album, and we tried as hard as
possible not to let him anywhere near the studio. Luckily he had
hepatitis at the time." Cook later described how many of the
instrumental tracks were built up from drum and guitar parts,
rather than the usual drum and bass.
Given Vicious's incompetence, Matlock had been invited to record as
a session musician. In his autobiography, Matlock says he agreed to
"help out", but then suggests that he cut all ties after McLaren
issued the 28 February NME
telegram announcing Matlock had
been fired for liking the Beatles. In fact, Matlock did play as a
hired hand on 3 March, for what Jon Savage describes as an
"audition session". In his autobiography, Lydon claims that
Matlock's work-for-hire for his ex-band was extensive—much more so
than any other source reports—seemingly to amplify a putdown: "I
think I'd rather die than do something like that." Music historian
David Howard states unambiguously that Matlock did not perform on
any of the Never Mind the Bollocks
recording sessions. It
was Jones who ultimately played most of the bass parts during the
recordings; Howard calls his rudimentary,
rumbling approach the "explosive missing ingredient" of the Sex
Pistols' sound. Vicious's bass is reportedly present on one track
that appeared on the original album release, "Bodies". Jones
recalls, "He played his farty old bass part and we just let him do
it. When he left I dubbed another part on, leaving Sid's down low.
I think it might be barely audible on the track." Following "God
Save the Queen", two more singles were released from these
sessions, "Pretty Vacant
written by Matlock) on 1 July and "Holidays in the Sun
" on 14 October. Each
was a Top Ten hit.
Never Mind the
Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
(which includes "Anarchy
in the U.K." and another earlier recording, "No Feelings") was
released on 28 October 1977. Rolling Stone
album as "just about the most exciting rock & roll record of
the Seventies", applauding the band for playing "with an energy and
conviction that is positively transcendent in its madness and
fever". Some critics, disappointed that the album contained all
four previously released singles, dismissed it as little more than
a "greatest hits" record. Containing both "Bodies"—in which Rotten
utters "fuck" five times—and the previously censored "God Save the
Queen" and featuring the word bollocks
(popular slang for testicles
) in its title, the album was banned by
. The Conservative
shadow minister for education condemned it as "a symptom of the way
society is declining" and both the Independent Television
Companies' Association and the Association of Independent Radio
Contractors banned its advertisements. Nonetheless, advance sales
were sufficient to make it an undeniable number one on the album
title led to a legal case that attracted considerable attention: a
Virgin Records store in Nottingham that put the album in its window was threatened
with prosecution for displaying "indecent printed matter".
U.S. poster for Never Mind the
Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
The case was thrown out when defending QC John
produced an expert witness who established that
was an Old
term for a small ball, that it appeared in place names
without causing local communities erotic disturbance, and that in
the nineteenth century it had been used as a nickname for
clergymen: "Clergymen are known to talk a good deal of rubbish and
so the word later developed the meaning of nonsense." In the
context of the Pistols' album title, the term does in fact
primarily signify "nonsense". Steve Jones off-handedly came up with
the title as the band debated what to call the album. An
exasperated Jones said, "Oh, fuck it, never mind the bollocks of it
After playing a few dates in Holland—the beginning of a planned
multinational tour—the band set out on a Never Mind the Bans tour
of Britain in December 1977. Of eight scheduled dates, four were
cancelled due to illness or political pressure. On Christmas Day, the
Sex Pistols played two shows at Ivanhoe's in Huddersfield.
Before a regular evening concert, the band
performed a benefit matinee for the children of "striking firemen,
laid-off workers and one-parent families." These would turn out to
be the band's final UK performances.
US tour and the end of the band
In January 1978, the Sex Pistols embarked on a US tour, consisting
mainly of dates in America's Deep South
Originally scheduled to begin a few days before New Year's, it was
delayed due to American authorities' reluctance to issue visas to
band members with criminal records. Several dates in the North had
to be cancelled as a result. Though highly anticipated by fans and
media, the tour was plagued by in-fighting, poor planning and
physically belligerent audiences. McLaren later admitted that he
purposely booked redneck
to provoke hostile situations. Over the course of the two weeks,
Vicious, by now heavily addicted to heroin,began to live up to his
stage name. "He finally had an audience of people who would behave
with shock and horror", Lydon later wrote. "Sid was easily led by
the tour, Vicious wandered off from his Holiday Inn in Memphis, Tennessee, looking for drugs.
He was found in a
hospital, having carved the words "Gimme a fix" in his chest with a
razor. During a concert in San Antonio, Texas, Vicious
called the crowd "a bunch of faggots", before striking an audience
member across the head with his bass guitar. In Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, he received simulated oral sex on stage, later
declaring "that’s the kind of girl I like". Suffering from heroin
withdrawal during a show in Dallas, Texas, he
spat blood at a woman who had climbed onstage and punched him in
He was admitted to hospital later that night to
treat various injuries. Offstage he is said to have kicked a female
photographer, attacked a security guard, and eventually challenged
one of his own bodyguards to a fight—beaten up, he is reported to
have exclaimed, "I like you. Now we can be friends."
Rotten, meanwhile, suffering from flu and coughing up blood, felt
increasingly isolated from Cook and Jones, and disgusted by
Vicious. On 14 January 1978, during the tour's final
date at the Winterland Ballroom
disillusioned Rotten introduced the band's encore saying, "You'll
get one number and one number only 'cause I'm a lazy
That one number was a Stooges
cover, "No Fun". At the end of the song,
Rotten, kneeling on the stage, chanted an unambiguous declaration,
"This is no fun. No fun. This is no fun—at all. No fun." As the
final cymbal crash died away, Rotten addressed the audience
directly—"Ah-ha-ha. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Good
night"—before throwing down his microphone and walking offstage. He
later observed, "I felt cheated, and I wasn't going on with it any
longer; it was a ridiculous farce. Sid was completely out of his
brains—just a waste of space. The whole thing was a joke at that
point.... [Malcolm] wouldn't speak to me.... He would not discuss
anything with me. But then he would turn around and tell Paul and
Steve that the tension was all my fault because I wouldn't agree to
On 17 January, the band split, making their ways separately to Los
Angeles. McLaren, Cook and Jones prepared to fly to
Janeiro for a working vacation.
increasingly bad shape, was taken to Los Angeles by a friend, who
then brought him to New York, where he was immediately
hospitalized. Rotten later described his own situation: "The Sex
Pistols left me, stranded in Los Angeles with no ticket, no hotel
room, and a message to Warner Bros saying that if anyone phones up
claiming to be Johnny Rotten, then they were lying. That's how I
finished with Malcolm—but not with the rest of the band; I'll
always like them." Rotten flew to New York, where he announced the
band's breakup in a newspaper interview on 18 January. Virtually broke, he
telephoned the head of Virgin Records, Richard Branson, who agreed to pay for his
flight back to London, via Jamaica.
In Jamaica, Branson met with members of the
, and tried to install Rotten as their
lead singer. Devo declined the offer.
Cook, Jones and Vicious never performed together again live after
Rotten's departure. Over the next several months, McLaren arranged
for recordings in Brazil (with Jones and Cook), Paris (with
Vicious) and London; each of the three and others stepped in as
lead vocalists on tracks that in some cases were far from what punk
was expected to sound like. These recordings were to make up the
musical soundtrack for the reconceived Pistols feature film
project, directed by Julian Temple, to which McLaren was now
devoting himself. On 30 June, a single credited to the Sex Pistols
was released: on one side, notorious criminal Ronnie Biggs
sang "No One Is Innocent
" accompanied by Jones
and Cook; on the other, Vicious sang the classic "My Way
", over both a Jones-Cook backing track
and a string orchestra. The single reached number six on the
charts, eventually outselling all the singles with which Rotten was
involved. McLaren was seeking to reconstitute the band with a
permanent new frontman, but Vicious—McLaren's first choice—had
sickened of him. In return for agreeing to record "My Way", Vicious
had demanded that McLaren sign a sheet of paper declaring that he
was no longer Vicious's manager. In August, Vicious, back in
London, delivered his final performances as a nominal Sex Pistol:
recording and filming cover versions of two Eddie Cochran
songs. The bassist's return to
New York in September put paid to McLaren's dreaming.
After leaving the Pistols, Johnny Rotten reverted to his birth name
of Lydon, and formed Public Image
(PiL) with former Clash member Keith Levene
and school friend Jah Wobble
. The band went on to score a UK Top
Ten hit with their debut single, 1978's "Public Image". Lydon
initiated legal proceedings against McLaren and the Sex Pistols'
management company, Glitterbest, which McLaren controlled. Among
the claims were non-payment of royalties, improper usage of the
title "Johnny Rotten", unfair contractual obligations, and damages
for "all the criminal activities that took place". In 1979, PiL
recorded the post-punk
. Lydon performed with
the band through 1992, as well as engaging in other projects such
as Time Zone
with Afrika Bambaataa
and Bill Laswell
Vicious, relocated in New York, began performing as a solo artist,
with Nancy Spungen acting as his manager. He recorded a live album,
backed by "The Idols" featuring Arthur
and Jerry Nolan
of the New York
was released in
1979. On 12 October 1978, Spungen was found dead in the Chelsea Hotel
room she was sharing with
Vicious, with stab wounds to her stomach and dressed only in her
underwear. Police recovered drug paraphernalia from the scene and
Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder. In an interview
at the time, McLaren said, "I can't believe he was involved in such
a thing. Sid was set to marry Nancy in New York. He was very close
to her and had quite a passionate affair with her." (Evidence
subsequently revealed points strongly to heroin dealer and sometime
actor Rockets Redglare
killer.) While free on bail
, Vicious smashed a
beer mug in the face of Todd Smith, Patti
's brother, and was arrested again on an assault charge.
December 1978 he was sent to Rikers Island jail, where he spent 55 days and underwent enforced
He was released on 1 February 1979;
sometime after midnight, following a small party to celebrate his
release, Vicious died of a heroin overdose. He was only twenty-one.
Reflecting on the event, Lydon said, "Poor Sid. The only way he
could live up to what he wanted everyone to believe about him was
to die. That was tragic, but more for Sid than anyone else. He
really bought his public image."
On 7 February 1979, just five days after Vicious's death, hearings
began in London on Lydon's lawsuit. Cook and Jones were allied with
McLaren, but as evidence mounted that their manager had poured
virtually all of the band's revenue into his beloved film project,
they switched sides. On 14 February, the court put the film and its
soundtrack into receivership
under McLaren's control, they were now to be administered as
exploitable assets for addressing the band members' financial
claims. McLaren, with substantial personal debts and legal fees,
took off for Paris to sign a record deal for an LP of standards,
including "Non, je ne regrette
". A month later, back in London, he disassociated himself
from the film to which he had devoted so much time and money.
McLaren went on to manage Adam and the
and Bow Wow Wow
. In the
mid-1980s he released a number of successful and influential
records as a solo artist.
Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
, the soundtrack album for the
still-uncompleted film, was released by Virgin Records on 24
February 1979. It is mostly composed of tracks credited to the Sex
Pistols: There are the new recordings with vocals by Jones,
Vicious, Cook, and Ronnie Biggs, as well as Edward Tudor-Pole
, briefly considered as a
permanent replacement for Rotten. McLaren himself takes the mic for
a couple of numbers. Several tracks feature Rotten's vocals from
early, unissued sessions, in some cases with re-recorded backing by
Jones and Cook. There is one live cut, from the band's final
concert in San Francisco. The album is completed by a couple of
tracks in which other artists cover Sex Pistols classics. Four Top
Ten singles were culled from the Swindle
more than had appeared on Never Mind the Bollocks
1978 "No One Is Innocent"/"My Way" was followed in 1979 by
Vicious's cover of "Something Else
three, and the biggest-selling single ever under the Sex Pistols
name); Jones singing an original, "Silly Thing" (number six); and
Vicious's second Cochran cover, "C'mon
" (number three). Two more singles from the soundtrack
were put out under the Pistols brand—Tudor-Pole, among others,
singing "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" and a Rotten vocal from
1976, "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"; both fell just shy of the
Top Twenty. On 21 November 1980, the final "new" studio recordings
attributed to the Sex Pistols were released by Virgin: "Black
Leather" and "Here We Go Again", recorded by Jones and Cook during
the mid-1978 Swindle
sessions, were paired as one of a
half-dozen 7-inch records (the other five reconfiguring previously
released material) sold together as Sex Pack
The Sex Pistols film was completed by Temple, who received sole
credit for the script after McLaren had his name taken off the
production. Finally released in 1980, The Great Rock 'n' Roll
still largely reflects McLaren's vision. It is a
fictionalised, farcical, partially animated retelling of the band's
history and aftermath with McLaren in the lead role, Jones as
second lead, and contributions from Vicious (including his
memorable performance of "My Way") and Cook. It incorporates
promotional videos shot for "God Save the Queen" and "Pretty
Vacant" and extensive documentary footage as well, much of it
focusing on Rotten. In Temple's description, he and McLaren
conceived it as a "very stylized...polemic". They were reacting to
the fact that the Pistols had become the "poster on the bedroom
wall of the day where you kneel down last thing at night and pray
to your rock god. And that was never the point.... The myth had to
be dynamited in some way. We had to make this film in a way to
enrage the fans". In the film, McLaren claims to have created the
band from scratch and engineered its notorious reputation; much of
what structure the loose narrative has is based on McLaren's
teaching a series of "lessons" to be learned from "an invention of
mine they called the punk rock".
Cook and Jones continued to work through guest appearances and as
. In 1980, they
formed The Professionals
which lasted for two years. Jones went on to play with the bands
Chequered Past and Neurotic
. He also recorded two solo albums, Mercy
and Fire and Gasoline
. Now a resident of
Los Angeles, he hosts a daily radio program called Jonesy's
Having played with the band Chiefs of Relief
in the late 1980s and with
in the 1990s, Cook is
now a member of Man Raze
. Following The
Rich Kids' breakup in 1979, Matlock played with various bands,
toured with Iggy Pop
, and recorded several
solo albums. He is currently a member of Slinky Vagabond.
The 1979 court ruling had left many issues between Lydon and
McLaren unresolved. Five years later, Lydon filed another action.
Finally, on 16 January 1986, Lydon, Jones, Cook and the estate of
Sid Vicious were awarded control of the band's heritage, including
the rights to The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
and all the
footage shot for it—more than 250 hours. That same year, a
fictionalised film account of Vicious's relationship with Spungen
was released: Sid and Nancy
directed by Alex Cox
. In his autobiography,
Lydon lambastes the film, saying that it "celebrates heroin
addiction", goes out of its way to "humiliate [Vicious's] life",
and completely misrepresents the Sex Pistols' part in the London
Reunions and later group activities
The original four Sex Pistols reunited in 1996 for the six-month
Filthy Lucre Tour
, which included
dates in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Japan. The
band members' access to the archives associated with The Great
Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
facilitated the production of the 2000
documentary The Filth and the
. This film—directed, like its predecessor, by
Temple—was formulated as an attempt to tell the story from the
band's point of view, in contrast to Swindle'
s focus on
McLaren and the media. In 2002—the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee—the Sex Pistols reunited again
to play the Crystal Palace National Sports
Centre in London.
In 2003, their Piss Off Tour took
them around North America for three weeks.
On 9 March 2006, the band sold the rights to their back catalogue
to Universal Music Group
sale was criticized by some commentators as a "sell out". In
November 2006, the Sex Pistols were inducted to the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame, whose citation named Vicious as well as the four
living members. The band rejected the honour in coarse language on
their website. In a television interview, Lydon accompanied a
suggestion that the Hall of Fame "Kiss this!
" with an
obscene gesture. According to Jones, "Once you want to be put into
a museum, Rock & Roll's over; it's not voted by fans, it's
voted by people who induct you, or others; people who are already
Pistols reunited again for five gigs at the Brixton
Academy and one each in Manchester and Glasgow in November 2007.
In 2008, they undertook a
series of European festival appearances, titled the Combine
Harvester Tour. In August, they performed at Budapest's Sziget
Festival and at the
Dutch festival Lowlands.
Lowlands director Eric van Eerdenburg
declared the Pistols' performance "saddening": "They left their
swimming pools at home only to scoop up some money here. Really,
they're nothing more than that." They later played at the Hammersmith
That same year, they released the DVD
Be An England
, combining footage from two of the 2007
Brixton Academy appearances.
The Trouser Press Record
entry on the Sex Pistols declares that "their
importance—both to the direction of contemporary music and more
generally to pop culture—can hardly be overstated". Rolling
has argued that the band, "in direct opposition to the
star trappings and complacency" of mid-1970s rock, "came to spark
and personify one of the few truly critical moments in pop
culture—the rise of punk." In 2004, the magazine ranked the Sex
Pistols #58 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
Leading music critic Dave Marsh
them "unquestionably the most radical new rock band of the
Although the Sex Pistols were not the first punk band, the few
recordings that were released during the band's brief initial
existence were singularly catalytic expressions of the punk
movement. The releases of "Anarchy in the U.K.", "God Save the
Queen" and Never Mind the Bollocks
are counted among the
most important events in the history of popular music. Never
Mind the Bollocks
is regularly cited in accountings of
all-time great albums: In 2006, it was voted #28 in Q
magazine's "100 Greatest Albums Ever",
while Rolling Stone
listed it at #2 in its 1987 "Top 100
Albums of the Last 20 Years". It has come to be recognized as among
the most influential records in rock history. A 2005 Allmusic
critique describes it as "one of the
greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time".
The Sex Pistols directly inspired the style, and often the
formation itself, of many punk and post-punk bands during their
first two-and-a-half-year run. The Clash
Siouxsie & the
, The Adverts
, Vic Godard
, and Ari Up
of The Slits
are among those in London's "inner
circle" of early punk bands that credit the Pistols. Pauline Murray of Durham punk band Penetration saw the Pistols perform for
the first time in Northallerton in May 1976.
She later explained their
Nothing would have happened without the Pistols. It was
like, "Wow, I believe in this." What they were saying was: "It's a
load of shite. I'm going to do what I do and I don't care what
people think." That was the key to it. People forget that, but it
was the main ideology for me: we don't care what you think—you're
shit anyway. It was the attitude that got people moving, as well as
The Sex Pistols' 4 June 1976 concert at Manchester's Lesser Free
Trade Hall was to become one of the most significant and
mythologized events in rock history. Among the audience of merely
forty people or so were many who became leading figures in the punk
and post-punk movements: Pete Shelley
and Howard Devoto
, who organised the
gig and were in the process of auditioning new members for the
; Bernard Sumner
and Peter Hook
, later of
; Mark E. Smith
later of The Fall
; and Morrissey
, later of The
. Anthony H. Wilson
, founder of Factory Records
, saw the band for the first
time at the return engagement on 20 July. Among the many musicians
of a later time who have acknowledged their debt to the Pistols are
members of NOFX
, Guns N' Roses
, and Oasis
As described by the Trouser Press Record Guide
Pistols and manager/provocateur Malcolm McLaren challenged every
aspect and precept of modern music-making, thereby inspiring
countless groups to follow their cue onto stages around the world.
A confrontational, nihilistic public image and rabidly nihilistic
socio-political lyrics set the tone that continues to guide punk
bands." Critic Toby Creswell locates the primary source of
inspiration somewhat differently. Noting that "[i]mage to the
contrary, the Pistols were very serious about music", he argues,
"The real rebel yell came from Jones' guitars: a mass wall of sound
based on the most simple, retro guitar riffs. Essentially, the Sex
Pistols reinforced what the garage bands of the '60s had
demonstrated—you don't need technique to make rock & roll. In a
time when music had been increasingly complicated and defanged, the
Sex Pistols' generational shift caused a real revolution."
Along with their abundant musical influence, the Sex Pistols'
cultural reverberations are evident elsewhere. Jamie Reid's work
for the band is regarded as among the most important graphic design
of the 1970s and still impacts the field in the 21st century. By
the age of twenty-one, Sid Vicious was already a "t-shirt-selling
icon". While the manner of his death signified for many the
inevitable failure of punk's social ambitions, it cemented his
image as an archetype of doomed youth. British punk fashion
, still widely influential, is now
customarily credited to Westwood and McLaren; as Johnny Rotten,
Lydon had a lasting effect as well, especially through his bricolage
approach to personal style: he "would
wear a velvet colored drape jacket (ted
festooned with safety pins (Jackie
through the New York punk scene), massive pin-stripe
pegs (modernist), a pin-collar Wemblex (mod
) customised into an Anarchy
shirt (punk) and brothel creepers (ted)." Christopher Nolan
, director of the
movie The Dark Knight
, has said that
Rotten inspired the characterization of The Joker
, played by Heath Ledger
. According to Nolan, "We very much
took the view in looking at the character of the Joker that what's
strong about him is this idea of anarchy. This commitment to
anarchy, this commitment to chaos." Ledger's costar Christian Bale
has claimed that Ledger drew
inspiration from watching tapes of Vicious.
Conceptual basis and the question of credit
The Sex Pistols were defined by ambitions that went well beyond the
musical—indeed, McLaren was at times openly contemptuous of the
band's music and punk rock generally. "Christ, if people bought the
records for the music, this thing would have died a death long
ago," he said in 1977. The degree to which the Pistols'
anti-establishment stance resulted from the members' spontaneous
attitudes as opposed to being cultivated by McLaren and his
associates is a matter of debate—as is the very nature of that
stance itself. Deprecating the music, McLaren elevated the concept,
for which he later took full credit. He would claim that the Sex
Pistols were his personal, Situationist-style art project: "I
decided to use people, just the way a sculptor uses clay." But what
had he supposedly made? The Sex Pistols were as substantial as pop
culture could get: "Punk became the most important cultural
phenomenon of the late 20th century", McLaren would later assert.
"Its authenticity stands out against the karaoke ersatz culture of
today, where everything and everyone is for sale.... [P]unk is not,
and never was, for sale." Or they were a cynical con: something
with which "to sell trousers", as McLaren said in 1989; a
"carefully planned exercise to embezzle as much money as possible
out of the music industry", as Jon Savage characterizes McLaren's
core theme in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
; "cash from
chaos" as the movie repeatedly puts it.
Lydon, in turn, would dismiss McLaren's influence: "We made our own
scandal just by being ourselves. Maybe it was that he knew he was
redundant, so he overcompensated. All the talk about the French
Situationists being associated with punk is bollocks. It's
nonsense!" Cook concurs: "Situationism had nothing to do with us.
The Jamie Reids and Malcolms were excited because we were the real
thing. I suppose we were what they were dreaming of." According to
Lydon, "If we had an aim, it was to force our own, working-class
opinions into the mainstream, which was unheard of in pop music at
Toby Creswell argues that the "Sex Pistols' agenda was inchoate, to
say the least. It was a general call to rebellion that falls apart
at the slightest scrutiny." Critic Ian Birch, writing in 1981,
called "stupid" the claim that the Sex Pistols "had any political
significance.... If they did anything, they made a lot of people
content with being nothing. They certainly didn't inspire the
working classes." While the Conservative triumph in
may be taken as evidence for that position, Julian Temple
has noted that the scene inspired by the Sex Pistols "wasn't your
kind of two-up, two-down working class normal families, most of it.
It was over the edge of the precipice in social terms. They were
actually giving a voice to an area of the working class that was
almost beyond the pale." Within a year of "Anarchy in the U.K."
that voice was being echoed widely: scores if not hundreds of punk
bands had formed across the country—groups composed largely of
working-class members or middle-class members who rejected their
own class values and pursued solidarity with the working
In 1980, critic Greil Marcus
on McLaren's contradictory posture:
It may be that in the mind of their self-celebrated
Svengali...the Sex Pistols were never meant to be more than a
nine-month wonder, a cheap vehicle for some fast money, a few
laughs, a touch of the old épater la bourgeoisie. It may
also be that in the mind of their chief terrorist and propagandist,
anarchist veteran...and Situational artist McLaren, the Sex Pistols
were meant to be a force that would set the world on its ear...and
finally unite music and politics. The Sex Pistols were all of these
A couple of years before, Marcus had identified different roots
underlying the band's merger of music and politics, arguing that
they "have absorbed from reggae
the idea of a culture that
will make demands on those in power which no government could ever
satisfy; a culture that will be exclusive, almost separatist, yet
also messianic, apocalyptic and stoic, and that will ignore or
smash any contradiction inherent in such a complexity of stances."
Critic Sean Campbell has discussed how Lydon's Irish Catholic
heritage both facilitated his entrée into London's reggae scene and
complicated his position vis-à-vis the ethnically English working
class—the background his bandmates had in common.
Critic Bill Wyman acknowledges that Lydon's "fierce intelligence
and astonishing onstage charisma" were important catalysts, but
ultimately finds the band's real meaning lies in McLaren's
provocative media manipulations. While some of the Sex Pistols'
public affronts were plotted by McLaren, Westwood, and company,
others were evidently not—including what McLaren himself cites as
the "pivotal moment that changed everything", the clash on the Bill
show. "Malcolm milked situations", says Cook,
"he didn't instigate them; that was always our own doing." It is
also hard to ascribe the effect of the Sex Pistols' early
Manchester shows on that city's nascent punk scene to anyone other
than the musicians themselves. Matlock later wrote that at the
point when he left the band, it was beginning to occur to him that
McLaren "was in fact quite deliberately perpetrating that idea of
us as his puppets.... However, on the other hand, I've since found
out that even Malcolm wasn't as aware of what he was up to as he
has since made out." By his absence, Matlock demonstrated how
crucial he was to the band's creativity: in the eleven months
between his departure and the Pistols' demise, they composed only
Johnny Rotten wearing a Westwood-designed "Destroy" T-shirt,
echoing Rotten's yawp at the end of "Anarchy in the U.K."
Music historian Simon Reynolds
that McLaren came into his own as an auteur
only after the group's breakup, with The Great Rock 'n' Roll
and the recruitment of Ronnie Biggs as a vocalist.
Much subsequent commentary on the Sex Pistols has relied on taking
seriously McLaren's onscreen proclamations in the film, whether
lending them credence or not. As music journalist Dave Thompson
noted in 2000, "[T]oday, Swindle
is viewed by many as the
truth" (despite the fact that the movie purveys, among other
things, a completely illiterate Steve Jones, a talking dog, and Sid
Vicious shooting audience members, including his mother, at the
conclusion of "My Way"). Temple points out that McLaren's
characterization was intended as "a big fucking joke—that he was
the puppetmeister who created these pieces of clay from plasticine
boxes that he modeled away and made Johnny Rotten, made Sid
Vicious. It was a joke
that they were completely
manufactured." (In his final onscreen scene in the film, McLaren
declares that he was planning the Sex Pistols affair, "Ever since I
was ten years old! Ever since Elvis
joined the army!" [1956 and 1958, respectively].)
Temple acknowledges that McLaren ultimately "perhaps took this too
much to heart."
According to Pistols tour manager Noel Monk and journalist Jimmy
Guterman, Lydon was much more than "the band's mouthpiece. He's its
raging brain. McLaren or his friend Jamie Reid might drop a word
like 'anarchy' or 'vacant' that Rotten seizes upon and turns into a
manifesto, but McLaren is not the Svengali to Rotten he'd like to
be perceived as. McLaren thought he was working with a tabula rasa,
but he soon found out that Rotten has ideas of his own". On the
other hand, there is little disagreement about McLaren's marketing
talent and his crucial role in making the band a subcultural
phenomenon soon after its debut.
Temple adds that "he catalyzed so many people's heads. He had so
many just extraordinary ideas". Though, as Jon Savage emphasizes,
"In fact, it was Steve Jones who first had the idea of putting the
group, or any group, together with McLaren. He chose McLaren, not
- Johnny Rotten – lead vocals
- Steve Jones – guitar,
bass (studio), backing vocals (1975–1978, 1996–present)
- Paul Cook – drums (1975–1978,
- Glen Matlock – bass, backing vocals
Post-Rotten "Sex Pistols" singers
Lead vocalists, other than Johnny Rotten, on The Great Rock 'n' Roll
tracks credited to the Sex Pistols:
Compilations, live albums and other official releases
- from Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
- from The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
- from Kiss This
- September 1992 - "Anarchy in the U.K." (reissue) #33 UK
- December 1992 - "Pretty Vacant" (reissue) #56 UK
- from Filthy Lucre Live
- June 1996 - "Pretty Vacant" (live) #18 UK
- from Jubilee
- 27 May 2002 - "God Save the Queen" (reissue) #15 UK
- from Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols—30th
- 1 October 2007 - "Anarchy in the U.K." (2nd reissue) #70
- 8 October 2007 - "God Save the Queen" (2nd reissue) #42 UK
- 15 October 2007 - "Pretty Vacant" (2nd reissue) #65 UK
- 22 October 2007 - "Holidays in the Sun" (reissue) #74 UK
- Albiez, Sean, "Print the Truth, Not the Legend. The Sex
Pistols: Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester, June 4, 1976", in
Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time,
ed. Ian Inglis, pp. 92–106. Ashgate, 2006. ISBN
- Campbell, Sean, "Sounding Out the Margins: Ethnicity and
Popular Music in British Cultural Studies", in Across the
Margins: Cultural Identity and Change in the Atlantic
Archipelago, ed. Glenda Norquay and Gerry Smyth,
pp. 117–136. Manchester University Press, 2002. ISBN
- Creswell, Toby, 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and
the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them, Thunder's Mouth
Press, 2006. ISBN 1560259159
- Douglas, Mark, "Fashions, Youth", in Encyclopedia of
Contemporary British Culture, ed. Peter Childs and Mike
Storry, pp. 187-189. Taylor & Francis, 1999. ISBN
- Evans, Mike, Rock 'n' Roll's Strangest Moments:
Extraordinary Tales from Over Fifty Years of Rock Music
History, Robson, 2006. ISBN 186105923X
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's
Guide to Underground Rock, 1970–1982, Hal Leonard, 2005. ISBN
- Green, Alex. The Stone Roses, Continuum, 2006. ISBN
- Harris, John. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular
Demise of English Rock, Da Capo , 2004. ISBN 030681367X
- Hatch, David, and Stephen Millward, From Blues to Rock: An
Analytical History of Pop Music, Manchester University Press,
1989. ISBN 0719023491
- Henry, Tricia, Break All Rules!: Punk Rock and the Making
of a Style, University of Michigan Press, 1989. ISBN
- Howard, David N., Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers
and Their Maverick Recordings, Hal Leonard, 2004. ISBN
- Lydon, John, with Keith and Kent Zimmerman, Rotten: No
Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008
. ISBN 0312428138
- Matlock, Glen, with Pete Silverton, I Was A Teenage Sex
Pistol, Omnibus Press, 1990. ISBN 0711918171
- Marsh, Dave, "The Sex Pistols", in The New Rolling Stone
Record Guide, ed. Dave Marsh and John Swenson, p. 456.
Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1983. ISBN 0394721071
- McNeil, Legs, and Gillian McCain
(ed.), Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of
Punk, Grove Press, 1996. ISBN 0349108803
- Molon, Dominic, "Made with the Highest British Attention to the
Wrong Detail: The UK", in Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock
and Roll Since 1967, ed. Dominic Molon, pp. 72–79. Yale
University Press, 2007. ISBN 0300134266
- Monk, Noel, and Jimmy Guterman, 12 Days on the Road: The
Sex Pistols and America, Harper Paperbacks, 1992. ISBN
- Mulholland, Neil, The Cultural Devolution: Art in Britain
in the Late Twentieth Century, Ashgate, 2003. ISBN
- Pardo, Alona, "Jamie Reid", in Communicate: Independent
British Graphic Design Since the Sixties, ed. Rick Poyner,
p. 245. Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 030010684X
- Paytress, Mark, Siouxsie & the Banshees: The Authorised
Biography, Sanctuary, 2003. ISBN 1860743757
- Raimes, Jonathan, Lakshmi Bhaskaran, and Ben Renow-Clarke,
Retro Graphics: A Visual Sourcebook to 100 Years of Graphic
Design, Chronicle Books, 2007. ISBN 0811855082
- Reynolds, Simon, Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk
1978–1984, Faber and Faber, 2006. ISBN 057121570X
- Reynolds, Simon, "Ono, Eno, Arto: Nonmusicians and the
Emergence of Concept Rock", in Sympathy for the Devil: Art and
Rock and Roll Since 1967, ed. Dominic Molon, pp. 80–91.
Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 0300134266
- Robb, John, Punk Rock: An Oral History, Ebury Press,
2006. ISBN 0091905117
- Robbins, Ira, "Sex Pistols", in The Trouser Press Record
Guide, 4th ed., ed. Ira Robbins, pp. 585–586, Collier,
1991. ISBN 0020363613
- Salewicz, Chris, Interview with Julien Temple by Chris
Salewicz (The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle DVD bonus
feature), Shout! Factory, 2001. ISBN 0738931993
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk
Rock and Beyond, St. Martin's Press, 1992. ISBN
- Southall, Brian, The Sex Pistols: 90 Days At EMI,
Omnibus Press, 2007. ISBN 9781846097799
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant: A History of UK Punk,
Chicago Review Press, 2008. ISBN 1556527527
- Taylor, Steven, False Prophet: Fieldnotes from the Punk
Underground, Wesleyan University Press, 2004. ISBN
- Temple, Julian, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (DVD),
Shout! Factory, 1980 (2001). ISBN 0738931993
- Temple, Julian, with Chris Salewicz, "Commentary on The
Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" (The Great Rock 'n' Roll
Swindle DVD bonus feature), Shout! Factory, 2001. ISBN
- Thompson, Dave, Alternative Rock, Hal Leonard, 2000.
- Vermorel, Fred, and Judy Vermorel, Sex Pistols: The Inside
Story, Omnibus Press, 1987 . ISBN 0711910901
- Wall, Mick, W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William
Axl Rose, Macmillan, 2008. ISBN 0312377673
- Savage, Jon. England's Dreaming, pp. 77–79; Strongman,
Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 84.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 87; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, p. 96.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 83.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 83–84, 86–87, 89, 102,
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 84.
- Savage, Jon. England's Dreaming, pp. 70–80.
- Savage, Jon. England's Dreaming, pp. 83, 92; Robb,
John, Punk Rock, pp. 83–89, 102–105.
- Savage, Jon. England's Dreaming, pp. 87–90, 92,
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 84–85.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 85–86.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 93; Savage, Jon.
England's Dreaming, pp. 98–99.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 110.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 93–94; Savage,
Jon. England's Dreaming, p. 99.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 74.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 114.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 110–111; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, p. 120; Strongman, Phil, Pretty
Vacant, p. 98.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 120–121; Matlock,
Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p. 71.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 97. See also Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, pp. 108–112. Savage notes that the
July 1975 unemployment figures were the worst since World War II
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 78. See also Matlock, Glen,
I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, pp. 57–59.
- Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p. 86.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 125–126.
- Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p. 87.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 112; Strongman, Phil,
Pretty Vacant, p. 105.
- Evans, Mike, Rock 'n' Roll's Strangest Moments, p.
190; Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, pp. 64–65.
Matlock says the band decided on the name while McLaren was in the
United States—no later than May 1975—before Rotten even joined (p.
65). Jon Savage says the name was not firmly settled on until just
before their first show in November 1975 (England's
Dreaming, p. 129).
- Molon, Dominic, "Made with the Highest British Attention", p.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 99–100.
- Reynolds, Simon, "Ono, Eno, Arto", p. 89.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 22; Robb, John,
Punk Rock, p. 114; Savage, Jon, England's
Dreaming, p. 129.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 106; Robb, John,
Punk Rock, pp. 114–120; Strongman says that Rotten was
pinned to the wall by Bazooka Joe's Danny Kleinman; after an
apology, the Pistols continued playing for a few more minutes. Robb
describes a brief fistfight that took place after the plugs were
- Lydon, John, Rotten, pp. 172–189 ("Steve Severin on
the Bromley Contingent");
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 181–185.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 86, 197; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, pp. 27–42, 204; Strongman, Phil,
Pretty Vacant, pp. 67–75.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 201–202.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 86; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, p. 201; Strongman, Phil, Pretty
Vacant, p. 111.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 204–205.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 151.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 114. For more on
Lydon's apparently coincidental resemblance to Hell, see also
Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p. 71, and
Matlock and Pirroni quotes in Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 147–148.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 148.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 163–166.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 174.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 153.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 155.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 166–167. See also
Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p. 107.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 168.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 172.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 118.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 182.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 30.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 160–162; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, pp. 173–174.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 199–201.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 204.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 118–119; Savage,
Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 205.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 207–209; Robb,
John, Punk Rock, pp. 212–215. Quote: Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, p. 207.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 126–129.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 37.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 38.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 135; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, p. 317. Quote: Gimarc, George,
Punk Diary, p. 39.
- Coon, Caroline (2 October 1976), "Parade Of The Punks",
Melody Maker; Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming,
pp. 176–177, 206, 208; Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 119,
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 177.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 241.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 245.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 144–148.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 257–258.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 258.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 221.
- Hatch, David, and Stephen Millward, From Blues to
Rock, pp. 168, 170.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 253.
- Pardo, Alona, "Jamie Reid", p. 245.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 151–153; Southall,
Brian, The Sex Pistols, p. 52; Savage, Jon, England's
Dreaming, pp. 257–259. Savage's transcription, unlike
Strongman's, Southall's, and the one that appears on the cover of
the Daily Mirror, incorrectly has Grundy saying "ten
seconds" and Jones saying "You fucking rotter." The transcription
has been checked against the excerpted video of the interview
available on the band's official website.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 260.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 264. See also
Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 157.
- Robb, John, Punk Diary, pp. 263–273; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, pp. 267–275.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 45.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 49. The transcription
of the television interview has been corrected per the documentary
footage used in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 286.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 286–288.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 172.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 56.
- See also later Lydon quote: Savage, Jon, England's
Dreaming, pp. 307–308.
- Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, pp.
113–119, 162, 167–171. Quote: p. 115.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 3. See also pp. 82, 103.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 308.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 159–160; Matlock, Glen,
I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p. 130.
- Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p.
- Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols (dir. Steve
Crabtree), BBC documentary (2004).
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 217, 224–225; Strongman,
Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 137–138.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 116–117; Savage,
Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 177–178.
- For the sort of thing in Kent's past for which he arguably
"deserved" a beating—physically assaulting his then-girlfriend
Hynde at the McLaren-Westwood shop—see Matlock, Glen, I Was
a Teenage Sex Pistol, pp. 59–60; Strongman , Phil, Pretty
Vacant, p. 116.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 143. For a view that Vicious
was a more competent bas player than his reputation would have it,
see Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 117.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 222.
- McNeil, Legs, and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me, p.
262; Monk, Noel, and Jimmy Guterman, 12 Days on the Road,
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 147.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 174; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, pp. 315–318.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 318–320.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, pp. 59–60.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 347, 349; Robb,
John, Punk Rock, p. 348.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 70; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, p. 349.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 347–367.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 70.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 358–364;
Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 181–182.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 364–365; .
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 365–366.
- Rockwell, John (7 August 1977), "The Sex Pistols: A Fired-Up
Rock Band", New York Times.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 390–392.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 339–340.
- Thompson, Stacy (winter 2004), "Punk Cinema", Cinema
Journal 43, no. 2;
- Savage, Jon. England's Dreaming, pp. 379–380, 388–389,
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 409.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 200.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 414.
- Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Pistol, pp.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 309.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 142. See also p. 200.
- Howard, David, Sonic Alchemy, p. 245.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 200. Jones also recalls
Vicious showing up to record for "God Save the Queen". Lydon
reports recording an unused version of "Submission" with Vicious
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 126–127; Robb,
John, Punk Rock, p. 359; Gimarc, George, Punk
Diary, p. 74.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 95.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 556.
- Taylor, Steven, False Prophet, p. 69.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 414;
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 415.
- Thompson, Dave, Alternative Rock, p. 609;
- Vermorel, Fred, and Judy Vermorel, Sex Pistols, p.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 202.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 428–429.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 403.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 430.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, pp. 244.
- Klein, Howie (February 1978), "Sex Pistols: Tour Notes",
New York Rocker.
- Vermorel, Fred, and Judy Vermorel, Sex Pistols, p.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, pp. 5, 247–248.
- Cooper, Mark (28 January 1978), "The Sex Pistols: Winterland,
San Francisco", Record Mirror. The transcription has been
slightly expanded per the documentary footage used in The Great
Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1:09:55–1:10:31). The sound cuts out
immediately after the word "cheated".
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 5.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 463–464.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 464.
- Reynolds, Simon, Rip It Up and Start Again, pp.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 145. Gimarc refers to
sources claiming that the "My Way" recording involved no contact
between Vicious and the Jones-Cook duo; Temple, however, says that
Jones was flown over to Paris to join Vicious in the studio
(Temple, Julian, "Commentary", 1:29:18–1:29:20), and seems to
indicate that he recorded his guitar part there
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 497–498. Savage
describes the single as being a double A-side; other sources
indicate that the Biggs vocal was the A-side and the Vicious vocal
the B-side (e.g., Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 145).
There is no disagreement that the Vicious side was the more
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 491–494, 497–503.
For the management termination, see also Temple, Julian,
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 238–242.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 527–529;
Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 241–242.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 533–534, 537;
Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, pp. 242–243.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 531–536, 558;
Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 188. Savage says there are
six Rotten vocals (p. 558); in fact, the various releases of the
album all include seven or eight.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 558–559; Gimarc,
George, Punk Diary, pp. 145, 188, 196, 217.
- Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, p. 405; Savage, Jon,
England's Dreaming, pp. 501, 560.
- Salewicz, Chris, Interview with Julien Temple,
- Quote: Temple, Julian, The Great Rock 'n' Roll
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, pp. 542–545, 554-555;
Lydon, John, Rotten, pp. 286, 306.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, pp. 148–149.
- Robbins, Ira, "Sex Pistols", p. 585.
- Marsh, Dave, "The Sex Pistols", p. 456.
- "100 Greatest Albums Ever", Q 235, February 2006.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 151, 155, 162.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 122; Paytress, Mark,
Siouxsie & the Banshees, p. 48.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, pp. 179–181.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 149.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 208.
- Robb, John, Punk Rock, p. 163.
- Green, Alex. The Stone Roses, p. 98.
- Wall, Mick, W.A.R., pp. 11, 38, 113, 118, 136.
- Harris, John, Britpop!, p. 144.
- Creswell, Toby, 1001 Songs, p. 735.
- Raimes, Jonathan et al., Retro Graphics, p. 164;
"Jamie Reid: The Art of Punk" (June 2004), Computer Arts, pp. 46–48.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 235.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 530.
- Douglas, Mark, "Fashions, Youth", pp. 188–189. Quote: Jon
Savage, in Mulholland, Neil, The Cultural Devolution, p.
- Reynolds, Simon, "Ono, Eno, Arto", p. 89. See also Gimarc,
George, p. 102. McLaren echoes the line in The Great Rock 'n'
Roll Swindle: "Do you realize, these kids didn't buy the
records for the music. If that was the case, this thing would have
died a death years ago" (10:56–11:03).
- Hibbert, Tom (August 1989), "Pernicious? Moi?" (interview with
Malcolm McLaren), Q.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 499.
- The line, which became known as a catchphrase of McLaren's,
appears in the lyric of the title track (credited to Jones, Cook
and Temple) (6:59–7:02); as a motto on a conveniently placed
coat of arms
(21:30–21:36); and in large letters on a T-shirt won by McLaren in
several scenes (first fully visible: 26:26–26:51; partly visible in
three subsequent scenes). See also Temple's script for the film's
promotional video: Gimarc, George, Punk Diary, pp.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 3.
- Lydon, John, Rotten, p. 186.
- Mulholland, Neil, The Cultural Devolution, p. 68.
- Salewicz, Chris, Interview with Julien Temple,
- Albiez, Sean, "Print the Truth", p. 100; Henry, Tricia,
Break All Rules, p. xi.
- Hatch, David, and Stephen Millward, From Blues to
Rock, p. 170.
- Campbell, Sean, "Sounding Out the Margins", pp. 127–130.
- See, for instance, Temple's commentary: "[It] was not planned
at all. It was totally spontaneous. And as the band will tell you,
Malcolm said, 'You've blown it. You've ruined everything I've
worked for'" (Temple, Julian, "Commentary", 27:26–27:33); and
Matlock's confirmation (Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex
Pistol, pp. 145, 147). Concerning the time the band spent
waiting to go on air, Siouxsie Sioux later said, "I've got a
feeling that Malcolm was geeing them up, stirring it a
bit" (Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 257). Her view
is belied by the version of the incident in Phil Strongman's
Pretty Vacant, which appears to rely on McLaren himself
(pp. 154–155). According to Strongman, McLaren "was inconsolable"
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- Matlock, Glen, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, p.
- Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant, p. 198.
- Thompson, Dave, Alternative Rock, p. 135.
- Temple, Julian, "Commentary", 1:24–1:40.
- Temple, Julian, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle,
- Temple, Julian, "Commentary", 1:20–1:23.
- Monk, Noel, and Jimmy Guterman, 12 Days on the Road,
- Monk, Noel, and Jimmy Guterman, 12 Days on the Road,
- Temple, Julian, "Commentary", 37:03–37:09.
- Savage, Jon, England's Dreaming, p. 71.
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