The Sex Pistols – Nevermind The Bollocks

sexpistols1First of all let’s make a few assumptions. Because you are reading a predominantly guitar based music magazine I am assuming you have listened to this album at least once. It’s likely that you probably own it. Because you can read and understand English I’m assuming you’ve heard at least two of the songs on this album. If you not then I don’t think I really want you reading anything I write.

Now let’s ruin a few of your assumptions about The Sex Pistols being one of the initiators of punk. In a nut shell let’s assume the whole concept of punk was to defy the normality of society and convention. To rebel and share a definitive hatred of ‘pop’ and mainstream. Punk created one of the biggest forms of defiance against pop music due the way it was manufactured and developed to appeal and sell in mass audience. However the Sex Pistols themselves were a manufactured band, created and manipulated by Malcolm Mclaren who he developed in his own image and dressed them with clothes from his alternative London boutique. So it could be argued that the punk movement is just as synthetic and commercially designed as the pop music it was attempting to rebel against.

It’s easy to get waylaid by the politics and sociology of punk and The Pistols. So much so that the album gets overlooked for its pure musical prowess. Opener Holidays in the Sun sets the pace and the bar for the rest of the 30 minutes. With the goose-step intro followed by the iconic descending power chords, it’s like a sneering teenager throwing themselves down the stairs because someone told him not too. The reason I pick out this open track is I always felt it was the fourth single that never happened.

Then we have the big three: Vacant, Anarchy in the UK and of course God Save the Queen. Each song is full of crunchy, unforgettable riffs, pogo rhythms and shouting along choruses. Are they political commentaries on the discontented youth or the socio-economic power struggles? Are they just antagonistic; shock and awe over substance? It’s best to make your own judgements. Suffice to say they stir something up inside the majority of fans that rings true.

This is probably one of the shortest Ramzine classics there is and it barely talks about the music itself. That’s because it’s important it speaks for itself so people can listen. The importance of this album is too hard to overestimate. Three of the songs featured are genre defining anthems for punk. Whether they should be or not, they are used as benchmarks, specimens for what the genre should sound like. If someone asked you to explain or define punk music, what album would you choose? Exactly. If you didn’t choose this album it was a deliberate choice out of some critical decision that the band are ‘just a big joke man, they’re not even real punk’. Your pseudo-selection is only going to be a hindrance on whoever you’re explaining to. It was ferocity people hadn’t heard before.

Finally there was a band and an anti- pin up front man shouting his anger and discontent of the establishment, representing the alternative world never seen on TV or in newspapers. Many people argue that The SexPistols were the simultaneous birth and death of punk. The idea of shouting and spitting everything that needed to be said in a brisk thirty minutes before burning out as quickly as they appeared.

The future musicians and artists they inspired is an endless list and continues to expand. You can argue that we wouldn’t even have the Manchester post-punk scene which evolved throughout the mid seventies thanks to McLaren’s planning and vision. Ultimately they were a manufactured boy band and only really a marketing tool for McLaren to use. The irony of how explosively popular and historical the band became is probably not lost on anyone closely involved. Even if critics now consider the album less significant or authentic to punk as it was known, it’s far too embedded into British music and culture to change anything. It would be fair to say, even after those god-awful butter adverts Johnny did, The Sex Pistols still have the last laugh.

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