10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Sex Pistols
You probably know the Sex Pistols revolutionized music in their homeland, that they traded in chaos as much as in music and that their influence has carried over to several generations of rebels. But do you know what their connection is to Abba, prog rock, Devo, David Bowie or butter? Catch up on some trivia with this list of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Sex Pistols.
Sid didn’t strum
Once Glen Matlock was ousted from the band, an old pal of John Lydon’s, Sid Vicious, was brought in. One slight problem: He really couldn’t play. So as the band worked on their sole album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks,’ bass duties fell to guitarist Steve Jones, who added a rock solid, simple foundation to the songs that proved just right. “He just played exactly the same thing on the bass as he did on the guitar, just followed the root note one octave down,” noted producer Chris Thomas in a documentary ‘When Albums Ruled The World,’ “and that’s where the power came from.”
These punks dug pop
Though the pristine polished pop music of the one and only ABBA may seem light years away from the loud chaos of the Sex Pistols, there is a connection. Bassist/songwriter Glen Matlock was a lover of great pop songs. Abba wrote some great pop songs. Matlock was so inspired by one of them, ‘S.O.S.’ that he took the riff and mangled it into what would become ‘Pretty Vacant.’
Johnny Rotten, a spudboy?
Shortly after the Pistols infamous final show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Fransisco on January 14, 1978, Virgin Records head Richard Branson proposed that singer John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, join forces with Akron’s finest, Devo. In a 1997 interview with Joe Garden, Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh remembered it this way: “Richard Branson gets us really high ’cause he’s got this big pile of pot on the table, and he goes, “What do you guys think of the Sex Pistols?” When Mothersbaugh said he was sorry they had disbanded, Branson’s replied, “We have Johnny Rotten in the next room, and he wants to be the new lead singer for Devo. If you guys are up for that, we have the press from England here, and they’re ready to take photos and do articles if you guys want to announce right now that Johnny Rotten is the new lead singer for Devo.” Rotten wasn’t actually there, which makes the story even better. “He’s, like, staring at me with this big smile waiting for me to just say, “Yeah, Johnny Rotten can join Devo,” added Mothersbaugh.
Oasis wish they were as good
“It’s extremely provocative,” said Noel Gallagher in the BBC Documentary ‘When Albums Ruled The World,’ describing the Pistols’ one and only album. “Everything that’s gone before that was now deemed f—ing irrelevant once he (Lydon) starts anti-singing.” Indeed, ‘Bollocks’ was enough to solidify the band’s place in history — and that’s rare for a single LP. “That’s it for them, that’s all they had to do, that’s their one statement to the world. Imagine getting it so right once,” Gallagher continued, “I’ve made ten albums, and in my own mind, they don’t match up to that … and I’m an arrogant bastard! And, I’d give them all up to have written that.”
They stole from Ziggy — literally
Steve Jones was not only one rock-solid rhythm guitarist; he was also a master thief. “If I wanted something that T. Rex was wearing the week before, I’d go down to King’s Road and f—in’ steal it,” said Jones in the Sex Pistols documentary ‘The Filth And The Fury.’ Clothes, however, were nothing compared to his greatest heist. “Steve was a kind of kleptomaniac really,” said drummer Paul Cook. “We’d always know a way round the back of the Hammersmith Odeon. David Bowie was playing his Ziggy farewell thing, and while the roadies was asleep, we’d be onstage snipping all the microphones off.” “We had great guitars, amplifiers, great drum kit, everything, but we couldn’t play properly,” Cook added.
They stole from the Modfather — musically
It doesn’t take a musical degree to notice that ‘Holidays In the Sun’ bears more than a passing resemblance to another of the era’s finest discs, ‘In the City’ by the Jam, which was released six months prior. The descending riff is not only similar, it’s the same exact chords, played in the same way — only louder and more metallic. This was alright with ‘In the City’ writer Paul Weller. “I didn’t mind them nicking it — you’ve got to get your ideas from somewhere, haven’t you?” Weller told Uncut magazine in 2007. One night at the Speakeasy Club in London, a drunken Sid Vicious picked a fight with Weller about the song. “He just came up to me and he was going on about ‘Holidays In the Sun’ where they’d nicked the riff from ‘In the City,” said Weller. “He just came up and nutted me. So I returned it.”
Lydon loves butter
Mr. Lydon loves his butter, so much so in fact he appeared in a television ad for Country Life butter in his native U.K. The spot reportedly paid handsomely (around $8 million), which he later claimed he used to fund the 2009 reunion tour by Public Image Ltd., his post-Pistols band. Lydon defended his “sell out” status to the U.K. Sun. “The advert was for a British product. Plus it was the most maddest thing to consider doing. I thought it was very anarchic of the dairy company to want to attach themselves to me. And they treated me with the utmost respect and I love them forever as it allowed me to set up my record label and put out this record.”
He loves prog, too
Well, it’s doubtful he would’ve given Yes the thumbs up, or rushed to the defense of Emerson,Lake & Palmer, but he was never shy about his love for the music of the great Peter Hammill. Van Der Graaf Generator were (and still are) one of rock and roll’s most adventurous outfits, and Hammill, both with and outside of VDGG, was/is a truly visionary artist, something not lost on Lydon when he guested on the Tommy Vance Show on Capitol Radio, July 16, 1977. “Peter Hammill is great. A true original. I’ve just liked him for years” Lydon told Vance, “If you listen to him, his solo albums, I’m damn sure Bowie copied a lot out of that geezer. The credit he deserves, just has not been given to him. I love all his stuff.”
‘Bollocks’ inched its way to gold
Despite it’s historical standing and obvious influence, punk was not a hit in America. Bits and pieced trickled into the mainstream, but it wasn’t until the onset of more pop-leaning New Wave music that mid-America started to get the picture. The Sex Pistols album sold very little upon it’s U.S. release, but it never stopped selling over the years, and eventually, it made the grade, earning gold status in December 1987.
The Fab Four didn’t cost Matlock his job
It’s no secret that Glen Matlock was the true musician in the Pistols. He wrote much of the band’s early material and tried to guide them away from manager Malcolm McLaren’s concept of novelty act. On the strength of his writing, those early singles stood tall. Internal tensions, instigated by McLaren, ultimately forced Matlock out of the band. The story given was that he was kicked out for “liking the Beatles.” While that may have sounded good in punk-era press, the truth was far simpler. Matlock was simply “sick of the bullshit,” as he writes in his autobiography, ‘I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol.’