Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols

Infobox musical artist |
Name = Sex Pistols

Img_capt = The Sex Pistols in 1977. Left to right: Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, and Steve Jones, with drummer Paul Cook in the background. The photo was taken during the video shoot for "God Save the Queen".
Img_size =
Background = group_or_band
Alias =
Origin = London, England
Instrument =
Years_active = 1975–1979
Label =EMI, A&M, Virgin, Warner Bros.
Associated_acts = Public Image Ltd.
The Professionals
Malcolm McLaren
The Rich Kids
Neurotic Outsiders
Vicious White Kids
Sham Pistols
The Ex Pistols
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Current_members = John Lydon
Steve Jones
Paul Cook
Glen Matlock
Past_members = Sid Vicious
The Sex Pistols are an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. The band originally comprised vocalist Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock (replaced by Sid Vicious). Although their initial career lasted only three years and produced only four singles and one studio album, "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols", the Sex Pistols have been described by the BBC as "the definitive English punk rock band."cite web | author= Artist Profiles | year=| title="Artist Profiles: Sex Pistols"|| url= | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] The Pistols are widely credited with initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom [cite web | author= | year=| title="The birth of punk" | work=Independent News and Media Limited (UK)| url= | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] and creating the first generation gap within rock and roll.cite web | author= Robb, John| year= 2005 | title="The Birth of Punk" | work=The Independent (UK)| url= | accessmonthday= 15 October | accessyear=2006]

The Sex Pistols emerged as a response to the "increasingly safe and bloated" progressive rockcite web | author= | year=2001| title="The Sex Pistols " | work=Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll | url= | accessmonthday=September 11 | accessyear=2006] and manufactured pop music of the mid-1970s. The band created controversies which captivated Britain, [cite web | author= | year=| title="2006 inductees" | work=The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame | url= | accessmonthday= 11 October | accessyear=2006] but often eclipsed their music.Robb, John, "Punk Rock: An Oral History", Elbury Press, 2006. ISBN 0-09-190511-7] Their shows and tours repeatedly faced difficulties with organisers and authorities, and public appearances often ended in mayhem. Their 1977 single "God Save the Queen" was regarded as an attack on the British monarchy and British nationalism.cite web | author= | year= 2001| title="Artists A-Z" | work=BBC Radio 1| url= | accessmonthday= 17 October | accessyear=2006]

At the end of a turbulent US tour, Rotten left the band in January 1978. The remaining trio carried on with vocals by Jones, Edward Tudor-Pole and Ronnie Biggs before disbanding in early 1979. Vicious died of a heroin overdose that February. In 1996, Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock reunited for the Filthy Lucre Tour; they staged two further reunion shows in 2002, and undertook tours in 2003, 2007 and 2008. On 24 February 2006, the Sex Pistols were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum "a piss stain". [cite web | last=Sprague| first=David| date= 24 February 2006| title="Sex Pistols Flip Off Hall of Fame " | work=Rolling Stone | url=| accessdaymonth= 21 February | accessyear=2008]


Origins and early days

The Sex Pistols evolved from The Strand, a band formed in 1972 with Jones on vocals, Cook on drums and Wally Nightingale on guitar. Early line-ups also included Jim Mackin (now a GP practising in Lincolnshire) on organ, as well as Stephen Hayes, and later Del Noones, on bass.O'Shea, Mick, "The Early Days of the Sex Pistols: "Only Anarchists Are Pretty"", Helter Skelter Publishing (2004), p. 29. ISBN 1-900924-93-5. ] By 1973 the band members were spending time at Don Letts's Acme Attractions and the more upmarket Let It Rock, a 1950s-themed clothes shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea, area of London. Let It Rock was owned by former New York Dolls manager Malcolm McLaren and his partner Vivienne Westwood; the shop specialised in "anti-fashion", selling the drapes, slashed T-shirts, brothel creepers and fetish gear later popularised by the punk movement. As Rotten 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 many of its primary members: Jordan, Soo Catwoman, Captain Sensible, John Ritchie (later Sid Vicious), Jah Wobble, Gene October, Mick Jones, Tony James and Marco Pirroni, all reacting against the fashion of long hair and flared jeans that prevailed in the early 1970s.

McLaren took over management of the band around this time. Renamed The Swankers,Frame, Pete, "The Complete Rock Family Trees", Omnibus Press (1993), p. 29. ISBN 0-7119-3449-5.] they began rehearsing at the Crunchy Frog, a studio near the London Docklands. In 1974, they played their first gig at Tom Salter's Café in London. Noones was ejected from the band shortly afterwards, due to his unreliability and unwillingness to rehearse.

Johnny Rotten joins the band

Glen Matlock was recruited as bass player in early 1975. Around this time, Jones and Nightingale began to argue over the band's musical direction, and Nightingale departed soon afterwards. In August 1975, John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) was spotted by Jones at the now renamed and restyled SEX boutique. 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. John had something special, but when he spoke he was a real asshole—but smart."Lydon, John, with Keith and Kent Zimmerman. "Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs". St. Martin's Press, 1994. ISBN 0-312-11883-X ] Though he had never considered singing before, after miming along to Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" on the shop juke box, Rotten was asked to join as vocalist. Savage, Jon. "England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock". Faber and Faber, 1991. ISBN 0-312-28822-0] Rotten and his circle of friends were by now dressing in the torn-shirt, S&M-inspired clothing promoted by Vivienne Westwood.cite web | author= Bell-Price, Shannon | year=2006| title="Vivienne Westwood and the Postmodern Legacy of Punk Style"| work=The Metropolitan Museum of Art| url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] The band's core group of followers—including Siouxsie Sioux, 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.cite web | author= | year=| title="The Bromley Contingent"|| url=| accessmonthday= 9 October | accessyear=2006] Their radical fashion ignited a trend that was adopted by the new fans the band attracted.

"NME" journalist Nick Kent used to jam occasionally with the band, but left upon Rotten's recruitment. According to Rotten, "When I came along, I took one look at him and said, 'No. That has to go.' He's never written a good word about me since" Following Kent's departure, Cook began to feel that Jones might not be capable enough alone on guitar, and the band placed an advertisement in "Melody Maker": "Wanted—Whizz kid guitarist, Not older than 20, Not worse looking than Johnny Thunders" (referring to a leading member of the New York punk scene). Matlock, Glen and Silverton, Peter, "I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol", Omnibus Press, 1990] Steve New answered the advert, and played with the band for a few weeks, before he too departed.

One of McLaren's first acts as manager was to rename the band. Among the options considered were Le Bomb, Subterraneans, Beyond and Teenage Novel. The band's first gig as the Sex Pistols was arranged by Matlock, who was studying at Saint Martins College. The band played at the school on 6 November 1975. The plugs were pulled before they finished their set. This gig was followed by other performances at colleges and art schools around London.

In early 1976, the Sex Pistols began to play larger venues such as the 100 Club and the Nashville. On 4 June 1976, at the invitation of Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley (who would soon form the Buzzcocks), the band played their first gig in Manchester. Their performance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall inspired a punk rock boom in the city. Nolan, David, "I Swear I Was There: The Gig That Changed the World", Independent Music Press, 2007. ISBN 0-9549-7049-7] Two newly formed London punk rock acts, The Clash and The Damned, made their live debuts opening for the Sex Pistols on 4 July and 6 July, respectively. On 3 September 1976, the Pistols played their first concert outside Britain, at the opening of the Club De Chalet Du Lac in Paris. Their first major tour of Britain soon followed, lasting from mid-September to early October.

EMI and the Grundy incident

Following a showcase gig at London's first punk festival, held in October 1976 at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, the Sex Pistols signed to the major label EMI. The band's first single, "Anarchy in the U.K.", released on 26 November 1976, served as a statement of intent—full of wit, anger and visceral energy. Despite a common perception that punk bands couldn't play their instruments, contemporary music press reviews and live recordings reveal the Pistols to have been a tight, competent and ferocious live band.cite web | author= Don't Care, Peter| year= 1977| title="Club Lafayette, Wolverhampton, UK 21/12/77" || url= | accessmonthday= 10 October | accessyear=2006] Coon, Caroline, "Parade Of The Punks", Melody Maker, 2 October 1976] cite web | author= Young, Charles M| year= 1977| title="Rock Is Sick and Living in London" | work=Rolling Stone| url= | accessmonthday= 10 October | accessyear=2006]

Their 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's "Today" programme. Appearing as last-minute replacements for fellow EMI artists Queen, band and entourage took full advantage of the green room facilities, and consumed significant amounts of alcohol. During the interview, Rotten used the word "shit", and host Bill Grundy, who was apparently drunk at the time, flirted openly with Siouxsie Sioux: "We'll meet afterwards, shall we?" This prompted the following exchange between the host and Steve Jones::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. [cite book | last = Southall | first = Brian | title = 90 Days At EMI | year = 2007 | publisher = Bobcat Books Ltd., London | pages = p. 52 | id = ISBN 1-84609-779-9]

" led with "Punk? Call it Filthy Lucre"—phrases Lydon adopted for Pistols projects many years later. Thames Television suspended Grundy, and though he was later reinstated, the interview effectively ended his career. [cite web | author= | year=2002| title="Manchester Celebrities: Bill Grundy" | work=Manchester 2002 | url= | accessmonthday= 14 October | accessyear=2006]

The episode created mass publicity for the band and brought punk into the mainstream. The Pistols set out on the Anarchy Tour of the UK, though many of the concerts were either crowded by hostile press or cancelled by organisers or local authorities. In a television interview, London councillor Bernard Brook Partridge declared, "Some of these groups would be vastly improved by sudden death ... I would like to see someone dig a huge hole and bury the lot of them in it."cite web | author= | year=2002| title="The Sex Pistols ARE punk" | work=The Filth and the Fury Official Website| url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006]

Following the end of the tour in December 1976, EMI arranged a series of concerts for January 1977 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam.cite web | author= Artist Profiles | year=| title="On This Day": 1977 - EMI fires Sex Pistols" || url= | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] But before boarding the plane at London Heathrow Airport, the band reportedly spat on each other and verbally abused airport staff. "One witness claimed the Sex Pistols were doing something so disgusting that she could not repeat it for publication ... it became generally believed Jones had been vomiting on old ladies in the preflight lounge," reported "Rolling Stone". EMI released the band from their contract two days later. "I don't understand it," Rotten remarked at the time. "All we're trying to do is destroy everything." [cite web | author= Album Review | year=2004| title="Anarchy in the U.K." | work=Rolling Stone| url= | accessmonthday= 10 October | accessyear=2006]

Sid Vicious joins the band

The Paradiso gigs would be their last with Matlock, who parted company with the band in February 1977. According to popular legend, he was sacked because he "liked The Beatles", but Steve Jones later claimed the reason was that Matlock didn't "fit in" with the others, stating, obliquely, that Matlock was "always washing his feet". [cite web | author= McKenna, Kristine| year=2005| title="Q&A with Steve Jones" | work=Rhino Magazine | url=| accessmonthday= 3 October | accessyear=2006] Matlock now claims to have quit voluntarily, mainly because of an increasingly acrimonious relationship with Rotten. Coon, Caroline, "1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion", Omnibus Press, 1977. ISBN 0-7119-0051-5] Matlock immediately formed his own band, Rich Kids, with Midge Ure, Rusty Egan and Steve New.

Matlock was replaced by Rotten's friend and self-appointed "ultimate Sex Pistols fan" Butt, Malcolm, "Sid Vicious - Rock'n'roll Star", Plexus Publishing Ltd, 2003. ISBN 0-85965-340-4] Sid Vicious (Simon John Ritchie), previously drummer of Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Flowers of Romance. McLaren approved Vicious as a member on account of his look and "punk attitude", despite his limited musical abilities. 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 Simon John Ritchie—the future Vicious—she had been recommending.

According to 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."cite web | author=Robinson, Charlotte | year=2006| title="So Tough: The Boy Behind the Sid Vicious Myth"| work=PopMatters| url= | accessmonthday= 14 October | accessyear=2006] Lydon later recalled, "The first rehearsals with Sid were hellish. Everyone agreed he had the look. Sid tried real hard ... but boy, he couldn't play bass." 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 McLaren story..." Vicious's amplifier was often turned down, or off, during live performances, [ Savage, Jon, "England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock", Faber and Faber, 1991] and most of the bass parts on the band's later recordings were played by either Jones or Matlock.

Membership in the Sex Pistols had a progressively destructive effect on Vicious. As Rotten 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." Vicious responded by actively cultivating a notorious persona. Early in 1977, he met Nancy Spungen, a drug addict and occasional prostitutecite web | author= | year= | title="Sid Vicious"| | url= | accessmonthday= 15 October | accessyear=2006] from New York with a history of severe emotional problems. Spungen is commonly thought to be responsible for introducing Vicious to heroin, and the emotional co-dependency between the couple alienated Vicious from the other members of the band. Rotten said, "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”

On 10 March 1977, at a press ceremony held outside Buckingham Palace, the Sex Pistols signed to A&M Records. They returned to the A&M offices for what would become an unruly party. Sid Vicious trashed the managing director's office and vomited on his desk. Under pressure from its own employees, artists and distributors, A&M broke contract with the Pistols six days later. Vicious debuted with the band at the Screen on the Green in London on 3 April 1977. The following month the band signed with Virgin Records, their third new label in little more than half a year. The Pistols' second single, "God Save the Queen", was released by Virgin on 27 May. Though widely perceived as a personal attack on Queen Elizabeth II, Rotten later stated that the song was not aimed at her specifically, but was instead intended to critique the deference given to royalty in general. However, the perceived disrespect to the monarchy caused widespread public outcry. The record was banned from airplay by the BBC, whose Radio 1 dominated music broadcasting. Rotten later remarked, "We had declared war on the entire country—without meaning to!"

During the week of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, the single reached number one in the "NME" chart, but only number two in the official UK chart. Many suspected that the data had been massaged, believing that the record had actually qualified for the top spot, but that the charts had been rigged to prevent a spectacle. [cite web | author= Petridis, Alexis | year= 2002| title="Leaders of the Banned" | work=Guardian Unlimited (UK) | url=,,735307,00.html | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] cite web | author= Number 1s Index | year=| title="Quirks Of The Number One Position" | | url= | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] At least one radio station announced the song at number one, but refused to play it, as they had been advised it might incite disruptions of the national celebration. [cite web | author= Petridis, Alexis | year= 2002| title="Leaders of the Banned" | work=Guardian Unlimited (UK) | url=,,735307,00.html | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] [cite web | author= | year= 2001| title="Sex Pistols may play jubilee gig" | | url= | accessmonthday= 17 October | accessyear=2006]

The Pistols marked the Jubilee, and the success of their record, by chartering a private boat, intending to perform live while sailing down the River Thames, passing Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. The event ended in chaos, however, when the boat was raided by police, despite a license to perform having been granted. McLaren, the band, and many of their entourage were taken into custody when the vessel docked. [cite web | author=Street-Porter, Janet | year= 2002| title="Jubilee!"| work=The Independent (UK) | url= | accessmonthday= 17 October | accessyear=2006]

Violent attacks on punk fans were on the rise; on 18 June Rotten himself was assaulted by a knife-wielding gang outside Islington's Pegasus pub, causing tendon damage to his arm. [cite web | author= | year= | title="Sex Pistols Diary: 1977" | | url= | accessmonthday= 22 September | accessyear=2006] A tour of Scandinavia, planned to start at the end of the month, was consequently delayed until mid-July. 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. [cite web | author= Morley, Paul| year=2006| title="A Northern Soul" | work=Observer Music Monthly | url=,,1777016,00.html | accessmonthday= 20 September | accessyear=2006]

"Never Mind the Bollocks"

"Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" was recorded between March and June 1977, in Wessex Studios, Highbury, London, [cite web | author= | year= | title="Wessex Studios: Highbury" | work= | url= | accessmonthday= 14 October | accessyear=2006] and produced by Chris Thomas, who had worked with Roxy Music. Due to Vicious's lack of musical ability, the bass parts on "Never Mind the Bollocks" were performed by Steve Jones. 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." Although Vicious did record on one occasion, his contribution was later over-dubbed. Jones recalls, "We just let him do it, innit. When he left I dubbed another part on, leaving Sid's down low. I think it might be barely audible on the track."

"Never Mind the Bollocks" was released on 28 October 1977, [cite book | last = Savage | first = Jon | title = England's Dreaming | year = 1991 | publisher = Faber & Faber, London | pages = p. 414 | id = ISBN 0-571-22720-1] to mixed reviews. "Rolling Stone" praised the album, comparing its sound to "two subway trains crashing together under 4 feet of mud, victims screaming", and applauded the band for playing "with an energy and conviction that is positively transcendent in its madness and fever". [Nelson, Paul, 1977, "When the father-house burns...", "Rolling Stone", issue 259] Some critics, however, were disappointed that the album contained versions of all four previously released singles, and considered the release to be effectively a "Greatest Hits" album. [cite web | author= | year= 2004 | title="When the father-house burns..." |
url= | accessmonthday= 14 October | accessyear=2006
] The album has come to be recognized as one of the most influential rock recordings since the genre's beginnings.cite web | author= Huey, Steve | year=2005| title="Never Mind Nirvana....Here's The Sex Pistols" || url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] [cite web | author= | year=2006| title="2006 Q Magazine — 100 Greatest Albums Ever" | work=10 Years Of | url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] [cite web | author=Johnson, Martin | year= | title="Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols" | work=Barnes and Noble| url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] A 2005 "Allmusic" critique describes it as "one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time". [cite web | author= Huey, Steve | year=2005| title="Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols" || url=| accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006]

The album title caused difficulties for the band. Boots, W.H. Smith and Woolworth's refused to stock the album, a Conservative MP condemned it as "a symptom of the way society is declining" and the Independent Television Companies Association refused to carry its TV advertising campaign. [Collins, Andrew, 1998, "Never Mind the Bollocks", "Q" Magazine] In Nottingham a record outlet was threatened with prosecution for displaying "indecent printed matter". The case was overturned when defending QC John Mortimer produced expert witnesses who were able to demonstrate that the word "bollocks" was an Old English term for a priest. [Charlesworth, Simon J., "A Phenomenology of Working Class Experience" Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000] Although the word in popular slang means testicles, in the context of the Pistols' album title it is primarily intended to signify "nonsense". Steve Jones had suggested the title—he claimed unwittingly—inspired by two friends who owned a hot dog stand. According to his account, they would routinely interrupt him mid-sentence, exclaiming "Oh, never mind the bollocks".

The Sex Pistols' final UK performance took place at Ivanhoe's in Huddersfield, on Christmas Day 1977. The band played a matinee and evening show as part of a benefit for the families of striking firemen. The location of the gigs was not announced until shortly before the venue opened, a tactic the band was then employing regularly to avoid the sort of attention that had led to earlier cancellations.

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 for December 1977, it was delayed due to American authorities' reluctance to issue visas to band members with criminal records.cite web | author= | year=2006| title="Sex Pistols Biography"| work=The Filth and the Fury Official Website| url= | accessmonthday= 3 October | accessyear=2006] Though highly anticipated by fans and media, the tour was plagued by in-fighting, poor planning and physically belligerent audiences.cite web | author= White, David| year= | title="Sex Pistols"| Classic Rock| url= | accessmonthday= 14 October | accessyear=2006] McLaren has admitted that he purposely booked redneck bars to provoke hostile situations.Crabtree, Steve " [ Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols] ", BBC documentary (2004).] Over the course of the two weeks, Vicious, by now heavily addicted to heroin,cite web | author=Huey, Steve | year=2005| title="Sid Vicious: Biography"|| url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] began to live up to his stage name. According to Rotten, "He finally had an audience of people who would behave with shock and horror. Sid was easily led by the nose."

Early in 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".Klein, Howie, "Sex Pistols: Tour Notes", New York Rocker, February 1978] Suffering from heroin withdrawal during a show in Dallas, Texas, he spat blood at a woman who had climbed onstage and punched him in the face. 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 [cite web | author= | year=2006| title="Sex Pistols Biography pt3"| work=The Filth and the Fury Official Website| url=| accessmonthday= 3 October | accessyear=2006] 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 in San Francisco, a disillusioned Rotten introduced the band's encore saying, "You'll get one number and one number only 'cause I'm a lazy bastard." That one number was a Stooges cover, "No Fun". In the closing lines, sneering at the audience, Rotten declared, "This is no fun, at all." After the performance Rotten addressed the audience directly—"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Good night"—before throwing down his microphone and walking offstage. Cooper, Mark, "The Sex Pistols: Winterland, San Francisco", Record Mirror, 28 January 1978] He later observed, "I hated the whole scenario. It was a farce. I felt cheated. Sid was completely out of his brains—just a waste of space. Malcolm wouldn't speak to 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 anything. It was all very bitter and confusing."

On 17 January 1978, Rotten announced his departure from the Sex Pistols. Vicious departed for New York, while McLaren, Cook and Jones took off for a working vacation in Rio de Janeiro. Rotten found himself without money or a means of getting home. He later described the 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." [cite web | author= Das, Lina| year=2006| title="Jolly Rotten"| work=Daily Mail, Weekend Magazine| url= | accessmonthday= 4 October | accessyear=2006] He eventually 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 band Devo, and tried to install Rotten as their lead singer. Devo declined the offer.

The Sex Pistols continued, briefly, with Cook, Jones and Vicious. Attempts were made at finding a new frontman, but the band ended up with all three members taking lead vocal turns alongside guest vocalists. The group did not perform live in the post-Rotten period, but the majority of the recordings from this time were later released.


After leaving the Pistols, Johnny Rotten reverted to his birth name of Lydon, and formed Public Image Ltd with former Clash member Keith Levene and school friend Jah Wobble. [cite web | author= Ruhlmann, William | year=2005| title="Public Image Ltd." | | url= | accessmonthday= 12 October | accessyear=2006] The band went on to score a UK Top 10 hit with their debut single, 1978's "Public Image". The following year PIL recorded the post-punk classic "Metal Box".Reynolds, Simon, "Rip it up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–1984", Faber and Faber, 2006. ISBN 0-571-21570-X] In 1978 Lydon had initiated legal proceedings against McLaren and his management company, Glitterbest. Among the claims were non-payment of royalties, improper usage of the title "Johnny Rotten", unfair contractual obligations, [cite web | author=Roekens, Karsten | year=2000–2006| title="PiL chronology" | | url=| accessmonthday= 11 October | accessyear=2006] and damages for "all the criminal activities that took place".cite web | author= Album Review| year=1999| title="Plastic Box" | work=The Times, UK| url= | accessmonthday= 4 October | accessyear=2006]

Vicious relocated to New York, and with Nancy Spungen acting as his manager, began to perform as a solo artist. He recorded a live album, 1979's "Sid Sings", backed by "The Idols" featuring Arthur Kane and Jerry Nolan of the New York Dolls. 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.cite web | author= | year=1978| title="Sex Pistol Vicious on murder charge " || url= | accessmonthday= 15 October | accessyear=2006] 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." Out again, he was charged with assault for smashing a beer mug in the face of Todd Smith, Patti Smith's brother. Vicious was arrested 9 December 1978 and sent to Rikers Island jail for 55 days. On 2 February 1979, he died of a heroin overdose after a party held to celebrate his release on bail.Silverton, Peter, "Sid Vicious's mum", The Observer (UK), 1996] He was only 21. 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." [cite web | author= Gilmore, Mikal | year=1980 | title="John Lydon improves his Public Image" | work=Rolling Stone | url= | accessmonthday= 4 October | accessyear=2006] A fictionalised account of Vicious's relationship with Spungen is the focus of the 1986 film "Sid and Nancy", directed by Alex Cox. Lydon has been publicly critical of the film, taking issue both with its portrayal of the main characters and the speculation that Vicious and Spungen had formed a suicide pact.

McLaren had wanted for some time to make a film featuring the Sex Pistols. In 1977 he hired Russ Meyer to direct a script, "Who Killed Bambi?", he had written with Roger Ebert. After only a day-and-a-half's shooting production ceased when members of the crew, in protest over unpaid monies owed by McLaren, walked off the set. [cite web | author= Lilith eZine| year=2005 | title="Meyer: The Father of Softcore Erotica"| work= Lilith Gallery of Toronto| url= | accessmonthday= 3 September | accessyear=2006] A second attempt was made in mid-1978, with Cook and Jones starring in the McLaren-scripted "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle". Directed by Julien Temple, the movie is McLaren's fictionalised account of the Pistols' history; in it he claims to have controlled and manipulated the band from its inception. [ Gross, Jason, "Rock Doc Pick: The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle," Film Comment, Volume: 41. Issue: 3., May-June 2005] The soundtrack featured Jones, occasionally Cook or Vicious, and sometimes Edward Tudor-Pole, trading on their vocals and engaging in McLaren-concocted gimmicks, such as recording two songs on the album with notorious British criminal Ronnie Biggs. [cite web | author= | year=2005| title="Sex Pistols 'Swindle' Again" | work=Billboard magazine| url= | accessmonthday= 9 September | accessyear=2006] Four Top 10 singles were culled from the soundtrack album, one more than had appeared on "Never Mind the Bollocks".

Cook and Jones continued to work through guest appearances [cite web | author= | year= | title="STEVE JONES "Boys will be boys"" | | url= | accessmonthday= 10 October | accessyear=2006] and as session musicians, and later formed The Professionals. In the mid-1980s, Jones joined then band Chequered Past and then released two solo albums, "Mercy" and "Fire and Gasoline". After playing with the band Chiefs of Relief, Cook currently plays in Man-Raze. Matlock has been involved in various bands, including The Rich Kids (with Midge Ure) in 1978 and The Philistines since 2000, and has released several solo albums. McLaren went on to manage Adam & the Ants and Bow Wow Wow, and in the mid-1980s released a number of hit records as a solo artist. [cite web | author= All Media Guide | year=2005| title="Malcolm McLaren" || url= | accessmonthday= 3 October | accessyear=2006]

After a bitter, drawn-out legal case, in January 1986 the four surviving members of the Sex Pistols as well as the estate of Sid Vicious were awarded control of the band's heritage, including publishing rights, master recordings, film footage and exclusive rights to the name "Sex Pistols". [ Verrico, Lisa, "Interview with John Lydon", The Times (UK), March 1999] This access enabled the production of the 2000 Julien Temple documentary "The Filth and the Fury", formulated as an attempt to tell the story from the band's point of view, in contrast to the McLaren-oriented "Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle". [cite web | author= Swietek, Frank | year=2000| title="The Filth and the Fury" || url= | accessmonthday= 18 October | accessyear=2006]

On 9 March 2006 the band sold the rights to their back catalogue to Universal Music Group. The sale was criticized by some commentators as a "sell out". [cite web | author= | year=2006| title="Sex Pistols sell out" | | url= | accessmonthday=6 September | accessyear=2006]


The original four surviving members of the Sex Pistols reformed in 1996 for the six-month Filthy Lucre Tour, which included dates in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Japan, as well as appearances at the Phoenix Festival. In 2002—the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee—they played the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London. In 2003 they toured North America for three weeks as part of their Piss Off Tour.

In November 2006, the Sex Pistols were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honour that the band members turned down, with an "obscene gesture" and a suggestion that the Hall of Fame "kiss this". [cite web | author= | year=2006| title="Sex Pistol to Rock Hall: 'Kiss this!' | | url= | accessmonthday=6 September | accessyear=2006] 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 in it." [cite web | author= Brand, Madeleine | year=2006| title="Sex Pistols' Steve Jones, Just Saying No" | | url= | accessmonthday=6 October | accessyear=2006]

They reunited for five gigs at the Brixton Academy and one each in Manchester and Glasgow in November 2007. [ [ BBC News Online] - Sex Pistols reunion is expanded] They announced a series of European festival appearances in 2008, 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." [cite web | author= | year=2008| title=Sex Pistols hoeven niet meer terug te komen op Lowlands | | url= | accessmonthday=18 August | accessyear=2008] That same year, they released the DVD "There'll Always Be An England", combining footage from two of the 2007 Brixton Academy appearances.

Influence and cultural legacy

The Sex Pistols are remembered for arousing the passions of their audience beyond the immediate impact of their music. 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 the time." The degree to which the Pistols' anti-establishment stance was spontaneous as opposed to cultivated is a matter of debate. Critic Bill Wyman argues that "England's depressed social psyche at the time" made the emergence of a band like the Pistols rather likely. Wyman acknowledges that Rotten'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. [Wyman, Bill. [ The Revenge of the Sex Pistols] , "Salon", April 2000] While many of the Sex Pistols' outrages were plotted, the most famous was evidently not.

The day after the Sex Pistols' infamous appearance on the Bill Grundy "Today" show, their story appeared on the front page of every national newspaper in Great Britain. "Rolling Stone" suggested the band, responding "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." While they were not the first punk band, the Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks" is a singular achievement within the punk movement and an important event in the history of popular music in general. It is regularly cited on lists of the greatest albums ever: In 2006 it was voted #27 in "Q" magazine's "100 Greatest Albums Ever", [cite web | author= | year=2006| title="2006 Q Magazine — 100 Greatest Albums Ever" | work=ALLOFMP3| url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] while "Rolling Stone" listed it at #2 in its 1987 "Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years". [ [ Rolling Stone Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years] , "Rolling Stone", November 1987] In 2004, "Rolling Stone" ranked The Sex Pistols #58 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. [cite web| title = The Immortals: The First Fifty| work = Rolling Stone Issue 946| publisher = Rolling Stone| url =] [cite web| title = The Sex Pistols| work = Billie Joe Armstrong. Rolling Stone Issue 946| publisher = Rolling Stone| url =]

The Sex Pistols directly inspired the style, and often the formation itself, of many punk and post-punk bands during their brief existence. The Clash [cite web | author= | year= | title="The Clash were classic punk" || url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] and Siouxsie & The Banshees [cite web | author= Ankeny, Jason| year= 2005 | title="Siouxsie & The Banshees" | work=Verve Forecast| url= | accessmonthday= 7 October | accessyear=2006] are among those in London's "inner circle" of early punk bands that credit the Pistols. On 4 June 1976, still early in their career, the Sex Pistols performed to a crowd of around 40 people at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It was to become one of the most important and mythologized events in rock history. Among the audience were many who would later form bands or otherwise popularise the embryonic punk movement, including Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, who organised the gig and would soon found the Buzzcocks; Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis and Peter Hook, later of Joy Division; Mark E. Smith, later of The Fall; Morrissey, later of The Smiths; and Anthony H. Wilson, founder of Factory Records.Savage, John, "Joy Division: Someone Take These Dreams Away", Mojo, July 1994] cite web | author= | year=2006| title="Sex Pistols gig: the truth" | | url= | accessmonthday=21 September | accessyear=2006] In addition to the groups they directly inspired, the Sex Pistols influenced many later bands. Among those who have acknowledged their debt to the Pistols are The Stone Roses, [Green, Alex. "The Stone Roses", p. 98. New York and London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006.] Nirvana, [cite web | author= | year= | title="Kurt Donald Cobain" | work=The Biography Channel| url= | accessmonthday= 11 October | accessyear=2006] [cite web | author= Humphrey, Clark | year= 2001 | title="The Real Seattle Music Story" | work=MISCMEDIA.COM | url= | accessmonthday= 11 October | accessyear=2006] NOFX, [ [ Q & A | Read Answers | NOFX ] ] Oasis, Green Day, [cite web | author= Armstrong, Billie Joe| year= 2005 | title="The Sex Pistols" | work=Rolling Stone| url= | accessmonthday= 28 October | accessyear=2006] Venom [ [ THE 7 GATES OF HELL-INTERVIEW WITH ABADDON AND CRONOS ] ] and Guns N' Roses. [cite web | author=IMDb Bio | year= 2003 | title="Biography for Duff McKagan" | | url= | accessmonthday= 28 October | accessyear=2006]

In 1997, paleontologists Jonathan M. Adrain and Gregory D. Edgecombe named a series of fossil trilobite species in honour of the Pistols' members: "Arcticalymene rotteni", "A. jonesi", "A. cooki", "A. matlocki" and "A. viciousi". [Mark Isaak, [ Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature: Etymologies] (personal website). Retrieved on 1 September 2006.] [ Ben Goldacre, 'Bad Science' column: " [,12980,1145808,00.html Alternative medicine on the NHS?] ", "The Guardian", 12 February 2004. Retrieved on 1 September 2006.]

Christopher Nolan, director of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight", has said that Johnny 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. So he's not just a bank robber or an ordinary criminal who is out for material gain. His chief motivation would be that of an anarchist." [ [ Punk rock pioneer an inspiration for Heath Ledger's Joker] , CV5 Coventry Communities, 17 July 2008. Retrieved on 18 July 2008.] Ledger's costar Christian Bale has claimed that Ledger drew inspiration from watching tapes of Sid Vicious. [cite web | author=Jeffries, Mark | date= 2008-07-29 | title=Heath Ledger based Joker on Sex Pistol Sid Vicious | | url= | accessdate=2008-09-12]

Band members

Current members

*Johnny Rotten – lead vocals (1975–1978, 1996–present)
*Steve Jones – guitar, bass (studio), backing vocals (1975–1978, 1996–present)
*Glen Matlock – bass, backing vocals (1975–1977, 1996–present)
*Paul Cook – drums, backing vocals (1975–1978, 1996–present)

Former members

*Sid Vicious – bass, backing vocals (1977–1978)

Post-Rotten Sex Pistols

People who sang on "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" other than Johnny Rotten include:
*Paul Cook – lead vocals on "Silly Thing" (1978)
*Steve Jones – lead vocals on "Lonely Boy", "EMI (Orchestral)", "Friggin' In The Riggin'" and the single release of "Silly Thing" (1978)
*Ronnie Biggs – lead vocals on "No One Is Innocent", "Belsen Was a Gas" (1978)
*Malcolm McLaren – lead vocals on "God Save The Queen (Symphony)", "You Need Hands" (1979)
*Edward Tudor-Pole – lead vocals on "Rock Around the Clock" , "Who Killed Bambi?", "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" (1979)
*Sid Vicious – lead vocals on "My Way", "C'mon Everybody", "Something Else" (1978)


Studio album

*"Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" (28 October 1977) # 1 UK, # 106 US Platinum

Compilations, live albums, and bootlegs

*"Spunk" (1977 bootleg, officially released in 2006)
*"The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" (2 March 1979) # 7 UK - Various Artists Album
*"" (interviews and radio spots) (3 August 1979) # 6 UK
*"Flogging a Dead Horse" (compilation) (8 February 1980) # 23 UK
*"" (live) (1985)
*"Kiss This" (5 October 1992) # 10 UK
*"Filthy Lucre Live" (29 July 1996) # 26 UK
*"Jubilee" (3 June 2002) # 29 UK
*"Sex Pistols Box Set" (3 June 2002) # 160 UK
*"Raw and Live" (2004)


* from "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols"
** 26 November 1976 - "Anarchy in the UK" # 38 UK
** 27 May 1977 - "God Save the Queen" # 2 UK
** 1 July 1977 - "Pretty Vacant" # 6 UK, # 93 US
** 14 October 1977 - "Holidays in the Sun" # 8 UK
* from "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle"
** 30 June 1978 - "No One Is Innocent" # 6 UK
** 23 February 1979 - "Something Else" # 3 UK
** 30 March 1979 - "Silly Thing" # 6 UK
** 22 June 1979 - "C'mon Everybody" # 3 UK
** 5 October 1979 - "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" # 21 UK
** 6 June 1980 - "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" # 21 UK
* from "Kiss This: The Best Of"
** September 1992 - "Anarchy in the UK" (re-issue) # 33 UK
** December 1992 - "Pretty Vacant" (re-issue) # 56 UK
* from "Filthy Lucre Live"
** June 1996 - "Pretty Vacant" (live) # 18 UK
* from "Jubilee: The Best Of"
** 27 May 2002 - "God Save the Queen" (re-issue) # 15 UK
* from "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - 30th Anniversary Edition"
** 1 October 2007 - "Anarchy in the UK" (2nd re-issue) # 70 UK
** 8 October 2007 - "God Save the Queen" (2nd re-issue) # 42 UK
** 15 October 2007 - "Pretty Vacant" (2nd re-issue) # 65 UK
** 22 October 2007 - "Holidays in the Sun" (re-issue) # 74 UK

Further reading

* Burchill, Julie & Tony Parsons, "The Boy Looked at Johnny: The Obituary of Rock and Roll", Pluto Press, 1978. ISBN 0-571-12992-7
* Dalton, David, "El Sid Saint Vicious", St. Martin's Press, July 1997. ISBN 0-312-15520-4
* Lydon, John, (with Keith & Kent Zimmerman), "Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs", St. Martin's Press, May 1994. ISBN 0-312-11883-X
* Marcus, Greil, "Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century", Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-571-23228-0
* Matlock, Glen, Silverton, Pete, "I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol", Faber and Faber, October 1991. ISBN 0-7119-1817-1
* McNeil, Legs, Gillian McCain (ed.), "Please Kill Me", Grove Press, 1996. ISBN 0-349-10880-3
* Monk, Noel, "12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols and America", Harper Paperbacks, 1992. ISBN 0688112749
* Morris, Dennis, "Destroy: Sex Pistols 1977", Creation Books, 2002. ISBN 1-84068-058-X
* Nolan, David, "", Milo Press, May 2001. ISBN 0-9549704-9-7/IMP Books 2006
* Parker, Alan, "Vicious: Too Fast to Live", Creation Books, 2003. ISBN 1-84068-110-1
* Savage, Jon, "England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock", Faber and Faber, 1991. ISBN 0-312-28822-0
* Southall, Brian, "The Sex Pistols: 90 Days At EMI", Omnibus Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84609-779-9
* Vermorel, Fred & Judy, "The Sex Pistols", Omnibus Press, April 1981. ISBN 0-7119-1090-1
* Walsh, Gavin, "God Save the Sex Pistols: A Collector's Guide to the Priests Of Punk", Plexus Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-85965-316-1


* "Sex Pistols Number One" (Julien Temple, 1976) (a short of footage shot at early gigs)
* "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" (Julien Temple, 1979) (McLaren's version of the Pistols story)
* "The Punk Rock Movie" (Don Letts, 1979) (contemporary independent documentary footage)
* "D.O.A." (Lech Kowalski, 1980) (includes footage shot during the Pistols' 1978 US tour, including their final show with Sid Vicious)
* "Sid and Nancy" (Alex Cox, 1986).
* "Sid's Gang" (Andrew Mcleigh, 1999).
* "The Filth and the Fury" (Julien Temple, 2000) (the surviving Pistols' version of events)
* "Blood on the Turntable: The Sex Pistols" (Steve Crabtree, 2004) (BBC documentary)
* "There'll Always Be An England" (Julien Temple, 2008) (Live DVD)


External links

* [ The Sex Pistols Official Site]
* [ God Save The Sex Pistols]
* [ John Lydon Official Site]
* [ The Filth And The Fury]
* [ Photographs by Bob Gruen]
* [ Sex Pistols on Myspace]
* [ Official Sex Pistols on]
* [ Photographs of final British gig, Hudderfield, Christmas Day, 1977]
* [ Sex Pistols on stage in 2008]

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