The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols

Synopsis of Pop Music

"Cause I wanna be anarchy,
It's the only way to be..."

Although they were only together for about two years, the Sex Pistols did more to change the face of popular music that many bands who have been together for twenty. This English quartet popularized punk rock through brutal, frenetic songs like “Anarchy In The UK” and “God Save The Queen,” opening the door for punk-styled hit-makers like the Clash. Their look and music have influenced everyone from Black Flag to Nirvana, and their independent ethic made them a key inspiration for the alternative music scene that would dominate music in the 1990’s.

The Sex Pistols started with the musical partnership of childhood friends Steve Jones and Paul Cook. The two pals spent a lot of time hanging out at an avant-garde fashion shop owned by aspiring manager Malcolm McLaren. This entrepreneur took an interest in the duo and helped them find two more musicians, Glen Matlock and Johnny 'Rotten' Lydon, to form the Sex Pistols. They began to tour clubs around England as they developed a no-holds-barred, raucous style of rock that was topped with confrontational, edgy lyrics by Lydon. They also developed an edgy visual style built around torn clothes and spiky hair.

In late 1976, the Sex Pistols got a record contract with EMI and put out their incendiary first single, “Anarchy In The U.K.” This driving rock song, which opened with the lines “I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist,” became an unlikely Top-40 hit, but EMI soon dropped the band for being too controversial. The Pistols quickly moved on to A&M Records, where they lasted six days before being dropped by worried executives. The group re-signed to Virgin Records and issued the single “God Save The Queen.” Although it was banned from English radio, it sold 150,000 copies in five days.

In early 1977, Sid Vicious finalized the Sex Pistols lineup by replacing Glen Matlock as the bassist. By this time, the Sex Pistols had attracted media attention all over Europe and gained a fervent cult of fans known as ‘The Bromley Contingent.’ This group of fans contained such future pop stars as Billy Idol and Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The Sex Pistols continued to release singles in the U.K. throughout 1977, including “Pretty Vacant” and “Holidays In The Sun”. Both mixed scathing lyrics with driving, straightforward rock to become Top-10 hits in the U.K.

The Sex Pistols soon followed their singles success with their first and only album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. This album, which included all their notorious singles, became one of the most important albums of the 1970’s by setting the standard for all future punk-rock recordings. This album also became the group’s first release in America in 1978. The band also went on tour in the U.S., but only got through eight performances before deciding to split up. In 1979, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle, a film featuring the group, was released and became a cult favorite.

All the members of the Sex Pistols continued to pursue music after the group ended. Vicious recorded a notorious version of "My Way" before falling prey to a fatal drug addiction. Cook and Jones performed solo and also worked with artists like Joan Jett. Lydon went on to form the influential Public Image Limited and also recorded many solo albums. Although the group’s members have continued to pursue solo work in recent years, they did reunite briefly during 1996 (with Matlock on bass) for a 20th anniversary reunion tour. A performance from this tour was recorded and released as Filthy Lucre Live.

Today, the shadow of the Sex Pistols still towers over any rock and roller who wants to be ‘dangerous.’ Their songs have become staples of many an alt-rock band’s repertoire and their style of dress is still imitated by people all over the world today. All in all, not bad for a band with a two-year lifespan.

Artist Release History

1977 - Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex...
1979 - The Great Rock & Roll Swindle
1980 - The Heyday
1980 - Flogging a Dead Horse
1985 - Live Worldwide
1985 - Anarchy in the UK Live
1985 - The Original Pistols Live
1988 - Better Live than Dead
1989 - The Mini Album Plus
1989 - Live and Loud!!
1990 - Live at Chelmsford Top Security Prison
1992 - Live
1992 - Kiss This (compilation)
1996 - Chaos
1996 - Alive
1996 - Filthy Lucre Live
1997 - Live at Winterland 1978
1999 - 76 Club (live)

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (Warner Bros.)

Band Members

Johnny 'Rotten' Lydon vocals
Glen Matlock (1976) bass
Sid Vicious (1976-78) bass
Steve Jones guitar
Paul Cook drums

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