You Picked It! – The Sex Pistols – ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And this one was really, really close. It was back and forth between The Sex Pistols and Twisted Sister for most of the time and then a couple last minute votes pushed one of the other and that was The Sex Pistols with ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ which is one I’d never sat down and listened to from beginning to end. The votes were as follows:

  1. The Sex Pistols – ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ – 10 votes
  2. Twisted Sister – ‘Under the Blade’ – 8 votes
  3. Wu Tang Clan – ‘Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)’ – 4 votes
  4. The Wallflowers – ‘Exit Wounds’ – 2 votes
  5. Black Sabbath – ‘Paranoid’ – 2 Votes

Thanks to all for participating. The September choices will be up on Saturday!

THE SEX PISTOLS – ‘NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS’

I have never been a fan of punk, at least not until recently. I’ve slowly started diving in. But due to the antics of Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious, this band never made me want to listen to their albums. There was so much hype surrounding them and I really don’t want to listen to a band that is so hyped because it will never live up to expectations…i.e. Nirvana…they sucked then and they suck now and there was so much hype surrounding them. And hell, this band only had one studio album officially. Then why should I even bother and how can a band with only one album be so inspirational or critical to a movement. I still don’t have the answer to that question, but damn is this not an amazing album. Okay, they album lived up to the hype and then some. “DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE”…well, in this case…DO BELIEVE!!!

The album came out on October 28, 1977 in the UK and went to #1 in the UK as well. A month later it was released in the US, but only went to #106 so they were definitely bigger in the UK which makes sense as they are a British band and Britain was in the midst of a huge punk wave. You already know most of the members of the band with Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious two awesome punk names, but the band had normal sounding names for band members such as Steve Jones and Paul Cook. This album also had former bass player, Glen Matlock though only appearing on one song. Hell, Sid only appeared on two so he was a fairly new member himself.

Okay, I am not going to talk about their history, their influences or anything remotely interesting about the band, because I really only want to go through the songs and since this is my party and I will do what I want to and that is what I am going to do. So turn on the album and let’s walk through song by song. Enjoy…

SIDE ONE:

The first song on the album is “Holidays in the Sun” which was inspired by a holiday the band took to the Isle of Jersey which they were kicked out of and wound up in Berlin and the partying and excess was the basis for the song. The band loved the party atmosphere, the decadence and the Berlin Wall. They took all those feelings and crammed them in the song. I’ll admit I was expecting noise and total rambunctious noise, but what I got was a band that played and sounded great. Johnny’s craziness wasn’t that crazy and he sounded great. They had the punk energy and wildness, but seemed to control it and give us a wonderful song. It is catchy and has a great groove, but still a little nuts.

“Bodies” is a little dark and disturbing and covered the controversial topic of abortion. Apparently it is about a girl named Pauline who lived in a mental hospital and was raped by a nurse. She got out and moved to Birmingham and became a massive punk fan and ended up several abortions and somehow we get a song. It is unbridled energy and rather upsetting song but no denying it is a solid track.

Next we get the more garage rock sounding “No Feelings” which shows Rotten as a self-absorbed asshat and that is exactly what he was going for. The music for the band is not complicated but there is no denying the excellent guitar work of Steve Jones and the expertly niched drumming of Paul Cook. The two are the heart and soul of the band.

“Liar” is an angry song with Johnny Rotten going off about either the Prime Minister or on bass player Glen Matlock depending on who’s story you believe. This is a pure punk song and feels a little off the rails at times especially the Rotten’s rants during the song. He singing is part speaking (or screaming) and occasional singing, but it somehow works. Steve’s guitar playing on this one is some of his best and he gets a great solo.

Next up is “Problems” which was actually created basically on the spot as they had run out of song ideas. To me it sort of feels like it is missing something and was thrown together rather quickly and not well thought out and that is about as punk as you can get. I swear I hear some Stooges influence in it as well which is probably not far from the truth. The repeating of the title “problem” at the end is kind of irritating if I have to come up with a big negative. Not my favorite track, but still not a bad track.

The end of the first half of the album is one of their most famous, “God Save the Queen” which the title is taken from the country’s national anthem. It was banned from any airplay by the BBC as the song is basically completely obliterating the British Monarch and that is very taboo. He doesn’t hold back his disdain for the monarchy and the Queen and turned it in to a great punk track. If there was song that called for anarchy this would be it (and yes, I know he literally calls for it another track later). I love the energy, the angst, the rebellion feel in it and even Rotten sounds great. The song works on all fronts.

SIDE TWO:

The second side kicks off with “Seventeen” and this is punk on full throttle, it is the Seinfeld of punk songs as it is about nothing…or at least doing nothing and having no purpose and celebrating that fact. It is short and sweet…well, it is short. Not a favorite.

Now, we finally get to what I think is their most famous song, “Anarchy in the U.K.” as so many bands have covered this song and the one I’m most familiar with at least. The main riff was developed by former bassist Matlock too bad he didn’t get along with Rotten. The song is pure rebellion and has the energy and fire to start one. If there was ever a song that gave a middle finger to the authorities and the establishment, this is it. There is no denying its intent and you can’t help but gravitate towards and get caught up in the energy swell that bleeds from it. It is the definition of punk!!

“Sub-mission” has a great story behind it. They were told by their manager, Malcolm McLaren, they needed to a song about bondage and submission. Instead, they wrote a song about a a Sub Machine as in a submarine mission. And that my friends is what punk is all about. Turn things on their head. It has a great groove and rhythm section and Steve does a cool thing on the guitar that sounds like a submarine.

Next up is “Pretty Vacant” which may be their biggest hit, but isn’t their most famous. Inspired by Abba’s SOS, apparently, the song is most known for the way Rotten emphasizes the last syllable in the word Vacant to make it sound like a part of the woman’s body and a word the Brits seem to enjoy saying. It opens with a nice guitar riff and then Paul comes in with some great drum fills before Johnny comes barreling in with his vocals. It might be the most pop song on the album and I can see why it was a single.

“New York” is the Pistols going after the posers across the pond. They take full aim at the New York punk scene especially the New York Dolls and tears them a new asshole. There is nothing special about the song and it sounds like a lot of other stuff on the album, but I love a good diss track as much as the next guy.

Lastly, we get to the final track called “EMI”. And yes, based on the title you guessed it correctly that this is an attack on the record label EMI for dropping the band over the “Anarchy in the UK” controversy. The Sex Pistols aren’t afraid to attack anyone or any company. No one is safe or off limits. The chorus catchy because saying E.M.I. actually sounds great together. This one is balls-to-wall energy with a ripping guitar solo, some great rhythm and some dagger flying lyrics by Rotten. It is what punk is all about which is a big F.U. to the establishment!!

Track Listing:

  1. Holidays in the Sun – Keeper
  2. Bodies – Keeper
  3. No Feelings – Keeper
  4. Liar – Keeper
  5. Problems – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  6. God Save the Queen – Keeper
  7. Seventeen – Delete
  8. Anarchy in the U.K. – Keeper
  9. Submission – Keeper
  10. Pretty Vacant – Keeper
  11. New York – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  12. EMI – Keeper

The Track Score is 10 out of 12 or 83%. I have to admit I really loved this album. It wasn’t as crazy and ridiculous as I was expecting. I think I was expecting a band that really couldn’t play and a singer that didn’t really sing and was too out of control to enjoy, but what I got was a polished sound, a band that although kept is simple, it showed some serious chops. Johnny Rotten might be insane live, but the studio version of him is sensational. It captured the craziness, but didn’t let it go overboard so you could understand and enjoy what he was screaming about. I believe the hype and see why this was so inspirational for so many bands. Hard to believe they only had the one album and too bad as well. But I guess that is the most punk thing you could do, one and done!! Overall, my Score is a solid 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as there were a couple missteps but all in all, I would listen to this again and again. I think I need to do some shopping to get a copy of this on vinyl. Thanks for voting for this one!!

62 thoughts on “You Picked It! – The Sex Pistols – ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ – Album Review

  1. Great review🤘it is worth noting that Sid Vicious did not play bass on any of the recordings, even though he is listed, he was such a bad bass player that Steve Jones did all the bass parts for the studio sessions, in addition to all guitar work👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve Jones and Paul Cook are both totally competent musicians. Nonsense says they can’t play Johnny Rotten/Lydon is a great vocal stylist. Even more so in PiL!

    The production is quite good, done by Chris Thomas (worked on Dark Side of the Moon) and Bill Price (would later go on to do the Illusions albums by GNR).

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I presume you’re speaking of “Rise” but Vai is on that whole album.

          The first three PiL records are wicked with Keith Levene. Some of the later ones I like, but the first three are the super innovative stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Back in 1977, I remember some preacher condemning punk rock because he said it made everyone who listened to it become violent. I suggested that before every game, our high school football team should listen to punk rock. Anyway, I know what BS that was and how good this album is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice save. I was really scratching my head over the fact that how can anyone dig Generation X and not Pistols…made no sense to me.

    Listening to Annihilator Never, Neverland at the moment…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right.

        It’s not the first time I’ve ignored the original works of artists in favour of the covered works.

        But in those cases artists took decent album cuts and made them famous.

        For the Sex Pistols the album was huge and I didn’t devote any time to it. Yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wikipedia says that Vicious played on “Bodies” and “God Save the Queen,” but if everyone else says that they buried him in the mix, I’ll believe them because I don’t really care. However, it kind of irritates me that Vicious is still considered the bass player for the band, when he really didn’t contribute much to the first album and was not very good at his instrument.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review John…I thought the same as you until I heard the album but… it is still hard to believe this much recognition over a band with one album…but at the time it did practically start the popular punk movement.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad this one won, it’s an all-timer for me. I have an old LP copy AND a CD lol. It takes a slagging sometimes, but it captured lighting in a bottle and it stands the test of time as an absolute juggernaut, in my book. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha! I think because of all the stuff I saw before was live and thought, these guys sound horrible. I never ventured to listen to this one I guess for that reason. Was never in to the punk stuff. That feeling has been changing over the years though.

          Like

          1. Oh yeah, they were something else, alright, but I think that was what drew me to them. And there’s something about cranking this album full volume in the car on a summer’s day, blasting down the highway to somewhere… I’m glad you’re into it though, it’s an important record, methinks, and not just for the reasons we’re told it is. I can just feel it, primal.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. much better score than I’d give it. I always used to sing “Rob Lowe” in place of problems when he repeated it over and over. listen again! You won’t be able to unhear it! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bought this album when it came out and it’s still in my vinyl collection all these years later. The lyrics of Holidays in the Sun are so densely constructed and fascinating, I never tire of listening to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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