The Sex Pistols

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Certainly one of the most controversial bands there has ever been and also probably one of the most influential. They burst onto the music scene in 1975 in London and completely changed the face of music in Britain. Their loud, aggressive, and anti-establishment stance inspired a whole host of new bands and established punk as a new rock music genre and culture in Britain. Bands such as The Ramones and Patti Smith with a similar anti establishment ethos, (particularly with regard to the established music scene) brought punk to America. The Pistols phenomena was short lived, controversy followed them everywhere much of it created deliberately by thier manager Malcolm McLaren. This took its toll and during an ill fated tour of America in 1978 Johnny Rotten left the band bringing an end to the Pistols. The original lineup of Lydon, Cook, Matlock and Jones reunited in 1976 for a tour and they have played again at various venues and festivals during 2006 and 2008.

Band History

The origins of The Sex Pistols lie in a London band formed in 1973 called The Strand featuring Steve Jones on vocals, Paul Cook on drums. The band members would frequently hang out in a clothing store in Londons, Kings Road which was called Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die and which was owned by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. This shop is credited with creating the punk look and fashion. Of course many of the people who hung out there including future Pistols member Sid Vicious would then play a part in the development of punk.

In 1974 Malcolm McLaren began taking an interest in The Strand and by 1975 was their full time manager. Glen Matlock joined the band on bass in 1975. The band then searched for a front man and vocalist. An advert in Melody Maker proved unsucessful but eventually John Lydon joined on volcals. Lydon was another who just hung about the fashion shops on Kings Road but his image fitted what the band were after. John Lydon was renamed "Johnny Rotten" by Steve Jones, apparently because of his bad dental hygiene!

The band played their first gig in November 1975 at St Martins College of Art as support act for rock group called Bazooka Joe. Legend has it that they borrowed equipment from Bazooka Joe in order to play the gig. Apparently they were very loud an on seeing their gear being trashed Bazooka Joe pulled the plug befor The Pistols could complete their set!

Maclaren was good at attracting publicity and the begand began playing bigger more prestigious venues such as Londons famous Marquee Club. At one such gig Vivienne Westwood and Macleren instigated a fight with an audience member. Violence began to be part of their image and gigs bringing them further publicity but resulted in them being banned from venues including The Marquee.

During 1976 the band toured England and gigged constantly playing notable gigs in Manchester which sparked great interest in them and the punk scene. On 8 October 1976, the Sex Pistols signed a two-year recording contract with EMI.

An appearance on a British TV chat show hosted by Bill Grundy led to even greater notoriety. Grundy goaded the band into using foul language on air. This alongside their wild and aggressive appearance led to many gigs being cancelled by wary promoters and also to EMI cancelling their recording contract.

1977 proved to be an interestin and pivotol year in the history of the Pistols. In Feruary, Glen Matlock left the band and was replaced by Sid Vicious. Vicious could not actually play but his image fitted that of the band. In March they signed a new deal with A&M and Never Mind the Bollocks their first and only studio album was released in November.

Fame had a destructive effect on Sid Vicious. Early in 1977 he met Nancy Spungen, a heroin addict and prostitute from New York. Spungen is commonly thought to be responsible for introducing Vicious to heroin to which he quickly became adicted and which would cost him his life.

The Pistols embarked on a tour of USA in early 1978 but it was frequently caotic and the increasingly disturbed and drug influenced behaviour of Vicious left the band and Lydon in particular demoralised. Lydon left the band mid tour saying it was "no fun" and in effect the Pistols were no more.

Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose in February 1979.

Band Members

John Lydon AKA "Johnny Rotten"

Lead vocals (1975–1978, 1996–present)

Steve Jones

Guitar, bass, backing vocals (1975–1978, 1996–present)

Paul Cook

Drums (1975–1978, 1996–present)

Glen Matlock

Bass, backing vocals (1975–1977, 1996–present)

Sid Vicious

Bass, backing vocals (1977–1978)


The Sex Pisols only ever released one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistolswhich was released on 28 October 1977.

From this came the following singles:
Anarchy in the U.K. November 1976
God Save the Queen May 1977
Pretty Vacant July 1977
Holidays in the Sun October 1977

There have also been a number of compilation albums and live albums:
Spunk - this was made up of early recordings and initially released as a bootleg in 1977 and as an official release in 1996.
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle - 1979 - Soundtrack to the film and featuring various artists.
Flogging a Dead Horse - 1980 - compilation
Sex Pack - 1980 - compilation
Anarchy in the UK - 2001- Live at the 76 Club
Kiss This - 1992 - compilation
Filthy Lucre Live - 1996 - live album
Jubilee - 2002- compilation
Sex Pistols - 2002- box set compilation
Raw and Live - 2005- live album
Agents of Anarchy - 2007- compilation
Live & Filthy - 2008- live album

Their Influence

Never Mind the Bollocks is often quoted as one of the most influential albums of all time. Withoubt a doubt the pistols paved the way for meny of the punk bands that followed in their wake including The Clash, Siouxsie & the Banshees,The Adverts,and The Slits.

Among others who would quote them as an influence are The Smiths,The Stone Roses, Guns N' Roses,Nirvana, Green Day, and Oasis.

Related GMC Lessons

GMC has a whole section of lessons devoted to the punk genre.
Punk Rock Guitar Lessons