Email The Capn Reader Comment Guidelines The Capn's Log: News

Sex Pistols

Started Out As a Prog Band Called 'The Coitus Pistols'


Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols
The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
Flogging a Dead Horse
Filthy Lucre Live

The Lineup Card (1976-1978)

Johnny Rotten (vocals)

Steve Jones (guitars, vocals)

Paul Cook (drums)

Glen Matlock (bass) 1976-7, 1996

Sid Vicious (bass) 1977-8

I guess manager Malcolm McLaren was right all along. It wall a big sham, a 'swindle', to use the man's words himself. The Pistols, the hype, punk rock, your haircut, Rod Stewart's career, all a big sham. And one that made Mr. Malcolm a lot of money. What else can you say about a band that existed for less than 2 years, released only one mediocre album, a handful of singles, and played only a few real shows from 1976-1978 before they imploded, with Johnny Rotten's final words 'Ever feel like we've released far too many semi-legal catalogue releases after our breakup?'

Or were they 'Boy, Public Image Limited really did suck balls for a long time. Sorry 'bout that!'

Oh, but those Sex Pistols, rather than creating something real and artistic, they created something else. They created the sneer. All by their lonesomes. Or, rather, Rotten did. And they, like Malcolm says, pioneered the use of media hype-driven scandal to drive a band far beyond any means they may have been able to muster themselves. The Pistols hated Yes. They hated Malcolm. They hated each other. They said 'fuck' on national daytime television. They released the 'God Save The Queen' single during the real Queen's 25th Jubilee Ceremony. They got kicked off EMI after releasing one single and verbally abusing the management. They got banned from playing shows by the government, so they played on a boat on the Thames and still got shut down. They fired their only real musician, bassist and composer Glen Matlock, because he liked the Beatles and didn't look very cool, and hired on a teenager crowd tough named Sid Vicious who couldn't play worth a fuck. They toured America, mostly through the South, and broke up immediately following a final concert at San Francisco's Winterland Arena, where big Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones banners were permanently affixed behind the stage. Then Rotten went and became mostly acceptable to the public (the British public anyway...his VH1 show tanked it real fast in the US), Sid tried to have a solo career and ended up killing his girlfriend and himself instead, and the other fools went back to working on the docks, as far as I can tell. Then they reformed 20 years later and did a big tour and made lots of dough for it. And Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols is still considered a rite of passage for any snot-nosed little kid with spiky hair and not enough imagination to buy a Ramones album.

Thinking about the Sex Pistols and their impact is a lot easier than seriously digging their records. So is hanging up a picture of a bloody Sid, Fender Precision draped impossibly low over his shoulder, sneer and needle tracks fully visible. This is the legacy of this band. Every punk rock band who first puts globs of Vaseline and baby powder in their hair and then learns a few chords owes an enormous debt to the Sex Pistols. But more than that, I want to make sure you all heed my next words in the most direct and terrible manner:

Fuck James Taylor!

Nikki     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Ok, the sex pistols rock, nd u soo don't ur site is useless but to the albums.

They all show the truth about the british shit, and they are the only band that dared to speak thier minds, like God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the UK, yer u can really see the ramones or the likes of the clash doint that!!

miss antisocialist to you     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: PISTOLS FUCKIN ROCK! fuck ya all if u hate em. fuckin awesome.. so go fuck yourself coz u have no fuckin clue about what good music is. they are just being original. exactly what punk is. get a fuckin life you fucking prats! hahaha you motherfuckers.


Adam  Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: The Sex Pistols pretty much suck. Apart from flashes of attitude and quasi-rebelliousness they are not very interesting. If it wasn't Malcom McClaren using brilliant marketing skills to promote the band where would they have gone? Their music is awful and Sid Vicious is a joke. The Damned release a studio album first, The Clash had a more real political message, The Buzzcocks sounded better, and Crass was more dangerous.... so fuck the Sex Pistols.



Never Mind the Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols -Warner 1977

Certain words may run through your head when you first put on Never Mind The Bollocks, such as 'slick', 'overdubs', and 'hard rock', but I'd be real surprised if the words 'Punk Rock!!' flashed in front of your eyes like a huge neon sign under which a wino is pissing against a wall. This is punk? Maybe if this is the first non-classic rock album you ever hear, like me. I can clearly remember the day I borrowed this album from this girl I was trying to fuck back when I was 15 (I later got to fuck her, in case you were wondering. And a LOT. For years. But, as it turns out, I was the one getting fucked all along. Isn't that the way it works?). I'd read and heard so damn much about the thing, being a young Greil Marcus from waaaaay back, but when I first put it in, I realized this stuff sounds about as incendiary as a kiddie swimming pool. There's only two things I can identify that, in 1977, would totally put people off this album in the violent way that they did, and thus, make it a great album today. First and most obviously is the lyrical content. If we go song by song, the words are about 1) Crossing the Berlin Wall to live with the Commies 2) Abortion (with the memorable line 'Fuck this and fuck that/Fuck it all and fuck that fucking brat', which sounds awesome) 3) Self absorption, nihilism, and cruelty to others 4) Lying (okay, this one's weak) 5) How the Queen is a fascist, evil person, and she's to blame for all these pissed off kids 6) Self absorption, nihilism, and cruelty to others  8) Being one of those punk kids and how much they hate hippies (who ran the record companies in 1977? That's right, hippies.) 8) Anarchy in the UK 9) Being on a submarine mission (a total joke resultant from McLaren's request that they write a song about submission. Like, as in, whips and being forced to drink pee. But the band wrote it about submarines. God, that's funny. The song blows, though.) 10) Self absorption, nihilism, and cruelty to others, 11) Taking the piss out of the New York Dolls, and 12) Getting kicked off their previous record contract. I won't go and say these lyrics are spectacular or anything, but they sound great coming out of Johnny Rotten's mouth, and that leads us to...

....the second thing that makes this album great today is Johnny Rotten. He's got enough vinegar and oil to toss the entire band's salad. He spits out words in a sing-song manner. He makes kissy noises. He makes like a much saner but less personable Iggy Pop. I'll say this right now: if it weren't for Rotten, this album wouldn't have gotten any of the press/respect/sales/hatred that it has. It's the only thing that makes this album 'punk rock' at all. I mean, talking about how all of us punk kids are a bunch of losers who don't care about anything outside of ourselves is not exactly revolutionary, is it? And while calling for the Queen's head on a platter (alongside Queen's head, no doubt) might've been back then, there ain't much that even sounds all that dangerous and...dammit...punky now!

The music is the problem. For one thing, all the songs are very slow and, dammit, conventional sounding. Steve Jones and Paul Cook both play their instruments way too well for what we might be expecting, but unfortunately they don't play them well enough to make this very interesting to listen to. Oh, Cook bashes well, and Jones fills every available space with a heavily-overdubbed guitar doodly, but the energy and anger and balls that Rotten throws into his performance are almost absolutely missing. The two instrumentalists (Sid couldn't play worth a fuck, and Matlock had already left, so Steve Jones played a lot of the bass parts anyway. And the guitar parts? Well, they're the main thing to listen to on the album, but they're mostly either a ripoff of the parts Johnny Thunders or Joey Ramone did first. I mean, they don't suck, but they're far worse than what I think they should be, and don't do anything new. The riffs are halfway original and memorable about half the time ('Anarchy In the UK' is the best by far....'God Save The Queen' is far worse.) but the song structures are rote (save possibly the faster section in 'Bodies' and the rave-up part in 'Anarchy') and DAMNED CONVENTIONAL! Are these guys supposed to be destroying rock 'n' roll or playing hard rock like the New York Dolls? Eh, like I said, Never Mind the Bollocks was about the sneer, not the music, really. But it's for sure not the best punk rock album of 1977. Try the Clash or Leave Home or Rocket to Russia instead.

Now for a little digression that relates to this album, but not really. I really hate the label 'punk rock' as applied to a description of a musical form. One could go the route of 'loud (oops! No Elvis Costello!), simple (oops! That knocks off the Police and about 10 other bands), buzzsaw chord-based (oops! No Jam! No Talking Heads) rock music,  including lots of expressions of anger (oops! No Joy Division, no Wire, no New York Dolls, no Talking Heads), a disdain of soloing (oops! No Sex Pistols, no Television, no Heartbreakers, no New York Dolls, no Stooges, no MC5....), short running times (again no Sex Pistols), a mistrust of big record labels and contracts (oops! No Clash, Pistols...hell, anyone who ever signed to a label), and with a low 'arty factor' (oops! no Patti Smith, no Television, no Talking Heads...)'.....blah blah blah. You see where I'm going? Like it's been said before, such buffoons as Kiss come across a lot more punk rock than most of these guys if you're using these sorts of criteria to judge a band's 'punk ratio'. And no one but a total moron would claim Kiss were a punk rock band (well, Gene Simmons might if he thought it would sell more records), and so the whole argument of describing punk as a style falls apart faster than Wendy O'Williams' dress at a Plasmatics concert.

Punk rock was a time, an event, a reaction. The basis behind this phenomenon was the rejection of the current music styles available in 1975. Maybe not all the punk bands necessarily walked the walk, but they all talked the same talk: music sucked in 1975, and it was time to do something about it. The thing was, no one agreed as to how to do it! And now that that time is all over, and we no longer have to put up with popular music as it was in 1975 (it's infinitely worse now), we miss the point. The term punk rock was applied to Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, and the Sex Pistols. All of them were new in 1976-7 and none of them had much good to say about music on the radio, so they decided to make their own. So did Cheap Trick, but somehow their brand of power pop wasn't accepted as punk rock. Funny how it works, huh?

Nowadays, the Big Three Original Punk Bands are the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Clash. They may be fairly similar to each other superficially, but the Sex Pistols are somehow held up above them in most peoples' minds. Well, that's wrong, but if you're dealing with only the album by itself, and forget all the preconceptions and shit, it's really not bad. There's a few parts ('Anarchy', 'Holidays', 'Pretty Vacant', 'Bodies', 'EMI') that are fookin' aces, and a lot of stuff that's just sort of punky filler, but there's no bad songs besides 'Liar'. Just don't confuse this with the rest of harder/faster punk rock. These guys were first, but they sure weren't the best.

Capn's Final Word: Mediocrity disguised as the assassin of rock music. But a pretty snappy mediocrity nonetheless. Does it have to be SO SLOW?

Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form

Andrew G.     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: The Sex Pistols are shit.  To read more on this topic, please visit and read the Sex Pistols page.


Jacob  Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?:   No life has value, especially any member of the Sex Pistols. Check out a band named Enon and the lead singers former band Brainiac.

Punk     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: You guys are fucking crazy! My God, this album is fycking awesome, and yes it is punk. The Sex Pistols saved rock n' roll and here are you assholes bashing them? Your fucking crazy and thats all there is to it!

Silas Mymar Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: this album is what stared it all. for all of you posers who sit in their middle class homes with good charlotte posters on the wall, this would be the equivalent of getting fucked in the asshole and the beaten with a stick

(Capn's Response: In your case I'd say that's a little inhumane to the stick.)

Spruce     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: Just a few words from one who was there. I always thought the Pistols were a Created "cartoon" band unlike the Clash who seemed real & credible.  This was reflected in the music.It was designed to be shocking, e.g. Bodies,God Save the Queen etc. etc.However, some of the manufactured sounds on the album still stand as decent pieces of music but the rest is forgettable. You weren't really taken in by the "Great Rock 'N Roll  Swindle" were you? Oh Dear!  


Bassassin     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Only one comment, really Cap'n - the word's BOLLOCKS - not 'Bollocks'.

A bullock is a male bovine beast which is yet to acheive sexual maturity, whereas 'bollocks' is an old English word meaning "small balls" - and in the UK is a widely used slang term for testicles.

Which is kind of the point of the album title.

Alex Gamble     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I fucking love the Pistols and I think that they were good in their own way. And if you guyz are just ripping on them and shit because you didnt like Sid and his heroin addition, then it BLOWS to be you! Sid and Nancy were in love and when you are in love you do crazy and sometimes really dumb shit. Sid was an artist and the Sex Pistols were great so back the Fuck OFF!

(Capn's Response: You almost made it through your comment without busting a nut as a result of your Sid Vicious man-crush. Almost.)

Jon (Jonny rotten) Green     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Fuck all u posers who dont like the pistols THE PISTOLS R FUCKIN GOD so fuck u and all brats and hell yes it is punk I LOVE THEM and all real punk

Ben Valerius   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: If I hadn't seen your dismissal of "Submission," I probably wouldn't be writing this - I completely disagree with you. I think that "Submission," is one of the best songs the Sex Pistols, or any other band for that matter ever did. One, the lyrics. Great sense of sarcasm and double entendres. "I can't figure out your water-y love/I wanna solve the MYSTERY!/Under the water/under the sea." The great thing is, is that the song *does* relate to "submission" in the S&M sense, with "going down, down/dragging me down."

Secondly, that guitar tone. I remember hearing that and the rest of the album when I was 13, being enthralled with that stuttering 3-chord groove. I love that fuzzy buzzing Marshall sound. When I first played guitar I would agonize over trying to get that sound...but a Peavey and a Strat are a far cry from a Marshall and a Les Paul. Oh well.Thirdly, and this relates more to the album - I just want to say that when I was young I loved every minute of this album, thinking it was one
of the best ever.

I remember listening to it on the bus, dodging insults and trying to hear "God Save the Queen" over the noise inside...but now 5 years have passed, and I'm nearly out of high school, having been slowly, unconsciously drifting away from punk rock for some time now, and now my opinion on Never Mind the Bollocks has changed. I listened to it a few months ago, and it's still the high energy rock and roll record that I remember - notice I said "rock and roll" as opposed to "punk" or "punk rock." I just don't see it that way. The music, great as it is, is too slow to be considered punk. Sure, the lyrics are angry, bitter, raving, mad, obscene, and a 1000 other adjectives, but they don't change my opinion.
Never mind... is an ANGRY, PISSED OFF, *ROCK AND ROLL ALBUM.* Listen to the way Steve Jones and Paul Cook play - they knew rock and roll. Guitar solos. 3-4 minute running times. Overdubs. (Think about that.) Grooves.
Check out "God Save the Queen" and dig that G#-A shuffle. Really, I think those two play too well for punk. Sure, John Lydon (aka Rotten) may have had the Iggy Pop antics and Sid Vicious was a crazy live-fast-die-young motherfucker, but John was just a front man and Sid a knucklehead posing as a bassist. Besides that, his predecessor Glen Matlock played just fine, in fact I've heard he was kicked out of the band for being album to play too well. I don't want to belittle John, but his persona, to me was just another in a series of bad-boy rockers, like Mick Jagger or Iggy Pop or Jim Morrison or Alice Cooper.

That said, I still dig the songs. Every one, especially bodies. Great little family song. The false ending was a touch of (dare I say?) genius, making way for Lydon/Rotten's immortal "fuck this and fuck that fuck it all the fuck out, fucking brat." Yes, you pointed out that the line goes "fuck it all and fuck that fucking breat," but that I wrote it my way because that's the way I always heard it. Great line. Great album, essential for anyone into great rock and roll.

John     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: You have displayed obviously false information and this band. I think you ought to open a book and perhaps do some research rather than just watching "the great rock 'n' roll swindle" and writing about a band you clearly have no acurate knowledge of.

(Capn's Response: Lydon? 's that you? Why'd the last 25 years of your career suck so goddamn bad?)

Mike     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I like that last capn comment. Yeah Johnny, your career after "Flowers of Romance" really DID suck harder than Paris Hilton on a good day...

...but you did still make this and the first three PiL albums (well, 4 if you count the rare live PiL album Paris in the spring"). nothing comes close to "God Save The Queen" sometimes. I mean, nothing. Doesn't happen often, but sometimes I can just get so pumped up and furious with that one it.


The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle  - Warner 1979

This soundtrack/retrospective/odds and ends package is one whacked-out entertaining package, and after sucking the life out of Never Mind The Bollocks after about 5 or 6 listens, I found myself more drawn to this one. Yeah, it's a Malcolm McLaren solo album much more than a real Sex Pistols disc, but there's plenty of good Pistols stuff you can't find on Bollocks. A warning straight off...though the vast majority of the songs on this one contain most or all of the Pistols, you're also going to share time with Malcolm and the likes of comedian Edward Tudor-Pole, a French accordion dude, a nameless orchestra or two doing classical versions of ol' Pistols hits, and a disco group called the Black Arabs that made the Pistols tunes fit for a Beirut disco - gold chains over hairy chests and little nasty moustaches and all.

The actual Pistols stuff on here is a blast, though, if you have some love for the group (and who couldn't love a group that at the time was missing a singer, had a bass player in the hospital, and the other two guys in Brazil?) you're going to have a great time with it. There's a bunch of covers with the whole group both excellently and professionally done ('Substitute',  'I'm Not Your Stepping Stone', 'Don't Give Me No Lip Child') and blown through without much regard for knowledge of the lyrics or chord sequences (the fantastic 'Johnny B. Goode' -> 'Roadrunner' which features Steve (?) yelling the vocals to Rotten after the latter admits he doesn't remember the fucking words). There's also an unimaginibly raw and angry 'Anarchy' that should have been the way the whole Bollocks album was recorded, but sadly it wasn't. But this version? Man, just enjoy it. If the Pistols had released more songs that sounded like that, we wouldn't be arguing over how overrated they were. We've got a few rare originals, two versions of the horribly offensive 'Belsen Was A Gas' which has the immortal line 'be someone...kill someone, be a man....kill yourself!' (take THAT Judas Priest! It's a big stronger than a backwards masked 'do it', isn't it?), the weak 'I Wanna Be Me', and the kickin' title track.

After Rotten jumped ship following the US tour, Malcolm couldn't let go, so he had Sid step up to the mic to snarl out a cover of 'My Way' which rules, and let Steve and Paul into the studio record three old 50's covers which are just stupid. Steve gives us a new one that probably won't comb your hair ('Lonely Boy') because Steve can't sing too well, and a nasty funny sea chanty that will probably make that hair just fall out on the floor ('Friggin' In The Riggin').

So a lot of these tracks sorta bite, and there's points at which I'm ready for the end to come around already, but when its all over, this is one of the most entertaining frigging albums I have. I mean, this stuff is a big mess, but its a big fun mess. And that's exactly what Bollocks lacked, a stupid, goofy, puke-on-your-party-hosts atmosphere that this album has in spades. I may not ever want to hear a real Malcolm McLaren solo album for the rest of my natural life, and I think this album should've ended the whole Sex Pistols story once and for all, but Swindle is almost an essential purchase for anyone who wants to see a band elevated from hype to legend. It's funny, it's irreverent to the group, it's manager, and all the hype surrounding it, and it's a nice kick in the balls who ever didn't get the Pistols in the first place.

Capn's Final Word: If Bollocks was supposed to assassinate rock music, this album assassinated the Pistols, but in the most entertaining way you can think of. Brilliant.

Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form

Jimmyc Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: I would have to add that this is a must have album, but also that "C'mon Everybody" rocks. Something about connecting the Pistols with early, let-it-rip rockabilly (Eddie Cochrane) that I love.

RC Merchant     Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: Never mind the Bullocks is great but this is a worthless piece of shit. If all them lame-ass disco and novelty shit was removed it would be only OK. Malcolm McLaren was a fashion consious ,self-indulgent geek!Whatta asshole!God Bless Sid! He signed off at the right time. He couldn't play too hot,but he IS PURE PUNK!



Flogging a Dead Horse - Virgin 1980

A compilation album which you don't need. It's got all the A and B sides of all seven UK singles the band ever released, but only 'Did You No Wrong' (original that sucks worse than 'Liar', and goes much slower, those fags) and 'No Fun' (Stooges cover...hard to screw up but Rotten tries) aren't easily available on Bollocks or Swindle, which you should probably just go and spend some minerals on anyway. I mean, this band really stunk after Rotten left and McLaren tried to squeeze all the remaining juice outta Jones and Cook, and while that fact was sorta obscured by the weirdness of Swindle, with how everything is presented chronologically here, it's bloody obvious to all. Leave this on the shelf.

Capn's Final Word: Not needed.

Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form

Filthy Lucre Live - Caroline 1996

The oddest reunion in the history of rock music spawns a live album before the tour even really got rolling. I mean, fat old guys playing punk rock songs from an album that was supposed to destroy the old order 20 years ago? I mean, is the audience still expecting the Punk Revolution to begin any day now or what? They made it SO CLEAR it was only for money...I mean, Kiss at least tried to dress everything up in 'this is for the fans who didn't get to see us 20 years ago' bullshit. But not the Pistols, they grabbed Glen Matlock from the accounting pool or wherever he'd found himself, handed him a bass, and it was all go from there. And our suspicions of twenty-odd years are confirmed: This band is hard rock. Leaden, sludgy, mid-tempo hard rock. Like Journey or Brahms. They somehow play slower and heavier than they ever had before, and sound like Skid Row or Winger as a result, albeit with Jello Biafra singing. They intentionally screw some stuff up, play some songs not available otherwise, Rotten tries to act 21 and pissed off, but comes off as 40 and constipated. Oh, you should probably hear these old guys bash through all these Bollocks songs sometime, but do you really want to pay money for it? Aww...just go to Rotten's house and threaten to play 9 or Compact Disc for him over and over until he gives you a free copy. Or just kick his walker out from under him and steal one.

Capn's Final Word: Ever see a dog that has arthritis and is blind in one eye try to mate with a young female? And he ends up just falling off and slumping home? Filthy Lucre Live.

Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form

Back to the Index