The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:10 Release Date:2017-10-27
The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

The old cliché “the face that launched a thousand ships” is a literary homage to legendary beauty Helen of Troy, whose abduction led to the Trojan Wars. In the case of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, ugliness replaces beauty, but you can bet your ass that ships were launched just the same; vessels manned by hopeless, frustrated, angry, and bored young people, initiating a war not only against the desperate environments of their times, but also against the reigning monarchs of rock and roll music. Armed merely with middling musical talent and a lot of righteous anger, they began a guerrilla war against rock’s jaded, elitist class, proving once again that rock and roll music is the most unique art form. It’s one wherein attitude carries equal weight with talent, giving the attitude-rich Sex Pistols a decided advantage.

Yet, this album isn’t the grating noise of dopes crashing about (Sid was wisely kept away from the sessions), but rather a rallying cry to those who remembered what the genre was all about, once upon a time before platinum albums, sold out arenas, coke, caviar, and private jets clouded the purpose of the previous generation’s former young turks. The Sex Pistols’ Nevermind The Bollocks reclaimed the genre with the kind of clear-eyed purpose that seemed to have been lost amidst the excesses of their elders. Even as they aped the formula, both musically as well as in attitude, they infused it with heretofore-unseen levels of anger, energy, and impish glory that would transform rock and roll forever.

The album itself is a raw collection of rock and roll, more notable for Johnny Rotten’s abrasive lyrics than anything else. The music was fairly straightforward, glam-heavy, crunchy rock and roll, hinting at guitarist Steve Jones’ preference for Bowie’s Mick Ronson and Mott the Hoople. It was Rotten’s snarling, spitting delivery of contemptuous, snarky, edgy lyrics that made the music so compelling, however. Whether screaming about abortions, problems, the Queen, apathy, or anarchy, John Lydon/Johnny Rotten was the image that simultaneously rallied the masses and frightened the establishment. Regardless of the content, what perhaps makes this album so vital is that it served as a passkey to the world of self-expression for a generation of kids trying to muddle through the malaise and creeping dystopia of the mid-70s. It gave hope that fresh, young, passionate voices could and must be heard. 

Assaulting the audience with numbing aural lethality, The Sex Pistols sought not to entertain, but to incite. Their audience wasn’t screaming teenage girls, but rather gob-spitting youths who were as much a part of the show as the band itself. This was a musical revolution in its purest and most powerful incarnation. That the band wouldn’t last long enough to produce a second album seems almost too perfect. The Sex Pistols were rock and roll’s most memorable kamikaze band, and we’re all the better because of it.

This 40th anniversary release re-visits the out-of-print deluxe package from 2012, featuring the original album, a host of rare B-sides and demos from various sessions (including the hard-to-find, Ramones-meets-early-Sabbath “Belsen Was a Gas”), two live sets, and a dvd capturing, among other moments, their infamous Riverboat Party concert on the Thames.

The live material comes from two 1977 shows, one at the Happy House in Stockholm, Sweden (also included on the dvd), and the other at Trondheim in Norway. Given the paucity of vintage live Pistols material, these are a really nice slice of history. In true punk form, the band was sketchy at best on stage and it’s obvious on the recordings, which are a bit muddy and ragged. Making matters worse, Sid Vicious was now in on bass, replacing Glen Matlock, as clear a signal as any that the end was near. In fact, the band was less than a year from the Winterland stage in San Francisco when Rotten scornfully asked, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” All in all, this is about as complete a Sex Pistols collection as you’re likely to find.

For some of the older folks of my generation, the sixties were the period of innocence and the belief that young people could influence the world for the betterment of all. For me, that period was the seventies when the punk scenes were exploding in London, New York, and Los Angeles, sending out a massive middle finger to the world. Here’s a front row seat to the revolution.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars