Under Rated Classics
By Anthony Sid Stobart
Wednesday 29 Dec 2010 12:27:00
Browse all Anthony Sid Stobart articles


What can you say that’s not already been said about this album? Not a lot really, so this is a different perspective.


Discovering punk rock was the equivalent to discovering women, football and alcohol. You knew that there was real pleasure to be had, but on occasions things would go horribly wrong. I had first heard ‘Hurry up Harry’ by Sham 69 in 1978 played on the Sunday afternoon chart show and I loved it. The moment my Mam said “turn down that awful noise,” I knew this was the music for me. Of course as I got older my musical tastes would become diverse and take in anything from blues and jazz, to heavy metal. But in those early days, punk ruled my bedroom and my life. At school in parts of Newcastle you had to belong to a certain crowd and in late 78 early 79 the music industry was at its most diverse. You were either a punk, a mod (thanks to The Jam and The Who film ‘Quadrophenia’) a teddy boy, a rocker, a skinhead or a rude boy/girl. The music scene was brilliant and you could have Abba, The Sex Pistols, Bee Gees, Madness, Boney M and Rod Stewart all in the top 10.


As a young boy, punk ruled the roost. I was a second wave punk, discovering the joys of Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones and The Ruts. But, I knew that the daddies of punk were The Sex Pistols. I already owned a few singles ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ and played them to death. The next step was to buy the album: ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’.


I purchased the album in Callers on Northumberland Street and was overcome with joy when I heard the first opening crunching steps of ‘Holidays In The Sun’. It was like having the whole of the British Army marching in unison in my bedroom. Steve Jones’ guitar work is clearly brilliant and belies the fallacy that punks couldn’t play. ‘Bodies’ the second song is the most controversial on the album, it’s based upon a true story about an obsessed fan that stalked Johnny Rotten and had a dead foetus in a bag! Rotten’s lyrics are poignant, horrific and brutally honest. This song was so controversial that a Tory member of parliament actually attempted to get the song and album banned-thus typifying the view that politicians are a million miles away from real people! The album contains most of the Pistols live set, honed over the previous two years. Foolishly Malcolm McLaren had managed to get the band to oust Glen Matlock –the man who wrote most of the music. Luckily the replacement, Sid Vicious, was in hospital with hepatitis, so Steve Jones played the bass and kept it very simple. The sound on the album is brilliantly produced by Christ Thomas and sounds totally different to the ‘Spunk’ album recorded the previous year. ‘Spunk’ is arguably a more accurate sound of what the Pistols sounded like live with Matlock; however, I prefer the polished “Bollocks Panzer Division” version as Chris Thomas renamed it.


‘God Save the Queen’ to me is the greatest single of all time. It has the most powerful intro to any song and the lyrics are splendid. They capture the moment and summarise the feelings of a generation disregarding the previous generation and wanting to instil their own views and identity. This songs notoriety has been historically documented and was robbed of the number 1 spot by Rod Stewart –ironically the singer of one of the Pistols favourite band: The Faces. Boots, Woolworths and WH Smiths refused to stock the single and these same companies would boycott the album because of the title.


The rest of the album contains stock classics such as ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Anarchy in the UK’, both songs are hugely significant. Such was the popularity of Anarchy in the UK that it held the John Peel Festive 50 number 1 spot for four consecutive years and was voted the readers favourite ever song in 1982.


On a personal note the only song which could be described as filler is ‘Seventeen’, I would have had ‘Satellite’ or ‘Did you Know Wrong’ on the album.  The musicianship on the album is brilliant and Paul Cook and Steve Jones work tremendously together; Cookie with his thunderous drumming and Steve Jones with his classic guitar licks.


There is also a tinge of sadness about ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, because I feel that the Sex Pistols had another 3 classic albums in them and I can only blame the self publicist Malcolm McLaren for allowing the band to disintegrate. A manager he clearly wasn’t; I wouldn’t let him run a bath! The band members had mixed results after the Sex Pistols: Glen Matlock formed The Rich Kids; Steve Jones and Paul Cook formed ‘The Professionals after having formed The Greedies with Thin Lizzy and Johnny Rotten regained his surname of Lydon and had limited success with Public Image Limited. Yet none of the ventures would be as successful or important as The Sex Pistols.


The Sex Pistols blazed a trail for numerous bands, yet punk died slowly, allowing some bands to progress onto better things such as The Clash, The Jam and XTC or merge into new wave. A number of those who didn’t like the idea of punk evolving attached themselves to the awful ‘Oi’ scene of the early 80s, grunting a lot and performing Nazi salutes at various Neanderthal gigs.


Punk would have a huge impact upon future music and culture. Punk blazed the way for equal opportunities of race and gender. It would also be a starting point for independent records and fanzines. More importantly it would be about the ethos of doing something yourself and not having to rely upon others all of the time! For this alone, I salute them. To quote the great opening line of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ on their television debut ‘So It Goes’ (28th August 1976): “Get off your arse”….

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