Never Mind the Bollocks: 45 years on from disrupting the Jubilee, does it still sound dangerous?

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

I’ve recently come to the realisation that I’ve lived a very sheltered life. I saw my first Tarantino film at the age of 24, I left my first festival after two days because someone was sick on my tent, and crucially, I’ve never heard a Sex Pistols song.

Cue a chorus of ‘not even “God Save the Queen”?’, ‘What about “Anarchy in the UK”?’ and, ‘Do you know who Johnny Rotten is?’ from my colleagues. No, no and yes — he was on I’m a Celeb, I answer, met with a stunned silence and looks of dismay from my older (forty-something) friends.

And so, I was set a task: to listen to the entirety of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, the first and only album from the apparently iconic Pistols and, according to my cursory Wikipedia research, one of the most influential albums of all time. My expectations were high. Could this 38 minutes 53 seconds solo listening party change my life? Was I, a self-confessed twee devotee, about to be converted into a spike-wearing, foul-swearing, teeth-baring punk? I turned my headphones to max and settled in as the opening twangs of Steve Jones’s guitar thrummed into my ears.

It’s loud and overbearing and shouty, and, at first, I didn’t mind it. Particularly the first two tracks of ‘Holidays in the Sun’ and ‘Bodies’, where mentions of World War III and abortions seem particularly pertinent in the current climate. In fact, continuous relevance seems to be one of the Sex Pistols’ strong points, with the ever-controversial ‘God Save the Queen’ now being reissued to mark the upcoming Platinum Jubilee. There’s clearly still a generous appetite for their trademark sentiments of anarchy.

But the album progressed and I started to lose interest. One song blended into another, failing to stand out in my mind, and I stopped hearing lyrics and just started to hear noise. I longed to return to my safety net of whisper singing from Clairo and sad girl sounds from Phoebe Bridgers.

I think the main problem is that, to me, the Sex Pistols’ sound is overdone. Don’t launch the tirade of abuse just yet: I know they were pioneers and a first of their kind and disrupting the system, etc etc etc. But I was born almost 20 years after the album release and have heard an awful lot of copycats since. Unfortunately, I’ve been scarred by early Noughties shouting boys trying to emulate Rotten and the gang, and now I can’t turn back.

My dad, of course, has other ideas. A university student at the time, he dutifully went and bought Never Mind the Bollocks on vinyl, an act of rebellion and anarchy against his strict parents who, naturally, thought Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious ‘should be strung up’. It was pro-youth and anti-establishment and felt like it was truly paving the way for change, my dad tells me — sentiments surely, as a liberal twenty-something, I can still get behind.

And I can. If their lyrics and attitude could be transported to a Tame Impala-like groove with accompanying dance routine, I’d be a card-carrying Pistols fan. Hell, I’d even sign up to the Bromley Contingent, the band’s original dedicated group of followers and punk trendsetters. But for now, I think I’ll leave the album off my Spotify downloads. Next up: The Clash. I think they sang about London or something?

‘Pistol’ is out now on Disney+

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting