Once it was so new you could feel it.
Punk was the shock of the now, the white heat of the moment that blow torched the past away. Oddly, in 2012, it is so old that it’s hard to remember when it felt that modern. In our teenage years time stretched and the moment felt like it could last forever- oddly enough it did and for something that was meant to be of the moment punk has not dated at all.
The 35th anniversary of the release of the Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks album is commemorated with a box set that is like an archaeological dig. There is so much great stuff packed into here that the time team would have trouble getting it all out.
The package features the now re-mastered original master tapes from the album’s 1977 recording sessions, which were thought to be lost for many years. They were rediscovered during the recent move from Virgin Records to Universal Music Catalogue in January, and have been remastered, for the very first time, by Tim Young under direction from original producer Chris Thomas.
Also included is a 100-page hardback book that features a Sex Pistols’ diary of 1977, packed with exclusive images, recording details, memorabilia and rare photos detailing every significant band event in their breakout year, with quotes from key figures.
It’s a document of history and a great opportunity to actually listen to the Sex Pistols as a band whilst reading about them as a social phenonomon. The problem the band always had was that somehow they got detached musically from themselves.
All the talk was about everything apart from the songs and the music.
This was cool in some ways. The band look brilliant. There’s no such thing as a bad picture of 1977 Johnny Rotten, Sid was one hundred per cent icon, Glen had a coolness about him and Cook and Jones were loveable rogues. The media run ins were brilliant- like Robin Hood with electric guitars from a time when people answered back instead of X Factor tears and grovelling on your knees for acceptance. The art work by Jamie Reid was genius and Malcolm was playing some great games- with all that going on you didn’t need the music.
You could have had a box set of photos and newspaper clippings and celebrated the moment when the white crap answered back (as The Fall once sang). Fortunately someone remembered to bung the songs in there as well and there is one stark truism in all this Sex Pistols story- this was a fucking great band.
For far too long the story has been that Malcolm could have taken any four oiks and made them into stars with his master manipulations. Fortunately for him he got the Sex Pistols- one of the greatest British rock n roll bands of all times.
Listening to these songs years later and you still gasp at the power of Cook n Jones, a brilliant guitar and drums combination who played their hearts off on these recordings. A music built up with Jones layering his guitars and laying down the bass because someone had sacked Glen and replaced him with an iconic mannequin who looked great on a t shirt and looked cool as fuck holding a bass but had no idea of how to actually to play one!
The power of the pair of them is quite breath taking, at the time it sounded like a tsumani of electricity- never had rock n roll sounded so full and urgent. They worked hard on this stuff and that’s why it stands the test of time. Spending the summer of 1977 hiding away from the press blitzkrieg Cook and Jones worked wonders and recorded the songs perfectly and with little interest in the pretend DIY ethic of some of the other punk bands. The Pistols were not going to fake it. They wanted to make a brilliant rock n roll record and they succeeded.
The curveball was supplied by Johny Rotten, whose intense, screaming vocals re-invented the rock vocal and really defined the songs with his brilliant skewed poetry that were a full on personal psychodrama all of his own. Howling about religion and his own twisted soul, Rotten was a total one off whose intensity in his vocal chords matched those staring eyes in his photos that so defined that year.
The song writing was top notch as well. Every song is classic . Mostly written by Glen, they were pop classics with great choruses and well thought out structures that never got boring or dull. This was a new kind of rock n roll, urgent and in a rush but never played too fast, Glen’s smart songwriting stockpiled enough songs to make the album work before he was turfed out in early 1977. Very little was written after he was gone but it didn’t matter, the good work was already done and there was enough tiger in the tank for the last couple of post Glen songs to work as well.
For a full depth review of Bollocks maybe it’s best to go to the blog we wrote about it a few months ago, suffice to say that this is a classic album that really stands the test of time. A classic British rock n roll record in all the ways that it once pretended not to be. It also comes with a limited edition DVD of along lost footage of a Pistols gig in Penzance of all places. A gig, that in the grainy, spittle flecked footage, showed that they could deliver live as well.
Maybe it’s time to rest those myths and admit that this was a special rock n rol band that would have cut through without the hype and endless lies and bullshit. The Sex Pistols were a really classic band who’s culture bomb car crash changed all our lives but if they had been rubbish the whole thing would not have worked.
It’s a shame that it’s taken 35 years before most people have worken up to this fact but musically they are remain one of the greatest bands of all time and this lovingly packaged box set is a brilliant reminder of the band’s potent music and cultural tour de force that finally woke the seventies up and created a template for generations of bands to follow for decades afterwards.
This is one of those few reissues that justifies it’s existence and that’s because the Sex Pistols were many thing but they were never boring.