Sex Pistol's Top 10 Songs
The Sex Pistols released their first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.,” in 1976, and it became an instant hit. Their first and only studio album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols,’ was thrust upon the public in 1977, and it changed people’s perspectives on many things, including music, art, and politics.
Formed in 1975, vocalist Johnny Rotten (Lydon), guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock, and drummer Paul Cook influenced an entire generation of bands and changed punk music forever despite only releasing one studio album and breaking up in 1978. Three years sounds like an extremely short existence to accomplish what they did, but it’s actually amazing they lasted that long. Their music was banned; they were banned from playing live shows and had to resort to renaming the band The SPOTS - “the Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly” - in order to perform in front of an audience, and even that was a circus.
They reunited in 1996 for the first time after their breakup and went on tour, booking seventy-eight shows and playing seventy-two of them on ‘The Filthy Lucre Tour.’ The tour birthed a live album that stirred up so much nostalgia for so many people.
Here are the Sex Pistols Top 10 Songs:
10: “No Feelings” - ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’
A song about ego and letting go of everyone and everything around you is a typical theme for a Sex Pistols song, but it’s maybe more clear on this track than most.
Vocalist Johnny Rotten explained that the song doesn’t describe him and the challenges of performing it live:
“The song is from the idea of someone being completely selfish, which I'm not. I like to imagine being in that frame of mind. I'm insulting myself really. That happens a lot.
“Some of the songs I've written have so many words it's almost unbearable. ‘No Feelings,’ for instance: I think it's 16 to 18 lines where I don't take a breath. Now, live, that's tempting fate. But I managed to do it. I found the knack. I love pushing those boundaries. You can't cut up a verse like that because it would become out of context. It's the monologue that's necessary to paint the proper picture of someone in a state of babbling confusion.”
9: “Problems” - ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’
This song provides one of the Pistols’ best hooks. A full-speed-ahead, unapologetic demand to examine yourself instead of blaming society for your failures. Know yourself, and act in accordance with what you want to accomplish in life.
As Johnny belts out: You won't find me working nine to five, It's too much fun being alive / I'm using my feet for my human machine, You won't find me living for the screen / Are you lonely? All needs catered, You got your brains dehydrated..
It’s pretty straightforward. Your problems are yours to deal with.
8: “Did You No Wrong” - ‘God Save The Queen’
Steve Jones’ guitar work on this track is almost confusing. It’s…nearly polished. This is a great Sex Pistols song to use to introduce new people to the band. It’s super-catchy and doesn’t bludgeon them over the head with anything too large. Apparently, it’s the first song they ever wrote that they actually recorded.
7: “Seventeen” - ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’
“Seventeen” is the most melodic track on their only studio album, but true to form it’s an unapologetic, get-off-your-ass-and-do-something motivational speech of sorts:
You're only twenty-nine, Got a lot to learn / But when your mummy dies, She will not return……I'm a lazy sod, I'm a lazy sod / I'm a lazy sod, I'm so lazy...
Urban legend suggests it was originally written: I'm a lazy Sid, in reference to Sid Vicious. That would make it anti-Sid, and anti-hippy. Either way, it’s a great track.
6: “Bodies” - ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’
A song written about the passion that exists on both sides of the abortion issue, Johnny Rotten kept it real on this one and spoke candidly about it on more than one occasion. The song was specifically about a mentally-ill band fanatic named Pauline who stalked the band. Rotten commented about her, saying: “She turned up at my door once wearing a see-through plastic bag. She did the rounds in London and ended up at everybody's door. Like most insane people, she was very promiscuous. The fetus thing is what got me. She'd tell me about getting pregnant by the male nurses at the asylum or whatever.”
The issue of abortion was more personal than that for him though, as he’s also admitted: “I didn't write it to cause a commotion. It was realism. My mum had a lot of miscarriages when she was young, and as the oldest child, I had to carry the bucket and flush it down the outside toilets. Sometimes it took several flushes, and sometimes there'd be recognizable body parts.” That’s maybe too much info, but it’s still a great song.
5: “Holidays In The Sun” - ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’
The first track from ‘Never Mind The Bollocks…,’ “Holidays In The Sun,” was written about the bandmate’s trip to Berlin and is one of their most celebrated tracks. Rolling Stone ranked it number forty-three on their list of 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. That’s extremely high praise for a band that certainly wasn’t known for any type of instrumental expertise; they were seen as proficient, at best.
4: “Anarchy In The UK” - ‘Anarchy In The UK’
Released on November 26th, 1976, the first single they ever released, “Anarchy” was ground zero for what was to come. Rolling Stone has listed it as the fifty-sixth greatest rock song of all time, and it’s inspired dozens and dozens of bands, covers songs, and political debates.
They were dropped by two record labels before Virgin Records released ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols’ and they struggled to promote the album, as record stores and radio stations refused to have anything to do with it. Being censored across the board turned out to be the best promotion they could’ve asked for, though it did lead to having to play shows as The SPOTS, in large part due to this track.
When the single was released by EMI, the Pistols went on an English talk show to promote it. They cursed at and berated the host, Bill Grundy, and EMI dropped them as a client and pulled the single from the shelves and airwaves.
The band planned to make fun of the Queen as she was celebrating the Silver Jubilee, representing her 25 years on the throne, in 1977. They rented a boat on the river Thames, so they could perform “Anarchy” as they were floating by the House Of Parliament.
Police intercepted the boat before they got close, and the record company execs were arrested. Johnny Rotten claims he had no idea there was a Jubilee taking place, saying he “was stunned by it all.”
3: “Liar” - ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’
The Pistols vs. Malcolm McLaren - their first manager - is a well-documented war. This song, according to the band, not only speaks to his greed and corruption but to everyone who tried to manipulate and use them.
Lie lie lie lie you, liar, / You lie lie lie, tell me why / Tell me why, why d'you have to lie / Should've realized that you / Should've told the truth / Should've realized you know what I'll do...
Rotten told Rolling Stone: “We were just hapless young idiots really and we were really unprepared for the world of greed and adulthood that we were thrown into so quickly… Everyone had their piece of poisonous influence to whisper in your ear, and that could cause great division. So I just came around to the point where instead of allowing division, I would unleash my derision.”
2: “Pretty Vacant” - ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’
This is my favorite Sex Pistols track. The drums on this song sold me the first time I heard it, and continue to today. The riff was inspired by ABBA’s song, “S.O.S,” and New Music Express named it 1977’s Single of The Year. Just as interesting, they performed it on Top of The Pops, though only because the BBC didn’t interpret the title to be “Pretty Va-cunt,” as imagined by the band.
1: “God Save The Queen” - ‘God Save The Queen’
Like “Anarchy In The UK,” “God Save The Queen” is one the most iconic and important songs ever gifted to us. It directly challenged the ideas of “Royalty” and subservience. It was originally titled “No Future,” but Johnny decided it was a better idea to use it to mock British royalty.
He said to Rolling Stone: “It was expressing my point of view on the Monarchy in general and on anybody that begs your obligation with no thought...That's unacceptable to me. You have to earn the right to call on my friendship and my loyalty.”
When you’re right, you’re right…