Thursday, October 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)

You may need to sit down for this one: This week, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols is 38 years old.

How can that be?  It can't possibly have been that long ago, can it?  Oh, it can, and it is, my fellow grumpy old punks. The album that signaled the end of civility and the utter collapse of the social order is getting to be downright middle-aged, like the bloody lot of us.

Remember the furor? The filth and the fury, so to speak?  The Sex Pistols were introduced to much of middle America by stories on the evening news touting them as foul-mouthed, rude invaders from the UK who were surely harbingers of the end at least of rock and roll if not the very fabric of society. They were unkempt, unclean; they couldn't play their instruments; they spit on their audiences and begged their audiences to spit on them!  They wore ripped clothes held together with safety pins, with more safety pins stuck through their lips and cheeks!  They hacked their hair into spiky mohawks and disheveled messes, and they hacked themselves bloody with razor blades, and they sang about anarchy and death to the Queen!  And they were getting ready to come here, and YOUR KIDS were going to start listening to their music!

(Never mind that most of those assertions were, at best, a bit of public relations hyperbole and, at worst, flat out wrong.)

I do remember the excitement of hearing the record for the first time; at a friend's house, hearing Johnny Rotten sneer "Fuck this and fuck that, fuck it all and fuck a fucking brat..." and being amazed that they let anyone record lyrics like that!  And wasn't there something vaguely dirty about the way he emphasized the final syllable of "Pretty Vacant?"  What strikes me listening to the album now, all these years later, is how remarkably tame it sounds in comparison to what came after it; hell, in comparison to what you can hear nowadays on the radio!

Without the hyperbole, without the shadow of Sid's (and Nancy's) drug-addled demise, without the fears that the Pistols were taking us all to hell in the same handbasket that neither Elvis nor The Beatles quite got our parents there in either, the album holds up surprisingly well.  Sure, there's nostalgia attached to it (still recall my friend Tom and I mimicking Johnny's over-pronunciation of the last word of "No Feelings:" "...see his picture hangin' on yer walllllllllll-uh!"), and some of the political posturing is a bit dated, but there really isn't a bad song to be found here:  "Anarchy In The UK" and "God Save The Queen" are, of course, the classics, but "Sub-Mission," "Problems," "New York," and "Holidays In The Sun" are all right up there, too.  And how can  you not smile and sing along with their snub at former label "EMI?"

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols was officially released on October 27th of 1977. 38 years on, the album neither destroyed music nor society, but it remains both an important touchstone in pop culture history and a damn good record.  If you don't have a copy, what the hell is wrong with you?