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Weekly Artist Overview: The Sex Pistols

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The Sex pistols (1977)

There are few bands in the history of rock that have left a greater impression in such a short time as the Sex Pistols. The band was together for about two years, they never charted a single in America, and they never recorded a complete album together; their lone album was largely a singles collection.

However, had there been no Sex Pistols, the current musical landscape would be a vastly different one; everything that came after their 1976-1977 existence has somehow been touched by them, either directly as a musical influence, or indirectly in terms of the recontextualization of rock music the Pistols achieved in their brief moment. Punk, indie rock, and alternative rock all owe a tremendous debt to the band whose stated goal was to destroy rock ‘n’ roll. They might not have succeeded in their mission, but they did manage to change its face forever.

The Sex Pistols (1976)

Their music was raw and nihilistic; The Ramones were a cheerful pop band in comparison. In England, they were more than a dangerous band; they were a bona fide threat to the social order and the monarchy itself. In America, most people didn’t hear of them until they were already gone; still, the shadow cast by their small clutch of releases had immediate and irreversable effect on punk rock; the overwhelming rage and sonic attack their music held, and their defiant, do-it-our-way attitude were the cornerstones of a whole new generation of music.
Malcom McLaren
Their story begins in 1975 when Malcom McLaren, owner of the London boutique SEX, decided to take some principles learned from the French situationist art terrorists of 1968 and apply them to the staid boys’ club of rock music. The idea was to shake things up with a large dose of provocative anarchy that would fly in the face of the pomposity of progressive rock and the flaccidity of country-rock and singer/songwriter music. Having very briefly worked with the provocative New York Dolls at the end of their career, he had some rock experience; this time, he wanted to be fully in charge of a band from the start, and orchestrate their attack like puppetmaster.

Fortunately for McLaren, he had the nucleus for a band hanging around (and occasionally shoplifting from) his boutique. Working at SEX as shop assistent was bass player Glen Matlock; a pair of scruffy regulars were guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook. By late 1975 the trio had formed a band called the Swankers, with McLaren managing. It wasn’t enough; McLaren wanted a frontman so outrageous, so rude and in-your-face, so snotty and acerbic that the band couldn’t help but get noticed.

A McLaren buddy, Bernie Rhodes (who would go on to manage the Clash) made the discovery of a generation when he spotted a green-haired, nearsighted, scrawny and ill-looking kid named John Lydon, who was decked out in a T-shirt emblazoned with “I Hate Pink Floyd” on it. Rhodes talked the skeptical Lydon into auditioning for McLaren.
Johnny Rotten
The audition came at a pub not far from McLaren’s shop on Kings Road; Lydon sang a ridiculous version of “Eighteen” by Alice Cooper. McLaren saw what he wanted, and told Lydon to be at a rehearsal the next week at another pub called The Crunchy Frog, in Rotherhithe. Lydon duly arrived, but Cook, Jones, and Matlock took an instant disliking to him; Lydon was disgusted that the three hadn’t bothered to tune their instruments. He immediately called McLaren and told him the deal was off, but Mclaren wouldn’t let him leave; despite the animosity present from the moment Lydon entered the door, Lydon and the band practiced together, and the lineup was set. Lydon’s contribution to the noisy, poorly-tuned band was his quick wit which masked an intelligence he tried to keep hidden behind his nihilistic flair for fashion and his obnoxious, confrontational pronouncements. The band was on its way to becoming the most subversive of all time.

Cook and Jones, despite their initial sloppiness, were actually very good musicians; Jones in particular had already developed the no-frills style that would land him plenty of sessionwork after the Sex Pistols ended. The band began playing London art colleges in early 1976, and became notorious overnight. A small but rabid crowd of misfits glommed on to their music, which was noisy, rudimentary, and abrasive, giving birth to the very first stirrings of the punk movement in England.

Lydon, who had taken the stage name Johnny Rotten, re-invented the concept of frontman virtually on his own; there wasn’t really anyone to base his persona on. His image was one of utter contempt, delivered with a sneer that would’ve left Elvis’ lip trembling. He was an instant icon of the anti-rock star, and rapidly became the focal point of the band.

The band’s confrontational style was designed to anger audiences, and the threat of violence became very real at their shows; sometimes the band would get pissed at each other, nearly coming to blows onstage. Other times, the audiences they baited would be whipped into a frenzy of fists, gobs of spit, and flying beer bottles. This managed to get them banned in many of the venues they played; the band responded by playing in unconventional venues such as cinemas and prisons.
the Sex Pistols: Anarchy In The U.K. [45] (1976)
By October 1976 their notoriety was getting them mentioned in the newspapers; EMI records, who had once had the Beatles recording for them, signed them for a sizable advance. A tour was set up with The Clash, the Damned, and the Heartbreakers, but after the first few gigs erupted in mayhem, there were mass cancellations by the venues. Meanwhile, the band’s first single, “Anarchy In the U.K.”, a powerful, leering attack on the status quo and a statement of purpose, was banned by the BBC and many retailers. Despite this, it still managed to reach #38 on the charts.

National awareness of this growing menace came in December 1976 on the stolid tea-time show London Today. Trusted host Bill Grundy introduced the scrawny, malnourished band dressed in rags and tatters; the band promptly cussed him out on national TV. The outraged headlines the next day spoke of moral degeneration and made the band the hot topic of the week, igniting their career.
Sid Vicious
There was a price to be paid, however. EMI dropped the band like a hot potato in January 1977; the band was banned from playing all over the country. The band itself was still at each others’ throats. Somehow, Cook, Jones, and Lydon discovered Matlock was a Beatles fan; this couldn’t stand in the world’s most dangerous band, and he was kicked out. Lydon brought in a friend, Sid Vicious (aka John Beverley or Simon Ritchie), an almost cartoon version of punk rocker. Vicious coudn’t play his bass at all, and wasn’t very bright; his inability to play clashed with Cook and Jones, who could play. Fans greeted him with suspicion, and in some cases, outright hostility. His American girlfriend, groupie Nancy Spungen, introduced him to the heroin that would ultimately kill them both.

A&M records decided to take a chance, signing them for a hefty bonus outside the gates of Buckingham palace. Ten days later, they were dropped, after A&M employees refused to work on the band’s behalf. This threatened to kill McLaren’s (and now Rotten’s) vision; fortunately, a reprieve came in the form of Richard Branson, hippie capitalist and owner of Virgin records, no stranger to controversy himself. It was Branson’s Virgin records that released the band’s most notorious single, “God Save The Queen” in time for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

It was an explosive piece of dynamite, and its anti-monarchist message earned them instant enemies around the kingdom. It received zero radio airplay, nor was it carried in many shops, but nontheless became the biggest selling record in the country. On the day of the Jubilee, the band played on a Thames riverboat; the police shut them down and took the band to jail for the night.
the Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks (1977)
All of this was better than McLaren ever imagined, but there was a serious backlash. The punk revolt in England gave birth to the anti-punk response; punks were randomly beaten up on the streets; Rotten and Cook received a serious beating themselves. The band embarked for Sweden, where unsuspecting venues awaited, and released two more groundbreaking singles, “Pretty Vacant” and “Holidays In The Sun”. The band returned to England and often played unannounced; it was the only way they could get in front of an audience. An album was assembled from the singles, the B-sides, and a few leftover tracks, Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. Released in November 1977, it went straight to #1, despite the usual boycotts and blacklist. One record shop clerk in Nottingham was arrested and tried for obscenity after putting it on display; he was ultimately acquitted. The album stands as a tour de force that many have copied but none have come close to equalling. It remains the quintessential punk album of all time; its chief assets are Rotten’s snarling vocals and Jones’ powerful guitar. Vicious’ bass is absent; most of the cuts feature Matlock.


The Sex Pistols (1977)

This success despite everything lacked only one last necessary ingredient; the band needed to conquer America. True to fashion, a tour was put together in the most aggresively confrontational manner possible; the band played gigs throughout the Deep South in January 1978 to rednecks who cared nothing for the music, but wanted to see a freakshow. Vicious, seriously addicted to heroin at this point, slashed and mutilated himself on stage and traded insults and spit with audience members; the band was booed and catcalled at each stop.

The tour lasted two weeks and concluded at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, a hippie mecca. Rotten’s last taunt to the audience was “Ha ha! Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” He then walked out, not just on the audience, but on the band as well.


Sex Pistols [Kingfisher Club, USA, 1978]

McLaren tried to get Rotten to reconsider, and was told to fuck off, or words to that effect, so he decided to salvage what he could without him. Cook and Jones were dispatched to Brazil, where they recorded “Belson Was A Gas” with Great Train Robbery fugitive Ronnie Biggs. Vicious recorded some Eddie Cochrane numbers, and gained a signature tune with a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. McLaren was hoping to mold Vicious into the band’s new frontman, but events finally got out of control.
Sid Vicious/Nancy Spungen
Vicious suffered his first overdose on a flight to New York City; landing in a coma for a spell. On October 12, 1978, Vicious awoke in his Chelsea Hotel room to find Spungen lying in the bathroom, dead of a stab wound. He was arrested and booked for murder, although he swore he remembered nothing from the night’s events, due to heavy drug usage. Virgin records bailed him out, and he attempted suicide with a razor, landing in Bellevue mental institution. On December 9th, he smashed a glass in the face of Patti Smith’s brother at Max’s Kansas City and was arrested again. This time, he remained in jail until February 1, 1979; upon his release he immediately shot up some bad heroin his mother had gotten for him; he was dead within hours.

Without the band, McLaren set about cashing in. October 1979 saw the release of the film, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle; out of spite, McLaren saw that most of Rotten’s appearances were left out; Matlock is absent altogether. Thus, the film is useless as the documentary it purports to be; still, it is compelling (if difficult) viewing, in the same manner as a car accident.
the Sex Pistols: Filthy Lucre Live (1997)
Johnny Rotten reverted to John Lydon and formed the experimental band Public Image Limited, whose first release, First Issue, appeared in December 1978 to considerable praise. In 1986, the band sued McLaren for back royalties and won. In 1996, the original band with Matlock embarked on a reunion tour. While Lydon made no secret the tour was a money-making venture (it was called “The Filthy Lucre” tour), it did settle a question once and for all: the band really could play, and their music was every bit as powerful as it had been 20 years earlier, when it still meant something. A documentary, The Filth & the Fury, appeared in 2000.

Weekly Artist Overview appears on Tuesdays.

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  • godoggo

    Heard Jonesy interviewing Malcolm on his radio show today. Second question (after “How long has it been?) was “Where’s my money?”

    First PiL (hope I got the capitalization right) release was First Issue.

  • Marty Thau

    For the umpteenth time, let’s put the record straight — Malcolm never managed the New York Dolls. He wanted to but it never came about but he has been claiming for years that he did. I think I should know…

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Thanks godoggo, I forgot about First Issue

    As for Mclaren and the New York Dolls, I don’t know if he was “officially” manager, but there are a lot of references that call him manager, or say he “worked” with the band. I welcome the real info, if you have it, Marty Thau. I hate to keep misinformation alive.

    Here’s some references I found, there are many others:

    From here
    Following the disappointing sales of their two albums, Mercury Records dropped the New York Dolls. No other record labels were interested in the band, so they decided to hire a new manager, the British Malcolm McLaren, who would soon become famous for managing the Sex Pistols. With the Dolls, McLaren began developing his skill for turning shock into invaluable publicity. Although he made it work for the Pistols just a year later, all of his strategies backfired for the Dolls. McLaren made the band dress completely in red leather and perform in front of the USSR’s flag; all of which meant to symbolize the Dolls’ alleged communist allegiance. The new approach only made record labels more reluctant to sign the band and members soon began leaving the group.

    From an Amazon.com review:

    The punk scene would have been much different minus The Dolls. It’s unlikely The Ramones would have done it quite the way they did, and The Sex Pistols certainly wouldn’t have happened. In fact, Malcolm McLaren managed the tail end of The Dolls before he moved back to England to create The Sex Pistols. Malcolm dressed The Dolls in patent red leather and draped giant sickle & hammer red flags behind them on stage, all this to upset the American public. None of his antics seemed to work with The Dolls, as they were nodding out of consciousness more than half of the time. It may have been easier for Malcolm McLaren to go from a band with two zonked junkies to a band with only one.

    ‘I was trying to do with the Sex Pistols what I had failed with the New York Dolls’ –Malcolm McLaren

    In fact, Malcolm wanted to hire either Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls or Richard Hell (then of Television) to front his incomplete Sex Pistols.

    ‘Malcolm…he always wanted me to come over and start a group called the Sex Pistols’ –Sylvain Sylvain
    …and in retrospect:

    ‘It was a stupid idea of mine…no way Hell or Syl would have fit in with the Pistols. Hell and Syl had years on the Pistols…the Pistols were incredibly naïve.’ –Malcolm McLaren

    From here

    More than that, the link with Malcolm McClaren is obvious as their manager for a short but undistinguished period of time. The Dolls were the first band that met his expectations of rebel rock. His first attempt to dress such a band was not a qualified success not helped by them being on their last legs with drug wastage. After first unsuccessfully attempting to get Sylvan then Richard Hell to come to the UK and form a band , he instead took some of the sartorial ideas of the latter and the guitar of the former – the famous white Gibson Les Paul – ended up in Steve Jones’s hands .

    From here

    To keep the Dolls in the public eye, McLaren devised a scheme that would pave the way for the shocking fashion and statements that would come from later punk acts. McLaren toyed with some of the slogans from the French students’ revolution of 1968. In 1974, he borrowed their question, “What are the politics of boredom?” and dressed the band in red patent leather. The red, combined with the boredom banner boasting a sickle and hammer, had many asking if the Dolls had gone too far. From drag to Communism, the Dolls had once again overextended themselves, and this time failed miserably. McLaren tried to resurrect the Dolls’ career by sending the band on a tour of the South. The tour ended when the band broke up in Florida in 1974. Guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan’s heroin left the Dolls in the middle of a tour because they could not find heroin in Florida.

    From: Wikipedia

    The New York Dolls were a glam rock band in the 1970s that prefigured much of what was to come in the punk rock era. Influenced by the MC5, the Dolls influenced a whole era of musicians and bands such as the Hanoi Rocks, The Ramones, Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, The Damned and even Morrissey of the Smiths. Perhaps their most lasting influence was on the sound and style of The Sex Pistols whose manager, Malcolm McLaren, was briefly involved with the Dolls at the end of their career (see protopunk).

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Oops! Sorry about the long url. Can someone fix that? Sorry!

  • HW Saxton

    Man, where in the F*** do you get your info dude??? On a weekly basis more and more flat out nonsense gets pushed onto BC care of your word processor than I can stand to read. Starting with the S.P.’s never recorded an LP proper?!?!?
    Well,waddinthefug was “Never Mind The Bollocks?” Many tracks on there were not
    not released as singles ever.Period.
    That LP was not just a collection of singles and their were B sides from other singles that were not included there either.
    Your ethusiasm for the music is very
    admirable and noted it is also wrong on
    a lot of occasions.

    If you would stop regurgitating anything
    and seemingly everything you’ve read on
    line and do a little homework you might hit on something hafway correct half of the time. I’ve had trouble taking you seriously since your assertion that the Butterfield Blues Band was a San Fran
    hippie blues band a few months back and I have noticed that you print verbatim that info you’ve gleaned on line without
    any knowledge at all to back up any of your claims. Sorry to be so harsh, honestly I am, but why bother writing about that in which you have next to no understanding or knowledge about.Sheesh!

    Listen to Marty as regards The Dolls and Malcolm. He tried to ingratitae himself into their midst but they were having next to nothing to do with him. You need to read “Please Kill Me” for a better look at that particularly strange
    situation,amigo. Again, I understand your passion for the music but why bother try to write on it as it is becoming glaringly obvious that you do not know SHIT about it and are just out to rehash facts/factotums that are largely incorrect if not just plain wrong. I’ve ignored it until now because
    there is no point in bothering with it. But when you make such absolutelt wrong staements sucadss these it makes it very
    hard to keep ignoring.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Gosh, HW. I always was nice to you. Watch your language, man.

    I don’t know where to begin with you here. Let’s start with where I get my facts. I usually stick with facts I can verify in at least three separate places; I think I go to more trouble to verify stuff than most people.

    As for Marty Thau’s comment, I asked him to elaborate, and I posted examples of how I could very easily come to the conclusion McLaren managed the Dolls at the end of their career. It’s all over the place; if you know the story, then spit it out.

    I never “asserted” Butterfied Blues Band was a San Fran hippie band, those were your words. I included them in an aside about blues bands active on the west coast. Yes, they were from chicago; Bloomfield wound up on the west coast.

    I don’t “regurgitate” stuff. I try to put biographical info, recording info, and the like into a readable format. It’s not an easy job either, especially when you know anal-retentives will pick apart your article while seldom offering useful info on their own.

    Sheesh, it’s a diversion, to talk about bands and music. I never claimed to be a historian, although I’ll match my facts up against the facts cited in most other articles around here.

    Sleep it off, HW. You’re way outta line here.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    And Never Mind The Bollocks is not an “album” it is mostly a singles collection. I never said they never meant to make and album, but Bollocks ain’t an album. It’s a hodgepodge.

  • Marty Thau

    Here’s the real info — Malcolm worked with the Dolls for a short period of time — for a few months at most — and wanted to manage them but it never would have happened because some members of the band just didn’t like him, or his ideas. As for Mercury, they wanted a 3rd album but only if the band wrote new material and cleaned up. Keep in mind that in the mid-’70s you could be anything in America but you couldn’t be a commie. Ever hear of Vietnam? Malcolm’s political fantasy, or vision(s), if you will, missed its mark by many a mile with his Red Patent Leather presentation. Oddly enough, though, the Dolls were great at that “comeback” show but the press couldn’t see past the hammer and sickle banner. Here’s the bottom line — since when do reviews from sites like Amazon.com, etc. tell the real story, especially when they’re quite often written by people who weren’t, in many cases, even born when a particular band existed? The truth is this — the one and only good thing Malcolm ever did for the Dolls was to send Arthur to alcoholic rehab. Everything else was a total disaster. The Dolls were well over by the time Malcolm showed up. All he ever did was drive them further into oblivion. But in all fairness to him, he learned his lessons well and his exposure to the Dolls, and New York’s downtown tastemakers coupled with his revisionist resume, stood him in good stead in London. He lucked out but eventually even blew it with the Sex Pistols. His greatest revelation was that he understood a void had been created in England when the Dolls imploded. Malcolm obviously got a lot of mileage out of stating he was the Dolls manager but he just wasn’t. That’s what took place. Believe it.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Thanks Marty;

    I should clarify one point: I don’t use Amazon reviews for information; I simply googled “New York Dolls” + “McLaren” after I read your message, and printed the first 5 things that came up. That was just to show how one could easily fall into the trap of believing info that appears in a variety of places.

    You cite no sources, but I believe your synopsis; I changed “managed the Dolls” to “worked with the Dolls”.

    The thing about community bloggin, like Blogcritics, is it gives us a chance to catch each other’s errors. If someone catches one, I always fix it; I like good info as much as the next person. Like I said, I’m fastidious about checking things -it takes me hours- but I’m also human; I can overlook something, misread something, make a typo, or mischaracterize something just like anyone else. I try not to, and go to pains to avoid it. All I ask is that people try not to get too personal if they have their facts differently; I always look into it, as I did here.

    In this case I plead guilty so saying something hundreds of other people said. It isn’t integral to the story being told, but since reasonable doubt exists, I hope my edit will suffice.

    At any rate, thanks for sharing your story; I appreciate it.

  • Marty Thau

    Cite sources? In this case I was the source.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Sorry Marty, no offense meant. I didn’t recognize your name at first.

    Thank you for the exclusive. :)

  • Eric Olsen

    much of the dispute here is interpretation — what is an album vs a collection? — but Marty is word on the Dolls. He was there. REad his history of the Dolls right here in Blogcritics

  • Eric Olsen

    And yes, everyone PLEASE make your URLs links

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    ah geez, who cares about the actual facts?!! for me the only fact that matters is that i saw the Pistols do “God Save The Queen” on the tv and the hair rose on my arms and neck and i almost peed my pants.

    you won’t find that anecdote in the wiki.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Thanks for fixing the link Eric, I’ll be careful of that in the future.

    Also thanks for posting the link to Marty’s account; it is indeed fascinating reading. Wish I had read that before writing this.

    Mark Saleski’s apt comment makes me want to add a thought I had about writing about music, and the facts one must double-check when doing so:

    First of all, the piece is about the Sex Pistols, not the Dolls. That doesn’t excuse a factual error, but the error was an aside, and doesn’t bear on the story at large very much.

    The story itself is not verbatim of anything; like all my articles, I wrote it first, and then went back and checked facts, names, locations, and dates. This meant changing stuff, rephrasing stuff, inserting stuff, and deleting stuff.

    The purpose of the article (and all of my articles) is to tip my hat to the artist, and provide an introduction to the band and its work and noteworthy biographical events. It’s not intended for superfans, collectors, and the like; it’s meant for newbies who haven’t tried the artist, or those who have but don’t know much about them.

    As such, Mark illustrates a thought I have every time someone gets angry at me here: 99.5% of the people who read this article couldn’t care less if McLaren managed the Dolls or not. That’s not the story being told here.

    That doesn’t mean it’s OK to be wrong; I’d just as soon satisfy the other .5% too; a hopeless task, but a goal always worth shooting for.

    A lot of people have an attitude of “If you weren’t there, then you don’t know shit, and have no business writing about it”. That’s just bullcrap. I wasn’t at the Civil War either, but I’ll write about it if I want to.

    My articles are never first hand accounts and never pretend to be. They’re intended to tell a story, offer a context, outline a discography, offer some critique, and note big events in an artist’s career.

    Some work better than others; I wasn’t around for Jefferson Airplane either, but the official Jefferson Airplane site thought my piece on them was worth featuring on their front page. So sometimes, people find value in these articles.

    I dislike misinformation more than people might realize; I try to stamp it out in my articles myself, and invite others to alert me to stuff I get wrong. I also fix a lot of misinformation other sources misreport and get no kudos for that; I just did a piece on Pavement; you’d never believe how many sources mis-identify drummer Gary Young as a different Gary Young who drummed in Australia.

    As for this Sex Pistols piece, I’m sure someone can take a microscope and pick it apart some more. I also think it’s a better introduction to the Sex Pistols than you’ll find at a lot of online rock sites. Perfect? No way; I’m still a beginner. 100% correct? Probably not, but not for want of trying. Would someone who was actually there write a better introduction? Not necessarily; might even be worse, might not.

    Here’s a sad but inevitable fact I don’t need to double check: 25 years from now all rock lit will be written by people who weren’t there. And the music and bands themselves will occupy a different context for later generations, one that might curl the hair of the old timers. But if the music survives, and moves people, that’s a good thing.

    I seldom respond to posts in as lengthy a manner as I’ve done here, but since one commenter trashed my entire output at BC on the basis of a couple of nitpicks, I felt compelled to stand up for myself, since I put a lot of work into producing pieces that do have value.

    If a reader doesn’t like my work, then don’t read it; there’s plenty else to read here, much of it better than mine. And if someone finds an error, try to point it out without cursing me out at the same time. That’s all. I’m happy to fix it.

    Sorry for the long post here, but I needed to get it off my chest.

  • Vern Halen

    Well, I like uao’s weekly artists’ overviews. You just gotta remember – they’re overviews. And what a good overview lacks in insider information and intimate detail is usually made up for by being generally informative interesting or entertaining.

    Keep up the good articles!

  • Eric Olsen

    I like them very much and find them valuable for the reasons uao states: focusing attention on deserving artist by providing background on them and their music.

    All you can do with mistakes is correct them. Thanks uao!

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    they make me wanna buy records (yea, i know…what doesn’t??!!)

  • Eric Olsen

    oh, one other thing: dude, do a search of Blogcritics as you do each profile

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    Good idea, Eric, thanks.

  • Vern Halen

    Oh, and let’s not forget – the Pistols were a hell of a band, and they’ve got lots of material that still sounds as tough as nails – “Anarchy in the UK” (you can almost believe Johnny Rotten IS the antichist), “God Save the Queen”(love the 4 note guitar solo!), “Bodies” (so acidic even prolifers can’t use it as an antiabortion anthem), and “New York” (“lookin’ for a kiss” indeed!).

    I don’t know if they could’ve survived a second album/collection/whatever. Bollocks is pretty near perfect on its own terms – of course, as the legend (and maybe even the reality) would have it, the Pistols would never have used anyone else’s.

  • dyrkness

    I was at the Sex Pistols concert in San Antonio Texas at Randy’s Rodeo.YOU CAN’T IMAGINE WHAT IT WAS LIKE! Punks+Cowboys.OH Brother What Art Thou? As Shel Silverstein once said in a song “The Mud and The Blood and The Beer.”

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    As far as I’m concerned, dyrkness just delivered the best eulogy for the Pistols in America as anyone is liable to see.

  • Antfreeze

    You know uao, a better answer to the nitpicking here would have been, “Piss off ya wankers!” Great writing man. KIU

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    That would have been brilliant antfreeze; wish I had thought of it. ;-)

  • Eric Olsen

    and a well-placed gob or two

  • HW Saxton

    Sleep it off? Hmmmm… I’m not sure what
    you mean exactly there but… I am sure it does not matter anyway.

    Like I said, UAO I do like your articles
    all in all but if something is wrong I
    will more than likely say so and will
    also say why I think it is wrong. No
    harm intended.This is how we all learn
    (and if I am wrong I’ll be the first to
    admit it as well,although if I do have
    doubts on something and cannot verify
    it to my own personal standards I will
    just leave it be rather than take any
    chances on writing something that can
    be proven wrong ya know?)or how we can
    become more entrenched in our own
    ignorance.Depends on the person I guess.

    I tend to get irked when I read what I
    see as misinformation(that I’ve always
    thought was/is known to be fairly common
    knowledge to musicologist types)being
    repeated ad nauseum as with the McClaren
    /Dolls story etc.I know this was not a
    focal point to the Pistols piece but it
    is a big part of the story by the by.
    Not irked at the writer by the way(it is
    not a personal thing so please do not
    take it as such) but rather at people in
    general repeating mis-info at will it
    seems. The net is full of it and that’s
    why it is my LAST resource to turn to
    for info on anything music related.

    Not to drag THIS out but:You didn’t know
    the Butterfield Blues Band were from Chi
    until it was pointed out to you.You had
    lumped them in with a bunch of stupid
    hippie blues stuff from the SF bay area.
    No biggie. Ironically enough,Bloomfield
    left the B.B.Band partly because he did
    not dig the direction their BLUES was
    going in.Plus he had other offers like
    working with Bob Dylan for awhile.
    Then he ends up making worse hippie jam
    crap out west. Shows what drugs will do.

    So, in conclusion I do apologize if I’ve
    offended you it wasn’t a personal thing
    against you only against incorrect info.
    So far as the Sex Pistols LP being
    a “singles” LP wellllll… I guess that
    is a to-may-to,to-mah-to thing. Opinions
    and all that.And I have to admit I got
    a pretty good chuckle out of you telling
    Marty to cite his sources! LOL!!! Again
    my sincerest apologies, UAO and I mean
    it maaaaan!!! Later.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    No hard feelings, HW. I welcome your corrections. Just resist the urge to cuss me out; even if I claimed McLaren managed the Beatles, it isn’t worth popping blood vessels over. It’s just a hobby I do for fun.

    As for freakin’ Butterfield band, I identified them from Chicago in the same article without you pointing it out; in the write-up for “Born In Chicago” perhaps you didn’t read that far? That was 3 months ago; and it amounted to a one-line aside in one of my very first efforts that had nothing to do with the thrust of the article, same as this.

    As for your point about McLaren not managing the Dolls as being something musicologists will know, you’re missing my point again: my posts aren’t for musicologists, they are for new listeners who don’t know the essential story. And it isn’t “common knowledge”; like I illustrated, the ‘common’ assumption that is repeated everywhere ad nauseum is that he was manager. I didn’t catch that error because it is so prevailant; there are other errors reported elsewhere that I fixed myself in this piece, which you can’t see because I fixed ‘em.

    I apologize for not recognizing Marty Thau in an instant, but he isn’t a household name; do you know offhand the name of Pavement’s manager, or the Goo Goo Doll’s manager, or Iron Butterfly’s manager? If you do, then kudos to you on obsession above and beyond the call of duty.

    I’ll admit I was royally pissed off by your remarks, which were dismissive, rude, hostile, trashed my entire output of nearly 500,000 words in a single blow, and were poorly formatted (as usual), especially since I’ve exchanged kinder words with you in the past. I’m not a public utility or an encyclopedia, nor a writer with a staff of editors at my disposal.

    I’m a blogger with a hobby, with integrity and a desire to get things right.

    Next time, why not do what the first commenter here did? Share an anecdote and alert me to a mistake gently? I’d appreciate it, thanks.

  • HW Saxton

    UAO, as is the usual, with stupid stuff
    being said,by me, on my end ‘o thaaangs,
    (I’m not even too sure what I’d said
    previously… and dont wanna know)I have
    a really bad problem with cussing and
    definitely,fo sho’,did not mean anything
    by it towards YOU.I get exasperated easy
    and it’s hard to convey friendly cussing
    /swearing via this digital universe
    without coming across as a bigger A-Hole
    than I already am. Honestly,truly & 100%
    Heavens to murgatroids,even. You seem to
    be like a cool,very level headed kind of
    guy.I, on the other hand am usually an
    easily irritated,high strung jerk most
    of the time but not in a particularly
    malevolent way. Sooooo, anyhow…. The
    Pistols rocked(though it honestly sounds
    kinda slow and sludgy to me these days,
    getting old I guess and I have always
    preferred the first Damned LP as my own
    pick to click where UK punk is concerned
    after all these years. And The Lurkers
    first LP “Fulham Fallout” and of course
    the Rezillos first LP is A-May-Zing.And
    that bass player is a MADMAN! Ohmygod!!!
    Ever heard either of those????? If NO,
    then I could not recommend them more.

    Way back in the way back when they were
    doin’ their thang,The B.B.B were really
    fuggin’ intense for their time. If you
    listen to the ’65 Stones doing Little
    Walter and the BBB doing the same,then
    the Stones sound positively teeny bop
    in comparison.Plus the whole integration
    thing is really so cool & ahead of it’s
    time (they caught alot of shit behind
    it from ignorant cracker assed rednecks
    of all colors).But I digress. Again I’m
    sorry I came off as an arrogant dick.
    I’m not. Most of the time anyways. I do
    enjoy reading your stuff or I wouldn’t
    even bother responding at all. Thanks
    for responding and I’ll talk atcha later
    man. Peace,Love & Pawn Shop guitars,
    Harold

  • HW Saxton

    PS: Malcolm MacClaren looks like the
    bastard love child of Lyle Lovett and
    Sideshow Bob. My apologies to Sideshow
    Bob.

  • http://freewayjam.blogspot.com uao

    I also apologize HW, for being too sensitive. I’ll chill, too.

    I dug your thoughts on BBB; you ought to write some pieces yourself like that; it really conveys a lot of the intangibles that later listeners miss.

    I’m all about peace; peace on you, too.

    uao

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    How cute and sweet – y’all should now have love children – call them the little pistoleros:)

    Glad to see y’all sorted it out

  • Shark

    Coupla points apropos de nada:

    1) I used to work with a lot of PhD scholars, art historians, and world-renowned museum curators — and they did the same kinda shit as uao and Saxton.

    It seems that once someone pisses into the stream, later writers/scholars drink downstream with religious faith until someone actually goes back and checks the ‘original source’; there are a lot of anecdotes, lies, mistakes, and exagerations in the compilation of history, but it behooves ‘us’ to double-check before we take yet another leak in the public font.

    It also behooves us to set the record straight. Everyone benefits from such exchanges, although feelings can get hurt when someone says, “You fucking EEDIOT!” while pointing out a mistake.

    2) I’m just thrilled to be among a crowd that knows SO MUCH about pop/rock musical history.

    3) I’m with Eric on the Album vs compilation of singles issue. BFD; it was a 12″ piece of vinyl, and that’s what matters.

    4) For those so inclinded, there’s a great history of the Pistols in context with 20th century anarchist art/artists called “LIPSTICK TRACES” by Greil Marcus. Yeah, I know it’s kinda pretentious and convoluted (you either love Marcus or hate ‘im!) — but the stuff on the Situationalists is worth the price of admission.

    5) re. The Butterfield Blues Band – Saxton is gonna hate me, but a few years ago, I went back and bought one of my all-time favorite (teen years) albums, East-West. What I remembered as a masterpiece was the most amateur, hideous piece of shit I’ve ever heard. Mike Bloomfield couldn’t play a guitar to save his life.

    ** Carry on, kids, and either way — thanks for the artist overviews, uao. (I’m sure you’ll be notified if anything is incorrect. heh.)

  • Shark

    Oh and uao: do you take requests?

  • JR

    Shark: Mike Bloomfield couldn’t play a guitar to save his life.

    Oh man! That’s gotta start some trouble.

    I bought some of his stuff, including East-West, fairly recently; he sounds good to me. Maybe Bloomfield was a bit uneven, but surely he could play circles around Clapton, or pretty much any other British “blues” guitarist.

    What do you think of Long Time Comin’ by The Electric Flag?

  • Marty Thau

    I’m big in Brooklyn uao. Ask Eric.

  • Shark

    JR, unfortunately, the guantlet is on the turf. Mea culpa!

    “…Maybe Bloomfield was a bit uneven, but surely he could play circles around *Clapton…”

    Man, and you thought I was gonna start some trouble!?

    (see below? heh.)

    *most overrated guitarist in history

  • Bennett

    Great piece uao. I’m with the gang that could give a rat’s ass who “worked” with the Dolls and when.

    I was starting to gig out while the pistols were doing their self destruct thing. We wore out the record, and usually added a few bars of God Save The Queen to the end of most gigs.

    “We mean it, maaaan!”

    Thanks again for another trip down the ‘ol cranial lane.

    Bennett

  • HW Saxton

    Shark, So “East-West” didn’t stand the
    test o’ time,eh? I’m not all that big
    a fan of that one. It’s alright in spots
    but they ain’t gonna make Pharoah S. or
    Coltrane run and hide by any means. On
    the cut “East/West” I think Elvin B.has
    the better solo of the two.On Work Song
    as well. Bloomfield IS overrated I’ll
    admit. Johnny Winter was very heavily
    influenced by Bloomfields style but I
    think he one-ups Bloomfield at his own
    game. Mike Bloomfields best playing is
    on “Highway 61 Re-Visited”.He asked Bob
    Dylan what he wanted him to play on that
    LP and Dylan said(I’m loosely quoting BD
    here):”Play anything,just don’t play any
    of that B.B. King shit”… LOL!!!

    But neither E.B. or Bloomfield can hold
    a damn torch to Lester “Junior” Barnard
    of “The Texas Playboys” band. Now that
    there is a lead guitar players guitarist
    if there ever was one.No slight on Eldon
    either. Barnard could just play some of
    the DIRTIEST-ASSED blues too.Ever heard
    “Brain Cloudy Blues” by Bob Wills & The
    Texas Playboy Band? Burning! A-HA!!!

    But,I still do like “East/West” for the
    most part. My favorite track there is
    the slow blues “I’ve Got A Mind To Give
    Up Living”. They claim it as “Original”
    but it is a tune by Little Joe Blue (a
    BB King knock-off from Chicago’s West
    Side)called “I’ll Go Shopping Instead”
    How they got away with lifting it is
    beyond me.I’ve got the 45 and it’s from
    1963,a good 2 and 1/2 years before The
    BBB cut it.Hmmmm…

    One last thing Shark. Whaddaya think of
    Billy Gibbons? I think he is seriously
    underrated. Deceptively simple. I have
    seen a million and one bands cover ZZ
    tunes but I’ve never even seen one get
    Billy Gibbons solos right. Never.Later.

  • HW Saxton

    Oh yeah Shark, I like Greil Marcus well
    enough,though all I’ve read by him is R
    N R Will Stand,Mystery Train & Stranded.
    You recommend “Lipstick Traces”?

  • Bennett

    HW Saxton – Lipstick Traces in on one of the UFO albums too, Force It or Phenomenon, an all instumental I believe.

    A beautiful piece, but no relation I’d imagine?

  • Shark

    HW Saxman –

    1) Nope. I hated that East-West didn’t hold up over time. We used to get high to “Work Song” — but it only brought me down on a later listening. The guitars in particular sounded like incompetent white kids fumbling with the blues. (oops, that’s what IT WAS!)

    2) I love Gibbons. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to mistake his sound and style — which can’t be said about more than a few contemporary guitarists. I’ll go with an Original every time, and he’s as original as they come. And we all know the best guitar sligners come from Texas. I can spit out my window and hit some 12 year old guitar prodigy!

    (BTW: I heard Gibbons/ZZ in a tiny bar in about 1967; he was as good then as he is now. And sadly, he has rarely REALLY cut loose on his recordings.)

    re: The Texas Playboys/Lester – now yer talkin’! This is possibly The Greatest MusicM ever made, imho. (I can prove it with a pencil and paper!) Makes me cry in my beer, it does.

    But we digress…

    re. Lipstick Traces (THE BOOK) by Marcus – I loved it. A great ‘history’ of the Pistols from an overly intellectual view that they would probably barf at. It’s worth reading, since GM tracks a very overlooked anarchist/art movement, The Situationalists — as precursors to the Pistols, et al.

    Shark sez check it out.

  • Bennett

    Oh, shows you what I know. Agree with everything you write about Gibbons. Other than I didn’t see him in a small club. A shame that.

  • HW Saxton

    Shark,You’re right about “Work Song” but
    that is also the reason I still find it
    charming. It IS inept White boy jazz as
    done by an over accomplished garage band
    but I’d still rather hear that than the
    3,497th cover version of “Train Kept a
    Rollin’” or sumpin’. Although there is
    this version of TKR by a Texas cat named
    Scotty MacKay that just wipes the floor
    with the Yardbirds version.You have most
    likely heard it.

    Billy Gibbons!!!!!! I’ve seen ZZ top 5
    times and the records DON’T do them much
    justice at all.When Billy does his take
    on “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” by the
    late,great Freddie King,(and they always
    do it live)man that is just plain assed
    intense. His solos are never quite the
    same but always as good or better than
    the last time I saw them.Last time I saw
    the ZZ’s they just ripped from one tune
    to the next with barely a pause in
    between. They even did “Vincent Price
    Blues” which I’m told they rarely play
    live. They like playing out here in
    Vegas. They like all the partying and
    driving around out in the desert around
    the outside of town. It is kinda purty
    I’ll admit.’Twas much better before all
    the f’ing Californians moved here and we
    were still a hick town with casinos and all that though.

    Thanks fer writing back. And I still do
    like to catch a buzz listening to “Work
    Song”. The more things change…

  • Vinny

    It’s posts like “Mike Bloomfield couldn’t play guitar to save a life” written by absolute nobody’s that reminds me to stop reading crap on the internet. Duane Allman thought very highly of Bloomfield – you think you got a better ear than Daune? And don’t even try to antagonize me by ripping into Duane. Right now I think you have bad taste – if you diss Duane, you will eliminate any lingering doubt in my mind.

    I’m gonna go continue transcribing “I got a mind to give up living” then play the hell out of it and learn from a master.

  • nancy1978

    sid vicious is a legend for ever!!!sid is so beautiful!!!the sex pistols thats good!!!Sod vicious i love you for ever!!!

  • Sioux City Sue

    What a treat after reading the Pistols blog. Your posts were over a year ago, so who knows if you’ll ever read this. Hats off to you either way!

    RE: #39 — July 1, 2005 @ 20:10PM — HW Saxton “But neither E.B. or Bloomfield can hold
    a damn torch to Lester “Junior” Barnard
    of “The Texas Playboys” band. Now that
    there is a lead guitar players guitarist
    if there ever was one.No slight on Eldon
    either. Barnard could just play some of
    the DIRTIEST-ASSED blues too.Ever heard
    “Brain Cloudy Blues” by Bob Wills & The
    Texas Playboy Band? Burning! A-HA!!!”

    Nobody can hold a torch to any of the Playboys. You can’t even compare Lester to Eldon because of what they each did individually. All of them were decades ahead of their time and twist music like no one else. (no more dusty skies for the Boys who have left us)

    “Brain Cloudy Blues” is fucking meaaaaaaan. So is “Cadillac in Model “A””. That guitar work is mind boggling subversive.

    Since the Boys, a lot of people have tried to copy cat many times… close… but no cigar. Why do you think Mclaren was hell bent on touring the South when there were flourishing punk scenes on both coasts they were known in and could have taken – easy? Something had to be going on down in do wa diddy he wanted a piece of. Well, there’s two sides to every coin, anyway.

    RE: #42 — July 1, 2005 @ 22:50PM — Shark – “re: The Texas Playboys/Lester – now yer talkin’! This is possibly The Greatest MusicM ever made, imho. (I can prove it with a pencil and paper!) Makes me cry in my beer, it does.”

    Possibly??? That word doesn’t even come CLOSE imho! Are there even words? Ah, the Boys played and the world will never be the same! It is skull fucking BRILLIANT music! Aaaaaah HA!

    I often wonder what the Pistols and Mclaren thought of the Boys’ band man grinning maniacally at them on that amazingly crisp, beautiful, fateful day way down South? Or if they even noticed, or had a clue. WhoooShhhh Mmm.