Music & British Identity: Sex Pistols

Primary members: Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Paul Cook, Sid Vicious
Band Biography
Album of focus: Never Mind the Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols! (October 1977)

A note about the album, from the Pistols's website:

"Early in the morning several UK distributors notified Virgin Records that they had stopped all Never Mind the Bollocks distribution in the shops one hour after its release due to offensive contents & some trouble about the album title… After some heavy brainstorming a very bothered Richard Branson [chairman of Virgin] decided to completely delete the release 2 days later on Sunday 30th October 1977, only in some Virgin Stores, despite the British law about the shops closing every Sunday. Twenty-seven years later nobody knows if Virgin Records was fined for this unusual opening of its shops on Sunday."

John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) on his lyrics:

"Words are my weapons. Violence is something I'm not very good at. I don't think you can explain how things happen other than sometimes they just should, and the Sex Pistols should have happened and did."

"What you've seen in any documentary about any band before or since is how great and wonderful everything is. That's not the truth of it. It's hell, it's hard, it's horrible...it's enjoyable to a small degree. But if you know what you're doing it for, you'll tolerate all that because the work at the end of the day is what matters. We managed to offend all the people we were fucking fed up with."

Songs for study: From Never Mind the Bollocks

  1. "Holidays in the Sun"
  2. "Bodies"
  3. "No Feelings"
  4. "Liar"
  5. "God Save the Queen"
  6. "Problems"
  7. "Seventeen"
  8. "Anarchy in the UK"
  9. "Submission"
  10. "Pretty Vacant"
  11. "New York"
  12. "EMI (Unlimited Edition)"

This song was inspired by a trip the Sex Pistols took to Berlin in March 1977. Johnny Lydon remarked later (in 2000's documentary The Filth & the Fury) that he was moved to write the song after experiencing "the absolute paranoia of the place." Keep in mind that not only was this time the height of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall symbolized this tension, but also that West Germany was experiencing added anxiety from the terrorist issue of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, which came to a head in the fall of 1977, known as the "German Autumn." In fact, the song was released in October 1977, when the "German Autumn" events reached their climax (i.e., the RAF killed Hans M. Schleyer, the key leaders of the RAF committed suicide in prison).

 

Cheap holiday in other people's misery...

I don't wanna holiday in the sun
I wanna go to the new Belsen
I wanna see some history
Cause now I got a reasonable economy

Now I got a reason
Now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting
Now I got a reason
Now I got reason to be waiting
The Berlin wall

In sensurround sound in a two inch wall
I was waiting for the communist call
I didn't ask for sunshine and I got World War three
I'm looking over the wall and they're looking at me

Now I got a reason
Now I got a reason
Now I got a reason and I'm still waiting
Now I got a reason
Now I got a reason to be waiting
The Berlin wall

They're staring all night
And they're staring all day
I had no reason to be here at all
And now I got a reason
It's no real reason
And I'm waiting
The Berlin wall

I got to go over the Berlin wall
I don't understand this thing at all
I’m gonna go over the Berlin wall
I’m gonna go over the Berlin wall
I’m gonna go over the Berlin wall

Claustrophobia there's too much paranoia
There's too many closets
So when will we fall
And now I gotta reason
It's no real reason to be waiting
The Berlin wall

I got to go over the wall
I don't understand this thing at all
This third rate B movie show
Cheap dialogue
Cheap essential scenery
I got to go over the wall
I wanna go over the Berlin wall
Before they come over the Berlin wall
I don't understand this thing at all
I’m gonna go over the wall
I wanna go over the Berlin wall
I’m gonna go over the Berlin wall
Before they come over the Berlin wall
I don't understand this thing at all

Please don't be waiting for me

 

Note: The exact inspiration for this song is shrouded in mystery. According to most sources, the song was about an obsessed fan of the band, named Pauline, who frequently irritated Johnny Lydon. She reportedly would tell Lydon about getting pregnant and the various abortions she would have afterwards, and Lydon even claims in one documentary interview that Pauline showed up on his doorstep once with a fetus in a plastic bag.

Comments on the song:

"['Bodies']...is the kind of music that is a symptom of the way society is declining. It could have a shocking effect on young people."

- Norman St. John Stevas, Tory member of parliament, 1977

"It's not anti-abortion, it's not pro-abortion. Think about it. Don't be callous like that with a human being, and don't be limited to such a thing as morals either. Because it's immoral to bring a kid into this world and not give a toss about it."

- John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) on "Bodies," from Classic Albums: The Sex Pistols's Never Mind the Bollocks

 

She was a girl from Birmingham
She just had an abortion
She was a case of insanity
Her name was Pauline she lived in a tree
She was a no one who killed her baby
She sent the letters from the country
She was an animal
She was a bloody disgrace

Body
I'm not an animal
Body
I'm not an animal

Dragged on a table in a factory
Illegitimate place to be
In a packet in a lavatory
Die little baby screaming

Body
Screaming fucking bloody mess
Not an animal
It's an abortion

Body
I'm not an animal
Mummy, Mummy, Mummy
I'm not an abortion

Throbbing squirm
Gurgling bloody mess

I'm not a discharge
I'm not a loss in protein
I'm not a throbbing squirm

Fuck this
And fuck that
Fuck it all
And fuck her fucking brat
She don't wanna baby that looks like that
I don't wanna baby that looks like that

Body
I'm not no animal
Body
An abortion

Body
I'm not an animal
Body
I'm not an animal
An animal
I'm not an animal

I'm not an animal
An animal
I'm not an animal
I ain’t no animal

Body
I'm not an animal

I'm not an animal
An animal
I ain’t no animal
I'm not an animal

I'm not an animal
Mummy

I’ve seen you in the mirror when the story began
I fell in love with you
I love your mortal sin
Your brains are locked away
But I love your company
I only ever leave you
When you got no money
I got no emotions for anybody else
You better understand
I'm in love with myself
Myself
My beautiful self

No feeling
No feeling
No feelings
For anybody else

Hello and goodbye
And a runaround Sue
You follow me around like a pretty pot of glue
I kick you in the head
You got nothing to say
Get out of the way cause I gotta getaway
You never realise I take the piss out of you
You come up and see me and I beat you black and blue
All day
I'll send you away

I got no feeling
No feeling
No feeling
For anybody else
Except for myself
My beautiful selfish

There ain’t no moonlight after midnight
I see you silly people out looking for delight
Well, I'm so happy
I'm feeling so fine
I'm watching all the rubbish wasting my time
I look around your house
You got nothing to steal
I kick you in the brains when you get down to kneel
I pray
You pray to your god

No feeling
No feeling
I’ve got no feeling
For anybody else

No feeling
No feeling
No feeling
For anybody else
Except for myself
Your daddy's gone away
Be back another day
See his picture hanging on your wall

 

Note: At a live performance of this song in 1977, Johnny Rotten dedicated the tune to then British prime minster Harold Wilson.

 

Liar, lie, lie, lie
You liar, lie, lie, lie
Tell me why
Tell me why
Why’d you have to lie
Should've realised
That you should've told the truth
Should've realised
You know what I'll do

You're in suspension
You're a liar

Now I wanna know
And know I wanna know
Why you never look me in the face
Broke a confidence
It’ll please your ego
Should've realised
You know what I know

You're in suspension
You're a liar

I know where you go
Everybody you know
I know everything that you do or say
So when you tell lies I always be in your way
I'm nobody's fool and I know all
Cause I know
What I know

You're in suspension
You're a liar
You're a liar
You're a liar
Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie

Liar, lie, lie, lie
You liar, lie, lie
I think you're funny
You're funny ha ha
I don't need it
Don't need your blah blah
Should've realised
I know what you are

You're in suspension
You're in suspension
You're in suspension
You're a liar
You're a liar
You're a lie, lie, lie


 

Note: This song caused considerable controversy in the UK upon its release, which just happened to be during Jubilee week in the summer of 1977. The Silver Jubilee marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne on 6 February 1952; in short, it was a powerful celebration of national pride. As a result of the popularity of the song, the Sex Pistols were arrested for playing a Thames river gig on a boat that followed the Queen's flotilla, the song was blacklisted from the pop charts (even though it reached #1), and Johnny Rotten was later attacked by possible members of the National Front and beaten up pretty badly. The BBC banned the song.

Johnny Lydon's remarks about the song and the controversy it stirred:

"You don't write 'God Save the Queen' because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you're fed up with them being mistreated."

- John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), from The Filth and the Fury: A Sex Pistols Documentary

God save the queen
The fascist regime
It made you a moron
Potential H bomb

God save the queen
She ain't no human being
There is no future
In England's dreaming

Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need
There's no future
No future
No future for you

God save the queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the queen
Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh god save history
God save your mad parade
Lord god have mercy
All crimes are paid

When there's no future
How can there be sin
We're the flowers in the dustbin
We're the poison in the human machine
We're the future
Your future

God save the queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the queen
She ain't no human being
There is no future
In England's dreaming

No future
No future
No future for you
No future
No future
No future for me
No future
No future
No future for you
No future
No future for you

 

Too many problems
Why I am here
Don’t need to be
Because you're all too clear
And I can see there's something wrong with you
But what do you expect me to do
At least I gotta know what I wanna be
Don't come to me if you need pity
Are you lonely
You got no one
You got your body in suspension
That's no problem

Problem
Problem
The problem is you

Eat your heart out on a plastic tray
You don't do what you want and you'll fade away
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

Problem
Problem
Problem
The problem is you
And whatcha gonna do
Problem

Problem

I a death trip
But I ain't automatic
You won't find me just staying static
Don't you give me any order
To people like me there is no order
Bet you thought you had it all worked out
Bet you thought you knew what I was about
Bet you thought you solved all your problem
But you are the problem

Problem
Problem
Problem
The problem is you
And whatcha gonna do
With your problem
I’ll leave that to you
Problem
The problem is you
You got a problem
Whatcha gonna do

You’re going to a doctor
Gonna take you away
They’ll take you away
And they’ll throw away the key
They don't want you and they don't want me
You got a problem
The problem is you
Problem
What you gonna do
Problem
Have you got a problem
Problem
Have you got a problem
Problem
Problem
Problem

 

You're only 29
Got a lot to learn
But when your mummy dies
She will not return

We like noise it's our choice
It's what we wanna do
We don't care about long hair
I don't wear

See my face not a trace
No reality
I don't work
I just speed
That's all I need

I'm a lazy sod
I'm a lazy sod
I'm a lazy sod
I'm so lazy
Yawn

I'm a lazy sod
I'm a lazy Sid
I'm a lazy sod
I'm so lazy
I can't even be bothered
Lazy

Lazy

 

Right
Now
Ha, ha, ha

I am an antichrist
I am an anarchist
Don't know what I want
But I know how to get it
I wanna destroy passer by
Cause I
Wanna be
Anarchy
No dogs body

Anarchy for the UK
It's coming sometime and maybe
I give a wrong time stop at traffic line
Your future dream is a shopping scheme

Cause I
I wanna be
Anarchy

In the city

How many ways to get what you want
I use the best
I use the rest
I use the enemy
I use anarchy

Cause I
Wanna be
Anarchy

It’s the only way to be

Is this the MPLA*
Or is this the UDA**
Or is this the IRA***
I thought it was the UK
Or just
Another
Country
Another council tenancy

I wanna be
Anarchy

And I wanna be
Anarchy
Know what I mean
And I wanna be
Anarchist

Get pissed
Destroy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*MPLA: Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola, or Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. A political movement that advocated liberation from Portuguese colonial control, which later developed strong Marxist/Leninist ties with the Soviet Union.

**UDA: Ulster Defence Association, formed in 1971, a political/paramilitary group in Northern Ireland outlawed in the UK as a terrorist group. The UDA supported British control of Northern Ireland and was often involved in the killings of Catholics in this region during the "Troubles" (the most violent era being 1967-1994).

***IRA: Irish Republican Army, established in 1919 originally, eventually morphed into a paramilitary group that opposed British rule in Northern Ireland and waged war against the British and Protestants during the Troubles.

 

I'm on a submarine mission for you baby
I feel the way you were going
I picked you up on my TV screen
I feel your undercurrent flowing

Sub mission
Going down down
Dragging her down
Sub mission
I can't tell you what I found

You've got me pretty deep baby
I can't figure out your watery love
I got to solve your mystery
You're sitting it out in heaven above

Sub mission
Going down down
Dragging her down
Submission
I can't tell you what I found

Well, it’s a mystery
Under the sea
In the water

Sub mission
Going down down
Dragging her down
Submission
I can't tell you what I found

Cause it's a secret
Under the water
In the sea
It’s an octopus rock

You've got me pretty deep baby
I can't figure out your watery love
I got to solve your mystery
You're sitting it out in heaven above
Sub mission
Going down down
Dragging her down
Sub mission
I can't tell you what I found

Sub mission
Sub mission
Going down, down, under the sea
I wanna drown, down, under the water
Going down, down, under the sea

 

There's no point in asking
You'll get no reply
Just remembered don't decide
I got no reason it's all too much
You'll always find us
Out to lunch

We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
We’re vacant
We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
Vacant

Don't ask us to attend
Cause we're not all there
I don't pretend cause I don't care
I don't believe illusions
Too much is real
Stuff your cheap comment
Cause we know what we feel

We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
We’re vacant
We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
Vacant
We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
And now
And we don't care

There's no point in asking
You'll get no reply
I just remembered I don't decide
I got no reason it's all too much
You'll always find me
Out to lunch

We’re out at lunch

We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
We’re vacant
We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
We’re vacant
We're so pretty
Oh so pretty
And now
And we don't care

We're pretty
Pretty vacant
We're pretty
Pretty vacant
We're pretty
Pretty vacant
We're pretty
Pretty vacant
And we don’t care

 

An imitation from New York
You're made in Japan from cheese and chalk
You're hippie tarts hero cause you put on a bad show
You put on a bad show
Oh, don't let it show

Still
Out on those pills
Oh, do you remember

Think it's swell playing Max's Kansas
You're looking bored and you're acting flash
With nothing in your gut you better keep your month shut
You better keep your month shut
You're in a rut

Still
Out on those pills
Do the sambo

Four years on you still look the same
I think it's about time you changed you brain
You're just a pile of shit coming to this
You poor little faggot
You're sealed with a kiss

Kiss me

Think it's swell playing in Japan
Everybody knows Japan is a dishpan
You're just a pile of shit you're coming to this
You poor little faggot
You're sealed with a kiss

Still
Out on those pills
Cheap thrills
Anadin’s, Aspro’s anything
You're condemned to eternal bullshit
You're sealed with a kiss

Kiss me

A kiss, a kiss
You're sealed with a kiss
Looking for a kiss
And coming to this
Oh, a kiss

You do just about anything
Well, kiss this
Playboy

 

Note: The band was first signed by EMI, but summarily dumped in January 1977 because of the "image problem" posed by the Pistols and the angry responses to the hit single "Anarchy in the UK." A&M Records signed them on 9 March 1977, but quickly sacked them on 12 March after a fight between Sid Vicious and a sound engineer from the popular TV show, "The Old Grey Whistle Test."

 

It’s an unlimited supply
And there is no reason why
I tell you it was all a frame
They only did it cause of fame
Who

EMI
EMI

Too many people had the suss
Too many people support us
An unlimited amount
Too many outlets in and out
Who

EMI
EMI

And sir and friends were crucified
A day they wish that we had died
We are an addition
We are ruled by none
Ever, ever, ever

And you thought that we were faking
That we were all just money making
You do not believe we're for real
Or you would lose your cheap appeal

Don't you judge a book just by the cover
Unless you cover just another
And blind acceptance is a sign
Of stupid fools who stand in line
Like

EMI
EMI

Unlimited edition with an unlimited supply
That was the only reason we all had to say goodbye

Unlimited supply
EMI
There is no reason why
EMI
I tell you it was all a frame
EMI
They only did it cause of fame
EMI
I do not need the pressure
EMI
I can't stand those useless fools
EMI
Unlimited supply
EMI

Hello EMI
Goodbye A&M

 

GRAFFITI STUDY WALL: MUSIC & VIDEOS
SEX PISTOLS
KRAFTWERK
THE CLASH
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.
JOY DIVISION
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES
AU PAIRS
COCTEAU TWINS
ARTERY
HUMAN LEAGUE
HEAVEN 17
THE SPECIALS
CABARET VOLTAIRE
TEARS FOR FEARS
DEPECHE MODE
THE SOUND
THE GLOVE
STEEL PULSE
THE CURE
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN
A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
GANG OF FOUR
NEW ORDER
U2
THE POLICE
CRASS
NEW MODEL ARMY
ELVIS COSTELLO
SPLIT ENZ
THE THE
XTC
THE EXPLOITED
DISCHARGE
THE SMITHS
THE HOUSEMARTINS
RADIOHEAD
PORTISHEAD
PET SHOP BOYS
M Y BLOODY VALENTINE
SLOWDIVE
CRASH MUSIC
MUSIC OF THE TROUBLES

VIDEOS:

SEX PISTOLS
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES (LIVE)
THE CURE (LIVE)
COCTEAU TWINS (LIVE)
NEW ORDER (LIVE)
PORTISHEAD (LIVE)
JOY DIVISION MINI-DOCUMENTARY
NUCLEAR WAR PREPAREDNESS: PROTECT & SURVIVE MANUAL