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Why Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ Is Still A Kick In The Nuts

Sex Pistols’ incendiary debut album, ‘’Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols‘’, has lost none of its fury, nor its ability to inspire.

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Released two years before their incendiary debut albumNever Mind The Bollocks, Heres The Sex Pistols, the punk legends’ 1975 debut single, ‘Anarchy In The UK’, released by EMI, mixed pop and politics to cause plenty of waves, not least because of Jamie Reid’s iconic ripped Union Jack poster which was used to promote it. It was during the promotion of the single that the infamous Today TV appearance took place, when Steve Jones, and not Johnny Rotten as many have since assumed, got into the row with presenter Bill Grundy and put punk on the front page, lighting the touchpaper for a media backlash.

After a riotous tour of Holland, the band were released from their contract by EMI, and bassist Glen Matlock left the band, going on to form Rich Kids with Midge Ure. Matlock was replaced by the man who invented pogo dancing: John Simon Ritchie, known to the world as Sid Vicious.

In March 1977, the Pistols signed to A&M Records and, in a cunningly conceived PR stunt, the signing “ceremony” took place outside Buckingham Palace. Since their new single was to be ‘God Save The Queen’, it was a move calculated to whip up yet more headlines. However, within weeks, and despite tens of thousands of copies of the record already being pressed, A&M also dropped the group, after a fracas at their offices.

A week or so later, Vicious made his live debut with the Pistols; two months on, they signed their third contract, this time with Virgin Records. The former home of progressive rock, now becoming a champion of the new wave, released ‘God Save The Queen’ and saw it make No.2 on the UK charts.

Both ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and ‘God Save The Queen’, along with ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Holidays In The Sun’, which were also single hits, appeared on the band’s debut album, the subtly titled Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, which was released on 28 October 1977. But before Virgin could release Never Mind The Bollocks, company boss Richard Branson discovered that there were two other Sex Pistols albums in the works. A bootleg named Spunk, featuring demos and recording sessions, and a version by the French record company Barclay, who had added an extra track to the record and were due to have their version on the shelves a week earlier.

Virgin rushed their release forward, and in all the panic of pressing, 10,000 copies of the original Virgin pressings only list 11 tracks on the sleeve, even though 12 were contained on the actual record. But nothing could stand in the way of Mind The Bollocks success, and on 12 November, the album went straight in at No.1 on the UK album charts, with advance orders of 125,000.

In a delicious manifestation of the changing of the guard, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols replaced Cliff Richard And The Shadows’ 40 Golden Greats, but was then itself succeeded at the top by US soft-pop band Bread’s The Sound Of Bread compilation. Nothing in the history of the UK album charts illustrates quite so wonderfully the vagaries of the record buying public, perfectly encapsulating the phrase “pop music”.

1977: The Bollocks Diaries As Told By The Sex Pistols is published by Cassell Illustrated (£25, www.octopusbooks.co.uk), and Sex Pistols’ incendiary debut album, Never Mind The Bollocks… Here’s The Sex Pistols will be given a 40th-anniversary 3CD+DVD deluxe reissue on 1 December.

uDiscover Music is selling an exclusive Never Mind The Bollocks… LP bundle with 1977: The Bollocks Diaries. Order the 3CD+DVD box set and the vinyl bundle here.

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