Saturday, November 12, 1977

The Sex Pistols hit #1 in the U.K.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols

Released: October 28, 1977

Peak: 106 US, 12 UK, -- CN, 23 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 1.6 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: punk rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Holidays in the Sun (Cook/ Jones/ Rotten/ Vicious) [3:20] (10/14/77, 20 CL, 8 UK)
  2. Bodies (Cook/ Jones/ Rotten/ Vicious) [3:02]
  3. No Feelings [2:49]
  4. Liar [2:40]
  5. Problems [4:10]
  6. God Save the Queen [3:18] (5/27/77, 1 CL, 2 UK)
  7. Seventeen [2:02]
  8. Anarchy in the U.K. [3:31] (11/26/76, 1 CL, 33 UK, 92 AU)
  9. Submission [4:12] (35 CL)
  10. Pretty Vacant [3:16] (7/1/77, 5 CL, 6 UK)
  11. New York [3:05]
  12. E.M.I. [3:10]

All songs written by Cook/ Jones/ Matlock/ Rotten unless otherwise noted.

Total Running Time: 38:44

The Players:

  • Johnny Rotten (vocals)
  • Steve Jones (guitar, bass, backing vocals)
  • Paul Cook (drums)
  • Glen Matlock (bass on “Anarchy in the UK”)
  • Sid Vicious (bass on “Bodies”)


4.518 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)

Quotable: “Punk’s ground zero.” – Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“One album was all they made, and probably all anyone could stand.” TL “For better and worse, this thirty-nine-minute blast of loud and proud scruffiness has become punk’s ground zero” TM or “the Sermon on the Mount of English punk — and the echoes are everywhere.” RS “No other band managed such a colossal reputation on the basis of such a brief resume.” VH1

“That's not to say it’s the best punk record, or even necessarily the first. But it was the first one to tantalize, to terrorize, and eventually galvanize a large part of the rock-speaking world.” TM It was “a shot of strychnine for a tottering empire” VH1 and where “British rock rediscovered its energy.” TB

“At a time when lofty virtuosos like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Pink Floyd were filling the airwaves with all sorts of well-crafted pretention, the Pistols came blasting out with poorly played (and even more poorly sung) three-chord guitar assaults” PK which had a “garage rehearsal atmosphere.” PR “Singer Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Sid Vicious made old-fashioned rock bad boys such as The Rolling Stones and The Who look like wimps in comparison.” RV

“While mostly accurate, dismissing Never Mind the Bollocks as merely a series of loud, ragged mid-tempo rockers with a harsh, grating vocalist and not much melody would be a terrible error.” AMG “Underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment” AMG as it “picks the scabs from the seamier side of society.” PR The Pistols’ “loud, snotty and angry” approach created “an us-against-them ideology that disaffected kids everywhere understood immediately” TM and “a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms.” AMG

“Recognizing that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, manager-Svengali Malcolm McLaren” AZ “seized upon the notoriety, using television appearances and outrageous altercations with media to fan the flames” TM as he “molded the Pistols into the most confrontational, nihilistic band rock & roll had ever seen.” AZ “Who cares if they were as manufactured as the Monkees, derivative of the New York Dolls, and better at getting press coverage than coming up with new songs – everyone who heard them went out and started a punk band, and the music world’s been a better place as a result.” PK

“The Pistols’ early singles Anarchy in the U.K. and God Save the Queen defined the raging style of British punk.” AZ “The British government was so afraid of their rising popularity and ability to influence the masses, the pop charts printed a blank space” when “Anarchy” hit #1. RV The song “embodies everything revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll should be. Raunchy riffs and throbbing percussion underline Rotten’s declaration, ‘I am an antichrist / I am an anarchist.’” RV

The latter song was equally incendiary with “its snarled refrains and bellicose chants” TM daring to “voice the opinion that the monarch ‘ain’t no human bein.’” TL “The Pistols released the song in time for the Queen’s Jubilee in celebration of Queen Elizabeth as an indictment the country's inability to provide for the working class.” RV

Holidays in the Sun “equates Nazism with the leisure activities of the upper classes: ‘I don’t want a holiday in the sun / I wanna go to the new Belsen,’ a reference to the German concentration camp. The song shows the Pistols at their finest” RV – “something offensive to hear…and more offensive to ignore.” TL

“Inspired by a mental patient who corresponded with the Rotten, the singer boldly tackles the abortion controversy on Bodies. Abortion gets the proper nihilistic treatment, with the lyrics taking the point of view of the mother, the fetus and a judgmental on-looker. Considering the band's liberal views, ‘Bodies’ comes off as surprisingly pro-life, with Rotten crying, ‘Mummy, I’m not an animal’ and declaring abortion a ‘bloody fucking mess.’” RV

The Pistols also “perfected one of rock’s great subgenres: the anthem of sneering indolence. No Feelings, Liar, and Pretty Vacant all portrayed Britain’s youth as numbed and hollowed out by hypocrisy and lack of opportunity, offering nothing by way of consolation but a blast of guitar and a keening snarl.” VH1

Other cuts include “the sinister Submission…and the hilariously knuckle-headed Seventeen, with its refrain, “I’m a lazy sod.’” TB The group also burned bridges with a kiss-off to previous record company A&M and “an earlier bust-up with EMI” TB on the not-so-subtly-titled EMI closing track.

“Already anthemic songs are rendered positively transcendent by Johnny Rotten’s rabid, foaming delivery.” AMG “Rotten, who had never sung before, had a gift for malice that he turned on the complacent England of the 70s.” TL “His bitterly sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectation and the very foundations of British society were all carried out in the most confrontational, impolite manner possible.” AMG He was “self-consciously repugnant” VH1 and “deeply bright, funny and so disgusted with the world that he allowed no nonsense of any sort to taint the purity of his guerrilla operation.” VH1 His “lyrics – direct, blunt, biting – were like antisocial haikus” VH1 and his “off-key sneering” TB made for “one of the most recognizable [vocal styles] in history.” TB

Of course, there was also “Steve Jones’ buzz-saw guitar” AZ which made “the songs explosive and catchy” TL “and (most importantly) bass player Glen Matlock’s hook-filled compositional skills.” AZ However, “by the time they recorded their lone 1977 album, Matlock had been bounced, replaced by the image-correct but utterly untalented (and ultimately group-dooming) Sid Vicious,” AZ “a tragic sideshow.” TL

“The Pistols paved the way for countless other bands to make similarly rebellious statements, but arguably none were as daring or effective.” AMG They unleashed “an undeniable force, leading to explosions of awesome magnitude that proved key to the then-developing ethos of punk.” TMNever Mind the Bollocks is simply one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time.” AMG “No one inspired the revolution, chaos and hatred of the world like The Sex Pistols.” RV

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for The Sex Pistols
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Steve Huey
  • AZ review by Billy Altman
  • TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
  • PK Pop Kulcher 50 Greatest Rock & Roll Albums of All Time
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London.
  • RS Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA.
  • TL Time (11/13/060. “All-TIME 100 Albums” by Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light
  • VH1 VH1 (2003). 100 Greatest Albums. Edited by Jacob Hoye. Pocket Books: New York, NY.
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY.

First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 9/5/2021.

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