Retrospective Review: Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks



Never Mind The Bollocks is a provocative album title. Controversial at the time due to the presence of a word that is surely now Britain's favourite piece of profanity, it's also entirely wrong. The phrase "Never mind the bollocks" implies that the next 40 minutes will provide some sort of escapism from all the bollocks going on.


Far from it. Whether it's 'Holiday In The Sun', 'God Save the Queen', or 'Anarchy in the UK', without the "bollocks", the Sex Pistols would barely have existed. Though they can't really be defined as political commentary, the topics of their songs are firmly rooted in political bollocks, without which their impact would have been far smaller. Bottom line: the album title is a lie.


Ah well. It doesn't matter. Why should it, when the album itself is almost unbelievably good, to the point where Noel Gallagher, the man behind Oasis, doesn't think that anything he's ever done matches up to it. He's not really wrong either; albums like this are rare. Every song is a classic; in addition to the three aforementioned, you've got 'Submission', 'Pretty Vacant', 'EMI', the list goes on. To this day, it remains a special record, one that is utterly, utterly unique.


One reason it's unique is that it should suck. It should. John Lydon, or Johnny Rotten, doesn't really sing. He wails, sneers and half-talks in a style that has often been described as "anti-singing". It doesn't inspire confidence when it's written like that, yet listening to it is a different experience; the delivery is exceptional, those rolled "r" sounds are to Rotten what falsetto is to Matt Bellamy. His vocals are like no other, and that's probably for the best in all honesty.



And what of the production? It sounds amateurish, a College project by a student still learning the ropes. For all intents and purposes, it should be awful, and if you were to put this production on almost any other album, it would ruin it. But here, it is precisely that rawness of the sound, the purity of it, that makes it feel so alive. It wasn't recorded live, but it somehow feels like it was, and it's genuinely difficult to wrap your head around how they managed it. There are many records which sound technically superior, yet lack the energy that this one radiates. There are spades of energy and fire radiating off of this record; it's music in its purest form.


This isn't a perfect album, but in many ways it's the faults that make it human. Where other bands strive for technical perfection, Sex Pistols just went for it and used whatever came out. That's not to say they didn't care; Sid Vicious' bass-playing was considered so sub-par that he only played on one song, and even that was recorded over, with his take buried deep in the mix. There was some amount of quality control, then, but not an over-abundance of it. It still feels very natural, very first-take, whether that be the case or not.


And what it does do right, it does so right. The songs? Incredible. The performances? Amazing. If you're only going to release one record before burning out, you'd better make it a great one, and they more than did so here. In the space of four explosive years, the Pistols experienced triumph and tragedy, and this album was their crowning achievement. Bands of their ilk are rare; they came, rose tremendously quickly, made headlines for all the wrong reasons and released an album worthy of the Gods, before immediately imploding and leaving the music industry having left one Hell of a mark.


That mark made Noel Gallagher envious. That mark served as the inspiration for the title of Nirvana's Nevermind, and the music panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. That mark is a legacy which most bands can only dream of, a legacy bigger than most leave, even after a 20 year career. It takes something unique, something sensational to achieve that. Never Mind The Bollocks, for all its faults, or maybe even because of them, is exactly that: sensational.


10/10