The Sex Pistols

How they defined Punk Rock and my teenage years 

I believe that every teenager has those defining moments that shape them, from influential parenting to coercive friends. I had two such influences – one unfortunately is Sunderland AFC, who I follow through thick but mostly thin. The other, and amidst the chaos of those teenage years, is the Sex Pistols. For a band who really only released one album and four singles, they spawned a whole music genre. Not bad for a band that supposedly couldn't play.

The Pistols originally began in 1972 when school-friends Steve Jones and Paul Cook decided to form a band, Glen Matlock later joined in 1974. However, it wouldn't be until 1975 and the arrival of John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) that the band took on a whole new level.

Having made their live debut in November 1975, by early 1976 the band began playing live regularly. This was a time where your haircut and clothes could get you into serious trouble - with their unique look and sound, the Sex Pistols were such a bolt out of the blue that they would regularly have to fight their way to their van after having the plug pulled on them! Everywhere the Pistols would play, the majority of the audience just didn't 'get it’. They thought the band couldn’t play, John couldn’t sing, and they looked awful.

Yet it wasn't long before they came to the attention of record companies and EMI eventually won the war. A recent composition penned by Rotten was set to be their debut single. 'Anarchy in the UK‘ was eventually released November 26th, 1976, much to the bewilderment of the mainstream music press.

December 1st, 1976 changed the Pistols and the music scene forever. The Pistols were booked to appear on the Today TV show, hosted by Bill Grundy. A notorious drunk, Grundy had no time for these young upstarts and proceeded to goad them. Jones called Grundy's bluff and launched into a stream of F-words. Unbeknown to the band, the show was being broadcast live throughout London - not that it would have stopped them anyway! The following day the Pistols were headline news up and down the country and punk-rock had reached the masses.

Around this time, tensions between Matlock and Lydon came to boiling point and Matlock left to be replaced by Lydon's old friend John Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious. A further record company change ended with them signing to Richard Branson’s Virgin Records in May 1977 - just in time for the Queen’s 25th Silver Jubilee. The nation was gripped by Royal fever – so the release of 'God Save The Queen’ sent shockwaves up and down the country. The nation was up in arms – MP’s even called for the band to be hung at London’s Traitors’ Gate!

Undeterred, the Pistols went onto release hit singles 'Pretty Vacant‘ (July 2nd) and ‘Holidays in the Sun‘ (October 15th). October 28th 1977 saw the release of the Sex Pistols' one and only true album ‘Never Mind The Bollocks‘. Pre-release orders were so high it immediately charted at Number 1.

The band then went on a tour of the US, but being the Pistols, they decided not to play big American cities, instead opting to play a short series of dates in the deep south of the country. These shows were probably the straw that broke the camel's back. The pressures of touring, along with a mixture of in-fighting and Sid’s ever-increasing drug problem came to a head. The tensions between the band increased, with things finally spiralling out of control at their last gig at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco on January 14th, 1978. Lydon eventually walked out on the others the following day. The Sex Pistols as we knew them were no more…

In summary, it would be very fair to say that the Pistols certainly changed the music scene and, whilst they were not the only music influence on a certain young Sunderland teenager from the 1970s, they certainly made an impression. Indeed, they became so accepted that they even featured in the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic games!