Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Review #57: Sex Pistols - Nevermind the Bollocks (1977)


Year: 1977
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: EMI Records
38 Minutes (Long)
My Rating:

In the beginning, punk rock was being born in two different places: New York (U.S.A.) and London (England). While the Ramones headed the United States half of punk, England's punks were led by the Sex Pistols. While the Ramones sang simpler, sillier poppy songs, the Sex Pistols sang crude, rude indictments against the British Government. The group only lasted for two and a half years, but had a huge impact on punk-rock for the rest of its history. They were arguably the first punk group to celebrate anarchy, as can be credited to their song "Anarchy in the U.K.".

In the early 1970s, England was in real band shape. Most people were unemployed, and there seemed to be absolutely no hope for the working class. Some people decided to release their anger through music. The band came out of an older rock band called "The Strand", which consisted of Steve Jones, Paul Cook, and Wally Nightingale. The band hung around a rock & roll-oriented clothing store owned by Malcom McLaren called "Sex". Well, a friend of McLaren's had been listening to the Strand rehearsing, and told Malcom McLaren about it. He liked it as well. He wanted to be the band's manager. The band agreed, but they were looking for a new frontman... one with short hair (everyone supposedly had long hair at the time). One day in a pub, there was a green-haired man wearing a ratty shirt held together with safety pins that said "I Hate Pink Floyd" on it. This was the guy they were looking for. He was John Lydon. Well, the band eventually got their act together and in summer of 1975, they played their first show as the Sex Pistols, and played mostly cover songs. However, they soon began playing their own songs, and started building a following up around pubs and colleges. Many of their original followers would eventually get fame in their own right. One of 'em was Sid Vicious, a former member of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Flowers of Romance. Sid's introduction to the band solidified their lineup as what most people would remember the Sex Pistols for in the end, but it didn't last much longer from then. Sid's addiction to heroin and his relationship with Nancy Spungen resulted in various suicide attempts, as well as inner tensions between the band members which eventually led to the breakup of the band itself in 1978.

"Nevermind the Bollocks" was their only studio LP. The album stirred up a lot of controversy amongst the conservative government at the time, for saying the word "fuck", totally telling the Queen off in one song, encouraging a working-class revolution, and a song about anarchy... people back then were pretty damn stuffy about stuff like that. But still, it definitely earned notoriety, and of course, punks in England and America both loved it. So, with all that said, this is the main document of the Sex Pistols' career (though there are some Sex Pistols songs that existed that weren't on this album). Enjoy.

1. Holidays in the Sun
Begins with the sound of the group clapping, the rhythm of which is led on by thumping bass drums. Then, the first verse begins. Really cool riff. Slightly relaxed tempo, but certainly not slow. The song is about the social situation among England during the 1970s from an insider's perspective.

2. Bodies
Starts with a really cool intro. The main part of the song starts. It's high energy, speedy, and packed with fucking attitude. My favorite song on the record. It's about a girl who gets a secret bloody abortion inside a factory (abortion was illegal in England during that time). I love the part where Johnny Rotten (Lydon) goes "Fuck this, and fuck that..."

3. No Feelings A song about a narcissistic person who's being pursued by a lover which he has no interest in because "he's in love with himself". Same tempo as the previous song, but a lot happier-sounding.

4. Liar
Pretty much a song about a liar. More medium-tempo. They say the words "lie" and "liar" a lot in this one.

5. Problems
This one seems to be a taunt towards British society, as Johnny views them as slaves to the machine "living for the screen", as he lives life for what he wants to do with it and not to serve the government. At the end, he keeps repeating "problem" even after the song ends, which I thought was a nice touch.

6. God Save the Queen
Despite what the title seems to imply, this song is an attack on the Queen of England. It was one of the most controversial songs of its time, getting the album banned in several big-name English record shops of the time. The song's lyrics suggest that with the way the Queen was handling its citizens, especially the working-class, there was "no future" for the English people, and that the Queen "is not what she seems". One of the most popular Sex Pistols songs. End of Side 1.

7. Seventeen
A song about the sentiments shared by English youths in the 1970s. The chorus goes "I'm a lazy sod!". Shortest song on the album.

8. Anarchy in the U.K.
Ya saw this one coming. This is the group's most famous song that most people think of when they think of the Sex Pistols. The first verse opens with the lines, "I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist!" However, unlike the more 'peaceful' form of anarchy that many punks embrace today, this song describes anarchy as being a way to get what you want when you want and using whatever you want -- basically chaos. The immortal chant of "I WANNA BE ANARCHY" in the chorus line is remembered by all. I first heard this song somewhere long ago before I knew who the Sex Pistols were. But I liked it.

9. Submission This one's a little slower, but it iz good. I love the riff. It's a more fantasy-oriented song about a man going on a submarine mission to find some special things under the ocean for his lover. A funny little "solo" made up of weird squeaking noizes. This song wasn't on every edition of the album -- it was included as a 7" single with the eleven-track version of the record (not sure why they even bothered with that, though).

10. Pretty Vacant
Another famous one. I love the drum-intro in the beginning. Even though it's just the basic beat accompanied by nothing else, it just sounds great that way. Not sure what this one is about, to be honest. Hell, all of lyrical interpretations are just guesses.

11. New York Pretty legit intro. A song about a drug-addicted gay kid from New York.

12. EMI
The last song. It's a song about their decision to leave A&M Records and sign to E.M.I. because they believed that no one owned the band. I could probably say more, but now I am tired for right now. I like how Johnny ends the song with "GOOOODBYE, A & M" in the raspiest, brattiest voice possible.

This album is now considered one of the greatest rock albums of all-time. But at the time of its release, it was hated by just as many people as the amount who loved it. While not the first British punk album (the first one was released by the Damned), it definitely marked the fact that punk rock was genre in its own right. The album is a bit more musical than the Ramones' debut, and the lyrics are a lot more complicated and artistic. After this record was released, the band went on a tour of the United States and then broke up. Johnny Rotten went on to form a post-punk group called "Public Image Ltd.", which enjoyed success to a lesser extent. Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose in 1979. The other members became session musicians (musicians who play with a band during recording sessions for a living). I give this album a 7/8. Not because I hate it or because there's anything that really sucks about it, but because it's just not an album a listen to all of the time like some other ones. But it certainly does deserve respect for what it did for punk rock, especially hardcore. That's all I have to say for now.


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