uReview: Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols

Nevermind The Bollocks

We’ve been on about some great albums from 1977 and I wanted to hear your thoughts on this big fella. Are Never Mind The Bollocks and the Sex Pistols really worthy of their reputation?

12345678910 (94 votes, average: 7.62 out of 10)
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“Pretty Vacant”

:) Vinyl | 1977 | Virgin | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download at amzn ]


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27 Comments.

  • This is one of those records I’ve always found more “important” than enjoyable. Despite always being in “Best Of All Time” lists, the strength of the LP to me are really the singles (which are really good). More than a great album it is a cultural milestone for what it represented and what it spawned. I presonally find more rewarding and interesting the american brand of punk (if you can call it that way) from Black Flag to Ramones.

  • Kim

    Oh, I definitely loved this album… when I was 15. I listened the fur right off this album back then. But honestly, while it holds up as listenable, I’m just not angry enough to like it any more – or if I’m that angry, I have metal to listen to.

  • Len Liechti

    Hey, I was just this week thinking of reviewing this puppy myself, having lately rediscovered 1977, so to speak. Are you a mindreader, Brendan? It has to be pointed out that the album, whilst certainly a punk artefact, is hardly definitively so. The “offensive” title is not as obstreperous as you might think: “bollocks” is indeed a slang term for testicles in Britain, but is also widely and fairly inoffensively used to mean “nonsense”, as in “don’t talk bollocks, mate”. For all John Lydon’s posturing, tuneless nasal invective, there are also musicians at work here; bassist Glen Matlock has proper chops (check out his work on the following year’s Rich Kids debut) and is popularly alleged to have been fired by Rotten for liking the Beatles, whilst Steve Jones has all the Keef licks down pat and gets a real Marshall stack sound from the bridge pickup on his Les Paul throughout. Producer Chris Thomas had cut his teeth on the Beatles’ White Album and subsequently worked with, inter alia, Pink Floyd (mixing Dark Side Of The Moon, no less), Roxy Music, Elton John and INXS – not exactly a raw talent, then. In fact the production on Bollocks is comparable to anything Led Zep produced – play loud and really listen to the bass and drums and that Gibson howl. These are no three-chord wonders cranking it out on Woolworth’s guitars through tinny little amps in burned-out basements. If the Pistols had been fronted by, say, Joe Strummer, Paul Weller or Andy Partridge, they could have turned out as influential and longlasting as the Clash, the Jam or XTC. Instead, what you got was a brief explosion of power pop with a huge debt to the Stooges, and a grossly media-magnified snotty attitude which finally did for the outfit altogether. If you really want the rough, authentic, anthemic, bare-bones sound of British punk, go for Sham 69. You probably won’t like it, though.

  • Kurt

    This album is the perfect execution of a clear musical vision. I remember hearing about this album a whole lot as a teenager before actually ever hearing the album. It sounded exactly like I thought it would except for one fact. Despite the “three chords and an attitude” reputation of the album, it turns out these guys had chops. Steve Jones is an awesome guitar player. Those opening marching sounds, then the bass drum, then those first bombastic guitar chords…shit never gets old. Its hard to imagine a musical world with this album not in it.

  • Len Liechti

    Oh, and John Lydon’s punk authenticity can be measured retrospectively by the fact that he now advertises butter on British TV whilst dressed as a country squire. Was the bugger clearly taking the piss out of us all the time, or was he not?

  • Len Liechti

    FInally, on a memorable day in 1978 I walked into Virgin Records in Bristol and asked for two albums: Never Mind The Bollocks and Cliff Richards’ 40 Golden Greats. No word of a lie! The assistant remarked quizzically that they didn’t get many requests for those two albums together. Can anybody beat that for an unexpected pairing?

  • Ryan

    eh, “pretty vacant” sums up this album pretty well if you were to ask me. appreciate the importance of it insofar as helping to break 70’s punk into the social consciousness, but there’s been much better, much more radical, and more much memorable…

  • I’m not sure how anybody can deny Johnny Rotten’s incredible vocal performance. He’s like freaking Otis Redding on this thing. The first time it sounds like unbridled, unhinged, unplanned passion; by the fifth listen you realize he’s thought hard about these performances; by the tenth listen you’ve memorized his phrasing. And the guitar tone, as mentioned above, absolutely kills. “Holidays in the Sun” and “Bodies” alone make it an essential listen.

    That said, I usually only listen to those two songs.

  • I agree with Glenn. Vocal tour de force.

  • Chris

    While I acknowledge the importance of this album, I’ve never been a big Pistols fan. Sid couldn’t play bass worth a damn, and was a hindrance to the band. If you want a better record of what the Pistols should have been, look for their demo LP called ‘Spunk’.

  • Like someone here already said, this record sounded exactly like I thought it would – which means something lived up to my expectations for a change. The myth of the Pistols ripping everyone off ‘cos they couldn’t play is a mystery that remains part of the larger ripples of bullshit surrounding the group (whether they started the rumour or not). On “Bollocks”, the polish merges with the feedback like a well-rehearsed riot, and no way can it be said that this is a rip-off.
    Lydon can advertise pile cream, or metrosexual wrinkle cream for all I care; he’s proved himself on every song here, more than a lot of so-called credible rockers have done in a lifetime of trying. I still listen to this album, and virtually every song still captures my passion. I think people forget what the Pistols did, how they smashed down the censors and (gasp!) bullshitted their way into the media. The bullshit was the key to the door though; they knew the music was too good to be a gimmick so they spat and swore and drank and the rest of it. Fact is, it’s a brilliant piece of music as well as an “important” milestone in music.

  • EH

    I remember hearing this when I was like 14 and thinking it sounded like a buzzsaw, but I eventually loved it as a lifestyle identity album.

    Cliff Richard and Sex Pistols is pretty good! I once bought (around the time above) Slayer and Run DMC’s first albums together.

  • I first heard this album 10 years after it had been released and, while I enjoyed it, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

    When I started thinking about the state of popular music in 1977 and remembered how dismal much of it was–for me, anyway–Never Mind the Bollocks’ significance immediately became clear to me. Which is why some may find it more important than enjoyable, and rightfully so. But it’s still a great hard rock record–nothing remotely “punk” about it–and one of the great debuts of all time.

  • Tandard Teve

    Not that great….

  • hingehead

    Just to go one better than Len’s ‘I bought Bollocks and Cliff’s greatest hits at the same time’ story … I bought Bollocks and Gregorianische gesange ( a German recording of Gregorian chants) at the same time.

  • Phil

    To some extent, I think “Bollocks” is a case of “I guess you had to be there.” But if you WERE there, meaning England in ’76 and ’77, Johnny Rotten really WAS a boogie-man. Think about it for a moment: if in the mid-late ’60s, Mick Jagger’s androgynous sexuality made the older generation of Brits uncomfortable, how do you think people in the U.K. reacted to Rotten’s disgusted vehemence? His ranting with all those rolled “r’s” about how down-the-tubes and complacent English society had become? When you compare them to the inoffensive pop/rock on the British charts at the time, Rotten and the Pistols seem that much more incredible. Sure, they were also an essential part of Malcolm McLaren’s Situationist strategy for throwing a monkey wrench into the works of English life and its celebration of the Jubilee. But when has a rock ‘n’ roll group upset people THAT much lately? Or in the last thirty odd years? For that alone, I applaud the Pistols, their singles, and, in general, the tracks on “Bollocks.”

    Now, all that being said, once out of its cultural context, while “Bollocks” is a solid album, I get more kicks out of The Clash’s debut, The Saints’ first two LPs, The Ramones’ “Rocket to Russia”, The Undertones’ first album, and, for that matter, certain tunes off Generation X’s debut! The New York Dolls’ two albums have also given me more consistent pleasure than “Never Mind The Bollocks” ever has. And, when you get right down to it, as much as I love mid-late ’70s punk rock, during this soon-to-be done-with decayde, I’ve been getting a much bigger buzz from The Turtles’ “Turtle Soup”, Every Mother’s Son, Kippington Lodge, The Tages, The Association, Lee Hazlewood, Boyce and Hart, and many other purveyors of pop-psych and sunshine pop-rock. Call me a wimp, if you will, or better yet, a pimp, the “p” standing for “pop.” :)

  • Nevermind the Bollocks is still the best rock ‘n’ roll record ever made. As someone once said to me after they heard “God Save the Queen” for the first time, “Aren’t fucking about, are they?” Off the top of my head I can only think of a few records that even come close, most recently Motorhead’s “Motorizer.”

  • “Bollocks” isn’t the greatest punk record ever made, but it’s defenitely the most important. No band has probably ever reached the influence the Pistols had on the music of the time, I’d say rivaling the Velvet Underground. That story about everyone who say the Velvet Underground starting a band is probably a lot more true for the Pistols. They literally started punk in Britain, and it’s just unfortunate that the production on this album wasn’t great, and that, in my opinion, many of those who they influenced topped them in terms of the actual songs. 10 for influence, but maybe a 7 or 8 for the actual album.

  • keith

    one of the best all time rock and roll albums

  • Bob

    If it had only contained the holy triumverate of Anarchy, God Save The Queen and Pretty Vacant – three of the most viscerally thrilling singles of all time and certainly the greatest opening play by any band, then this would qualify as one of the finest albums of all time. Add to this ‘Bodies’, which has a venomous attack only equalled by the likes of the Stooges and the MC5 at their peak, ‘Submission’, ‘EMI’ and the rest and it’s place in the pantheon is assured. Worthy of their reputation? Much more than that I would say. Great production, astonishing, prescient lyricism by Lydon (“your future dream is a shopping scheme”), the raw intensity of the vocal coupled to one of the most astonishing powerhouse rhythmn sections (including Steve Jones brilliantly accurate rhythm guitar) before or since… words have just about failed me now. Do I play it much now? No – but then I rarely play any albums end to end now. But even thirty years on, when ‘God Save The Queen’ or any of the other aforementioned comes roaring out of the speakers, I find myself rearing out of my seat and reaching again for that trusty air guitar. The greatest punk album? It’s *way* better than that…

    Fantastic site, by the way…

  • John

    For years, my reaction to anyone who claimed this was their favorite punk album was to assume they’d never heard it. Maybe they had a Sid Vicious t-shirt and a Green Day CD. Why? I was 14 when I first heard Anarchy – Radio Lumxembourg had an interview with the band right after the Bill Grudy TV show. They played Anarchy three or four times and I Wanna Be Me twice. Visceral, blistering and exciting. I wanted to tell everyone I knew about this band, these songs. When God Save The Queen was released, the local record store had one copy and I stood there for hours hoping they’d play it a second time. Oh, and that b-side! No Fun….Pretty Vacant made Top of the Pops, but the initial thrill was gone.

    Then Bollocks came out. Cajoled a tape from a friend’s older brother. Rush home. Oh Dear. Far and away the best moments were the singles I’d already heard. Apart from Submission, nothing else was as good as No Fun or I Wanna Be Me. Much, much worse. Dull. Being 15, I loved Bodies. He was angry! He was cussing! He was venomous. Apart from that, I was deeply disappointed. Stomach ache disappointed. Listen-to-it-again-hoping-it’s-better disappointing. And that was that. Until I was 17 and outgrew the shock value of Bodies. Poor Johnny Rotten wasn’t yet ready to deal with the personal. Oh, and around this time they sang a song called “Belsen Was a Gas”. Yeah, without Glen Matlock they were shit. Complete and utter shit. Irrelevant.

    25 years go by and I listened to Bollocks again. Blown Away by the singles, Submission now my favorite, Seventeen moving up the list. Even Holidays sounds better. Steve Jones impresses throughout; Lydon’s petulant, angry, paranoid squaling raises the hair on my neck (oh, how I wish Bodies was about something…would be nice not to have conservative republicans quote it as “their song”…); the drummer appears competent. It’s best thought of as a Greatest Hits package. The short, sharp, shock of the first three singles no longer overwhelms the album. Worth buying, worth listening to. If you missed the singles as they came out, and this was the first time you heard them, it’s a terriffic album, despite some clunkers like EMI and New York.

    Oh, and revolution aside. It’s now available from Walmart…Yes, Walmart – “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols (Wal-Mart Exclusive) (Eco-Friendly Package)”

    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10098577&sourceid=1500000000000003260400&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=10098577

    John Lydon would move on to create one of the best albums ever with PIL Metal Box/Second Edition. Finally he got the personal and the political right. Perfectly right. Tragically, he was killed in a car crash the following year and his less intelligent twin assumed his identity.

  • Darren

    its ironic ‘glenn matlock was the main writer of all their songs and the only member who was skilled musician , yet they (rotten&mcClaren ) kicked him out……sid was just a wanna be ”’
    i reget the day they made him ‘matlocks replacement . what a f**kn joke ..

  • Darren

    saw the original group , in 2004 , they where f**kn great,

  • jim

    wonder if they would have loved or hated this Japanese version of God save the queen from Puncolle Punk
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/puncolle-is-punk-moe-at-its-best/

  • Brendon

    I brought the LP in 1987 (aged 13), skipping school to do it. It had such a reputation in my mind that, when I put it on the turntable I half expected satan himself to leap out of the speakers… the boots marching increased the tension… and then… it was just r’n’r, raw (so I thought, now it sounds so pristine) and powerful and great, but not the pure evil “end of western civilisation” I’d expected.

  • cheese borger

    without a doubt one of the greatest records ever made. I remember being 17 in 77 and holding that record in my hands felt like holding a lightning bolt.

  • Drew F

    revolution / rebellious / insubordinate

    They were the chosen ones

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