(Reunions: 1996, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008)
|Labels||EMI, A&M, Virgin, Warner Bros.|
|Associated acts||Public Image Ltd|
Vicious White Kids
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Flowers of Romance
The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Although their initial career lasted just two-and-a-half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history ofpopular music.
The Sex Pistols originally comprised vocalist Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock. Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious in early 1977. Under the management of impresario Malcolm McLaren, the band provoked controversies that captivated Britain. Their concerts repeatedly faced difficulties with organizers and authorities, and public appearances often ended in mayhem. Their 1977 single "God Save the Queen", attacking Britons' social conformity and deference to the Crown, precipitated the "last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral pandemonium".
In January 1978, at the end of a turbulent tour of the United States, Rotten left the band and announced its break-up. Over the next several months, the three other band members recorded songs for McLaren's film version of the Sex Pistols' story, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. Vicious died of a heroin overdose in February 1979. In 1996, Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock reunited for the Filthy Lucre Tour; since 2002, they have staged further reunion shows and tours. On 24 February 2006, the Sex Pistols—the four original members plus Vicious—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum "a piss stain".
The Sex Pistols evolved from The Strand, a London band formed in 1972 with working-class teenagers Steve Jones on vocals, Paul Cook on drums, and Wally Nightingale on guitar. According to a later account by Jones, both he and Cook played on instruments they had stolen. Early line-ups of The Strand—sometimes known as The Swankers—also included Jim Mackin on organ and Stephen Hayes (and later, briefly, Del Noones) on bass. The band members hung out regularly at two clothing shops on Kings Road, in London's Chelsea neighbourhood: John Krivine and Steph Raynor'sAcme Attractions (where Don Letts worked as manager) and Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die. The McLaren–Westwood store had opened in 1971 as Let It Rock, with a 1950s revival Teddy Boy theme. It had been renamed in 1972 to focus on another revival trend, the rocker look associated with Marlon Brando. As John Lydon later observed, "Malcolm and Vivienne were really a pair of shysters: they would sell anything to any trend that they could grab onto." The shop was to become a focal point of the punk rock scene, bringing together participants such as the future Sid Vicious, Marco Pirroni, Gene October, and Mark Stewart, among many others. Jordan, the wildly styled shop assistant, is credited with "pretty well single-handedly paving the punk look".
In early 1974, Jones convinced McLaren to help out The Strand. Effectively becoming the group's manager, McLaren paid for their first formal rehearsal space. Glen Matlock, an art student who occasionally worked at Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, was recruited as the band's regular bassist. In November, McLaren temporarily relocated to New York City. Before his departure, McLaren and Westwood had conceived of a new identity for their store: renamed Sex, it changed its focus from retro couture to S&M-inspired "anti-fashion", with a billing as "Specialists in rubberwear, glamourwear & stagewear". After informally managing and promoting the New York Dolls for a few months, McLaren returned to London in May 1975. Inspired by the punk scene that was beginning to emerge in Lower Manhattan—in particular by the radical visual style and attitude of Richard Hell, then with Television—McLaren began taking greater interest in The Strand.
The group had been rehearsing regularly, overseen by McLaren's friend Bernard Rhodes, and had performed publicly for the first time. Soon after McLaren's return, Nightingale was kicked out of the band and Jones, uncomfortable as frontman, took over guitar duties. According to journalist and former McLaren employee Phil Strongman, around this time the band adopted the name QT Jones and the Sex Pistols (or QT Jones & His Sex Pistols, as one Rhodes-designed T-shirt put it). McLaren had been talking with the New York Dolls' Sylvain Sylvain about coming over to England to front the group. When those plans fell through, McLaren, Rhodes and the band began looking locally for a new member to assume the lead vocal duties. As described by Matlock, "Everyone had long hair then, even the milkman, so what we used to do was if someone had short hair we would stop them in the street and ask them if they fancied themselves as a singer." Among those they approached was Midge Ure, who was involved with his own band, Slik. Kevin Rowland—who would cofound Dexys Midnight Runners three years later—auditioned, but except for Matlock, no one was impressed. With the search going nowhere, McLaren made several calls to Richard Hell, who turned down the invitation.