Sex Pistols -Never Mind The Bollocks (Virgin, 1977)
It’s funny, but I think I fell in love with the idea of the Sex Pistols, even before I knowingly heard a note of their music. As a twelve year old, I had a folder splattered with band names with the Psitols writ large. There were the names -Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. To a nice middle-class kid from a nice home, it offered something other.
So I asked for -and got – the album for my fourteenth birthday. My long-suffering Mum bought it for me, along with Cut The Crap by The Clash (again, a band I loved the idea of and hadn’t heard a note of their music, hence why I started with that album!) Poor Mum. Like a lot of things she probably thought it was a phase I’d grow out of (see also: vegetarianism, socialism, wearing black, listening to The Cure etc..)
And it proved the soundtrack to my surviving one miserable year at a boaring school in the Midlands that shall remain nameless. It was hell. In Decline and Fall Evelyn Waugh wrote: “Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison”. I haven’t ended up in prison -yet – although being couped up with a load of materialist, racist, Tory voting bigots, many of whom supported hunting, had snide views of people who went to state schools…you get the picture.
This wasn’t the soundtrack to my misery per se (though I also discovered The Cure, Nick Cave and The Smiths around this time), but when really upset I would listen to ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and it would calm me down. And there was always the comfort from the fact that some people found the lyrics to ‘God save the Queen’ a bit shocking, a mere…ooh, fourteen years after it came out. It was a loud, angry album, nihilistic and full of (cartoon, in retrospect) anti-establishment themes.
I had a poster on the wall that bore the legendary Sid Vicious and featured the immortal:“Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you ALIVE” quote. I remember one teacher looking at it in horror and saying “I’m surprised at you.” I was in the school choir, after all. She would probably have been even more amazed to note that I was with my dad when I bought it.
So did the Sex Pistols soundtrack my youthful rebellion? Did they hell. They soundtracked my survival, and the slowly realisation that rebellion wasn’t necessarily just against authority but against your peers. As the years have gone by, I’ve come to the realisation that punk was perhaps more important as a catalyst for what happened afterwards, that Johnny Rotten’s defining statement is Metal Box, and that Sid Vicious might have been a hero briefly, but Robert Smith and George Orwell would make a far longer, lasting impact on me. But they helped me through.
Oh, and if the Labour Party would like to do away with private schools*, I might even consider voting for them again.
* See the Labour Party’s 1983 manifesto. Often dubbed the longest suicide note in history, and the one with the best ideas in it. Then again, when the opposition have engineered a war to gain support, it does get rather difficult…