It's been 35 years since The Sex Pistols released their debut album.
The culmination of more than 12 months of chaos, headlines, public uproar and searing, life changing life shows 'Never Mind The Bollocks... Here's The Sex Pistols' was a daring, provocative line in the sand. Altering guitar music forever, it split listeners into two camps: those who got it and those who didn't.
Three decades on, the debate is still raging. 'Never Mind The Bollocks...' gets a deluxe re-issue this week, with countless unheard recordings helping to flesh out the album's story. To celebrate, Clash asked Blood Red Shoes drummer Steven Ansell to pen a few words about how the album has impacted on his life and why it remains the best punk album of all time.
But we don't want to present the album as some sacred text, never to be outdone. To compliment the piece, we tracked down drummer Lee Vincent from Pulled Apart By Horses who opened up about the influence of Bad Brains.
Blood Red Shoes drummer Steven Ansell...
You could spend a decade debating what the first or best punk record is (Pistols? Ramones? Stooges? Wire?), but if you're going on the most influential then surely it has to be The Sex Pistols' one and only album, Never Mind The Bollocks. It was, and still is, a powerful, concentrated dose of the punk rock spirit which not only inspired a whole pop-cultural shift in the UK in the late 1970s, but has a continuing influence now on generations of music fans across the globe. I can say that, because I'm one of them. The Sex Pistols were the first band I truly fell in love with, the first band that I wanted to look like, sound like and play like...and that was 20 years after the event. There's something potent and magical in that record, its sound, its attitude and delivery, in the images and interviews you can see and read surrounding the band at the time – something hard to define but which is, in the truest sense, inspirational. And it's something which was truly captured in a record for once, you didn't “have to be there” to understand it, you can still feel the raw power, you can feel their anger, their confusion, their youthfulness, their bratty, rebellious, almost neanderthal desire just to piss everyone off, and you can hear some great fucking rock and roll riffs – it's all in there if you just listen to the record.
And I think the reason why this album, over so many other incredible punk rock records, has been so influential and inspirational from the day it came out right up until this very second, is that they managed to capture a perfect combination of the writing and delivery. The style and the substance. If you strip away the lyrics, the look, and the snarling delivery, you're still left with an incredible rock and roll album, and that's something which is very overlooked when talking about the Pistols - they're actually really fucking good songs. It was most probably Glen Matlock who gave the Pistols just enough of a songwriting sensibility to find their feet, but when it comes to the record (on which he didn't play), it's Steve Jones' and Paul Cook's wall of rock power which really hammers you into submission (pun intended). Even considered outside of the context of a punk movement, it's exciting and visceral enough to have inspired people to take up instruments and start bands. But add to those riffs the semi-tuneless, i-dont-give-a-fuck-about-singing-properly, confrontational, controversial style of Johnny Rotten and you've got something so striking, so unique, so intense that it's bound to have a lasting influence.
Never Mind The Bollocks: you can intellectualize it, you can try to explain it, you can analyse the hell out of every lyric, every riff....but ultimately the reason this record works so well is that it's basic. It's fundamental. It's not clever. It taps into primal, unthinking, simplistic feelings that everyone has. It's the thundering, sexual thrill of rock n roll combined with that most universal sentiment that sits at the core of the punk rock spirit, the will just to say “fuck you”.
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Pulled Apart By Horses drummer Lee Vincent...
When I was in school, due to my very limited frame of reference, I thought that 'Punk' was bands like Green Day and the Offspring. So I hated it. At that point I was up to my ears in a Nirvana obsession that was to last for years, and discovering the first metal albums that I could get in to, like Sepultura's Chaos AD. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that the music that was shaping and moulding my tastes was heavily influenced by actual Punk Rock. Bands like Black Flag, The Germs, Negative Approach, Minor Threat and, most importantly (to me), Bad Brains.
When I first heard Bad Brains self-titled debut I was absolutely blown away, and still am to this day. To me it is the epitome of Punk. Completely uncompromising, insanely raw and utterly vital. For a start, this was music pretty much always played by white male youths and Bad Brains were 4 black teenagers who basically blew the scene apart (watch the documentary 'American Hardcore' to get an insight on how highly Bad Brains were revered by Punk bands all across the US).
A generally universal idea of what 'Punk' is, is that it's an attitude rather than a strict genre of music. An attitude of independence and non-conformity (which is ironically lost in a lot of Punk bands). In this sense you cannot deny Bad Brains Punk credentials, they stood apart from the pack (yet were still an integral part of the punk community in America) and didn't give a fuck about writing a Punk rock album. They mixed up some of the most ferocious hardcore songs, songs that sounded like they were trying to play as fast humanly possible without falling apart, with straight up Dub and Reggae songs.
Bad Brains are everything that's great about punk and their influence on modern day punk, rock and metal has been immense. Their debut is a badly produced fireball that is played with so much energy and honesty that it is completely infectious. Everything that Punk should be.
Shout out to: Zac Leeks @ Division
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The 35th Anniversary edition of Sex Pistols classic album ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols’ is released this week through Universal Music UK.