January 31st 2016 marks the 60th birthday of John Lydon better known as Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten. As this week begins with a punk icons birthday and on Friday I’m off to see Stoke punk legends Discharge, I think the blog this week will be punk heavy!
The history of punk and what constitutes as punk is such a convoluted and baffling question. Ask 50 punks of varying ages in differing locations and I guarantee you will get a multitude of different answers.
The New York City club CBGB’s was influential and was hosting the likes of Ramones a few years before the Sex Pistols were formed, but the Pistols had the look and attitude that would later become synonymous with the punk genre. Over in the States Detroit’s MC5 released an album nearly a decade earlier than both bands that could be considered punk.
Moving on into the 80’s, 90’s and beyond there are bands now lumped into their separate scenes like hardcore, pop punk, street punk and Oi! that some will consider as punk and others will not. They all have roots in the ideology of the punk lifestyle but they all have a different take on the sound. Punk has always been considered an attitude rather than a sound.
The Sex Pistols are one of the most influential punk bands ever, but only released one studio album (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols) in their two and a half year career. The “look” of the band can be credited to their manager Malcolm McLaren, who’d been inspired from briefly managing the New York Dolls in the States, and his designer girlfriend at the time Vivienne Westwood. Steve Jones – then on vocals – and drummer Paul Cook were in a band called Strand. Bass player Glen Matlock was in for a while but quit or fired (depends who you ask) before the album was released, even though he’d been involved in writing most of the albums tracks. In the summer of 1975 Lydon was pretty much dragged off the Kings Road to front the band. In 1977 Sid Vicious, the “creator” of the pogo dance joined the band on bass, but Steve Jones had already recorded most of the bass for the album.
The bands United States tour in early 1978 was fraught with disaster and controversy, with the majority of it revolving around Sid Vicious, that lead to the band pretty much splitting by the end when Lydon left. They carried on for a while with Vicious on vocals, but it all ended later that year.
Released during the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, God Save the Queen reached the heady heights of number two in the UK charts, kept off the top by Rod Stewart’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It. It has been claimed that the Pistols not reaching the top spot was a fix to save embarrassment and from causing offence.