Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks - Super Deluxe
Let’s get the business stuff out of the way: for just shy of £100 you get 3 CDs, a DVD, a 100 page book, a 7” single and a few other bits of paraphernalia. It’s a lot of money, even in the increasingly rarified deluxe edition market. That the Sex Pistols are now part of such a circus is less of a surprise given their continued collectibility and regular inclusion in the memorabilia auctions alongside The Beatles, Elvis and Rolling Stones. Cash from chaos and all that.
For such a set to appear now, on Never Mind The Bollocks’ 35th anniversary (a birthday so banal it can only have been dreamt up around a bored-room table) is also to be expected: their back catalogue has a new home at Universal and the Pistols’ new bedfellows are obviously keen to keep flogging this particular dead horse. Aesthetically, and content-wise, the label have done a solid job, finally unearthing the album’s original mastertapes (marking their first appearance on CD) alongside a decent selection of rarities and live tracks, including a previously unheard - albeit rough - studio version of Sid Vicious’ grim one-note pun, ‘Belsen Was A Gas’, one of only three songs the band managed to write during his tenure. Nothing here particularly diminishes Bollocks' status as a stone cold classic hard rock album - and one of the definitive populist statements of 20th century Britain.
I have the 30th anniversary edition of Bollocks, unopened, still in the cellophane. That punk became a commodity is no revelation. This new edition and its cheaper variations - “An unlimited amount!” - sit happily beside this year’s Olympic mascots and Jubilee memorabilia (“Tourists are money”!), proof enough that any sense of outrage the album caused has long since dissipated. Whatever irony there might once have been about such juxtapositions seems strangely redundant. We’ve come full circle - and not necessarily in a bad way. Where once artist and Pistols collaborator Jamie Reid tore up the Union Flag, his spiritual heir Damian Hurst is now commissioned to re-imagine it for the Olympics. Less a symbol of distant empire or tainted by grainy footage of 1970s National Front marches, now we well up at the sight of the flag wrapped round the shoulders of skinny Muslim immigrants and hard-working kids with broken bodies hauling themselves round a track with the sound of 80,000 voices ringing in their ears, while the Pistols play out on Danny Boyle's Olympic soundtrack. John Lydon, his London childhood spent bedridden with spinal meningitis, must surely dab an eye with a crusty old handkerchief.
This strange absorption into the national psyche seems at odds with perceptions of the Pistols’ cynicism, yet I listen to Bollocks not to recapture something from my past, but to jolt myself awake. It serves as a reminder of the life I should be living, my future, “your future.” Behind the awful misanthropy of ‘Bodies’ or the self-knowing ‘Seventeen’ (“I’m so lazy, I can’t even be bothered!”) lies a steely glare of optimism and a desire for something better. One line in ‘God Save The Queen’, “We're the flowers in the dustbin”, sums it up best - late 70s Britain, still governed by bespectacled men in shabby brown suits, fed with watery brown soup and with its inner cities still showing the pockmarks of visits from the Luftwaffe. The climactic refrain (“No future / For Me / No Future / For You”) is not nihilism, it’s a war cry; it’s the nasal, monotone bleating of a generation of teachers and careers officers who lacked the imagination to offer any kind of way out. Lydon and, to give him his dues, band manager Malcolm McLaren offered an alternative: anarchy, chaos, destruction - hope, fun and art - and a pocketful of filthy lucre along the way.
So the elevation to national treasure becomes less strange. Behind the bravado, the puke and the piss, the Pistols were - and remain - so wonderfully British, a two-fingered ‘up yours!’ that came straight from the school yard, factory floor and the music hall stage. Bollocks still says never doff your cap, or bow or curtsey. Make the bosses and the bullies wince, the "fucking rotters!" of Steve Jones infamy. Indeed, not only are we better than them, we're better than then, as Mo Farah and Ellie Simmonds and all the rest prove immeasurably. "See (their) pictures hanging on your waaaaalllll!" Ignore the bullshit. Be yourself. Be great.
Never. Mind. The Bollocks. The NHS should give a copy to your mum in the hospital. And you should get one on your first day at high school. And a fresh copy on your first proper day at work.
Never. Mind. The Bollocks. It is just about the only thing you ever need to know. And it's all there to see in day-glo yellow and pink. You can't - and shouldn't - miss it.
Last updated: 20/04/2018 11:13:55