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Alternative History

Could There Have Been Other Sex Pistols Albums After Never Mind the Bollocks?

sex pistols in 1977

The Sex Pistols are, famously, the greatest one-album wonder. For many, that one album, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”, defined the spirit of punk rock, or at least the shift toward a new era in music. Could there have been a follow-up?

They certainly tried. Contrary to popular belief, many of those closest to The Pistols did their best to ride the wave of popularity. Then, they rode the wave of nostalgia.

While there’s plenty of product on the market, the band’s original line-up only got to record one album, albeit a legendary one.

Here’s how The Sex Pistols could have recorded a second record and every time that they got closest to doing just that.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols

“Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” changed popular music. You don’t need to enjoy the music to agree with this. In fact, most of the old guard of musicians did not enjoy it.

A lot of it might have stemmed from fear. The Sex Pistols were semi-competent musicians and proud of this. Their music purposely cut out any of the fat (e.g., lengthy instrumental solos) on which arena rockers built their shows. They wore their anger and disenchantment with the British way of life on their sleeves.

And they enthralled a generation of musicians. Future members of Joy Division, The Fall, or The Smiths, all claim to have seen early Sex Pistols gigs and used their work as inspiration.

Sex Pistols band 1977

Who were The Sex Pistols?

The Sex Pistols were a real band! However, their notorious manager, Malcolm McLaren, often contested this fact.

It’s most likely that he’d never expected his attempt to mastermind this group would ever work out so well. The Sex Pistols had existed under numerous iterations, including ones where McLaren was a band member.

Other notable figures that drifted in and out of the group were Chrissie Hynde and writer Nick Kent. Their attempted sound, supposedly, owed a lot to The Ramones.

The impresario also claims to have used Situationist philosophy and “SEX,” the clothes shop he owned with his wife Vivienne Westwood as the springboard for the group.

The final line-up included occasional “SEX” shoplifters Steve Jones and Paul Cook, as well as store employee Glen Matlock (later replaced by Sid Vicious). The group was rounded up John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten, a novice, but very charismatic singer.

“Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” made the band infamous. Across England, they were either treated as conquering heroes or viciously attacked.

Their first three singles, “Anarchy in the UK,” “God Save The Queen” and “Pretty Vacant” were not just highly controversial. These were some of the best singles of that era.

The album followed on the back of these singles. By this time, The Sex Pistols had already been sacked by one record label (EMI), had been trialed for obscenity, had shocked television audiences across Britain, and had helped inspire a global movement.

Sex Pistols post-Nevermind the Bollocks…

But it would be over soon enough.

John Lydon would leave the band in 1978 in acrimony before starting the equally revolutionary Public Image LTD.

It all seemed like an apt ending. The Sex Pistols recorded one of the greatest albums of all time and split because they couldn’t stand being around each other. In fact, this is where most history lessons about the group end.

However, McLaren was determined to try and move the group and his concept forward. For a while, he did so with mixed results.

Let me count the ways in which The Sex Pistols attempted a follow-up to their only studio album.

Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols’ first failed follow-up

The Sex Pistols, especially McLaren, courted chaos. They got exactly what they bargained for. All of this made for great copy but not for a steady work environment.

Glen Matlock believes that The Sex Pistols could have made two or three more albums after their debut.

Judged on some of their demos, this might be correct in an alternate universe. However, by 1978, Matlock had been fired from the band and replaced by Sid Vicious. The group were touring frantically and, usually, getting themselves into trouble. And few plans for fresh recordings were being set up.

The Sex Pistols had a few excellent singles but never a lot of songs lying around. Of course, this was partly owed to the fact that all of them were beginner musicians.

In 1977, The band recorded what would become known as the “Spunk” sessions. These recordings were intended to serve as the foundation of their second album but were marred by infighting and technical difficulties.

Ultimately, these recordings were leaked and bootlegged; many songs from these sessions would later be re-recorded and included on various Sex Pistols compilations.

In 1978, The Sex Pistols began recording a new album at Wessex Studios in London. Unfortunately, internal conflicts and disagreements caused the sessions to break up before completion; some of the tracks recorded during these sessions would later be included on their posthumous album “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.” Speaking of which…

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle

The Sex Pistols famously broke up on stage with Johnny Rotten asserting, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Good night.” What a way to end a band!

Only that this was not the last the world would see or hear of The Sex Pistols.

Lydon had to phone home and ask Virgin Records boss Richard Branson for money to cover a return flight. He was interested in dub and experimental music. He was not interested in The Sex Pistols any longer.

McLaren and Branson, naturally, were none too pleased. The latter attempted to get Lydon involved with the band Devo, an offer refused by both parties.

Meanwhile, McLaren believed that he could find another singer to front the band that he’d created. In fact, he’d get multiple singers if he needed. Even more, he might even contribute.

“The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” was a film and soundtrack album released by the Sex Pistols in 1980, after they had, for all intents and purposes, already broken up.

Directed by Julien Temple and produced by Malcolm McLaren, both projects attempted to present a satirical, subversive take on both their history as well as that of music industry with the manipulation of footage and sound recordings by McLaren and Temple.

Johnny Rotten was uneasy about this project and its direction. He’s featured in some archival footage but, otherwise, refused to participate.

After the release of “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle,” Rotten publicly condemned both film and the album for misleading him and betraying their original philosophy. He accused McLaren of using the Sex Pistols for personal gain.

Sex Pistols with Sid Vicious

Who’s singing on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle?

Who isn’t?

Apart from old live recordings and demos that feature Rotten, everyone in The Sex Pistols camp gets a shot at singing and fronting the group. One gets the feeling that had the project been more successful, similar strategies would have been employed going forward.

Sid Vicious tries to sing “My Way” and a few 50s standards. It’s terrible singing and meant to sound that way.

Steve Jones sings “Lonely Boy,” a song that would become something of a career highlight and end up providing the name for his 2016 autobiography.

Even Malcolm McLaren gets to live out his dream of adding vocals to a Sex Pistols recording. That’s nothing compared to the news sensation of getting notorious bank robber Ronnie Biggs to provide vocals.

The ever-inflating Sex Pistols discography

The Sex Pistols recorded only one studio album. But you wouldn’t know it by the numerous albums that bare their logo circulating globally.

There’s the aptly-titled “Flogging a Dead Horse.” There’s “Kiss This”. There’s “Jubilee” and many others.

For the most part, each album includes the Sex Pistols’ famous singles, like “Holiday in the Sun” and “God Save the Queen”, with outtakes and live covers added to fill out the record.

They’re all a bit of a crash grab, but they do serve to show that The Sex Pistols were, most often, a very good rock n’ roll band.

Solo Pistols

Much more interesting are the albums recorded by members of The Sex Pistols on their own.

The Professionals is a group that features the best of buddies, Steve Jones and Paul Cook. They recorded four studio albums and are generally well respected. Their second release, “I Didn’t See That Coming,” may have even git Virgin Records’ hopes up about having a successful post-Pistols group on their hands.

Steve Jones also had a moderately successful hard-rock career in the U.S.A. He also recorded a one-off recorded with members of Guns n’ Roses and Duran Duran called “Neurotic Outsiders”. Later, he became a successful DJ.

Glen Matlock formed a band called Rich Kids and was generally viewed as the most competent musician of The Pistols. He’s played and recorded with many punk and new-wave bands.

John Lydon, by far, had the most interesting post-Pistols career. Public Image LTD. is considered one of the most important post-punk bands. Their self-titled record and “Metal Box” are considered classics of the genre.

But all of this was no match for a belated reunion, was it?

Sex Pistols reunion

The Sex Pistols’ reunion

By the 1990s, The Sex Pistols’ reunion still seemed very unlikely. However, original members Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock reunited for a tour nearly 20 years after their initial breakup. Unfortunately, this reunion proved short-lived and, wouldn’t you know it, marred by controversy.

One of the major issues, although not musically, was the absence of bassist Sid Vicious, who died from a drug overdose in 1979. Matlock was thus reinstated in the lineup.

Another problem was the band’s performance quality, which was reported as inconsistent throughout the tour. Some shows were praised for their energy and intensity, while others were criticized for being lackluster and out of sync. Rotten’s vocals were especially contentious; some fans felt he had lost his edge, while others praised his continued passion and charisma.

Another failed follow-up

Despite these difficulties, The Sex Pistols continued touring intermittently through the late 1990s and early 2000s with varying degrees of success. In 1996 they released an album entitled “Filthy Lucre Live,” featuring live recordings from their reunion tour as well as some studio tracks.

However, attempts to record a new studio album with the reunited lineup ultimately fell apart due to creative differences and personal tensions. According to Steve Jones, the band did get in the studio and attempted to record songs. According to the guitarist, they felt that the finished product would further chip at their legacy.

In 2002, Rotten announced his departure from the band due to disagreements over songwriting and direction. Jones, Cook, and Matlock continued performing under various names, but without Rotten their legacy and influence began to diminish.

They were back… for a while in the late 2000s. The Pistols even got a chance to release a live DVD of a 2007 show titled “There’ll Always Be An England”.

Finally, the band seemed permanently done and dusted in 2022. The miniseries “Pistol” attempted to tell the story of the band with Danny Boyle acting as director. John Lydon contested the release of the television show but was outvoted by his former band members.

No future reunions seem on the cards as of yet. Worry not; I’m sure that albums celebrating the band will continue to materialize.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols may have been enough

“Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” is a record that, for the most part, lives up to the hype. It contains some excellent singles and injected the kind of energy that made pop music exciting for a while.

Most punk and alternative bands will cite the album as an influence, and it helped ease the transition away from the highly pretentious style of rock dominating the charts until then. They’re always listed on lists hoping to classify the Greatest 100 Bands of All-Time.

Failing to record a proper follow-up may have been the greatest strategy that The Pistols ever concucted. It left their discography pristine. It only included one really good album that, in 1977, had all the world’s attention.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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