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The history of the band begins in high school in Shepherd, England in 1972 when Steve Jones (born on September 3rd 1955 in London, England) and Paul Cook (born on July 20th 1956 in London, England) form a band called The Strand with their classmate Warwick Nightingale as the singer. Jones plays guitar and Cook plays drums. Jimmy Mackin and Steve Hayes were the other members of the original line-up. The instruments and the equipment were brought by Jones who was stealing it. He learned how to steal from his mother and his step-father. He was all the time at the Let It Rock store owned by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood who were selling porno t-shirts and equipment. Jones asks McLaren if he can find a place for the rehearsals of the band and he finds the Covet Garden Community Centre. We can say that at that time Malcolm McLaren becomes the official manager of the band. Glen Matlock (born on August 27th 1956 in Paddington, England), who knew McLaren, joins the band on bass.

The band's priority from McLaren's point of view was to find a singer and Nightingale is fired. A regular visitor at McLaren's store known as "Sex", John Lydon (born on January 31st 1956), was in a squat with Sid Vicious (born as John Simon Ritchie on May 10th 1957 in London, England). Lydon who had green hair and a t-shirt on which it was written "I Hate Pink Floyd", takes an audition for the band, singing on Alice Cooper on the store's jukebox. Because Jones was always talking about the rotten teeth of Lydon, they rename him Johnny Rotten, name he will use for his entire career.

It's McLaren who suggests the band's name of Sex Pistols taking a writing on one of the t-shirts he had in store. In the beginning, they do cover songs from the 60's, but they start quickly to write their own songs. Their first concert is on support to Bazooka Joe (with Adam Ant) in November 1975 at the St. Martin's College in London. That first concert was very short and wouldn't make history. The next concerts start to bring some fans and they begin to spread their reputation. Violence at a venue in Dingwalls forces the security to stop the concert and their growing reputation of bad boys makes them banned from a punk event in France, the Mont De Marson. They begin to play every Tuesday night at the 100 Club in London.

After a tour in England, including a concert at Chelmsford prison, they play at the 100 Club on September 1976 in a punk festival with other artists like The Damned, The Clash, The Vibrators et Siouxsie & The Banshees (with Sid Vicious on drums). On October 8th, the band signs his first contract with EMI and records soon its first single, "Anarchy In The UK".

On December 1st, the band appears on TV for a last minute replacement. They arrive at the TV station only 5 minutes before doing their performance live. The host Bill Grundy, who is drunk, tries to provoke them and asks the guys to say something shocking. Specially for Steve Jones, the door was wide opened and he says a lot of shocking words not necessarily appropriate for a prime time TV show. The next day they have their pictures on every newspaper and the people want that EMI fire the Sex Pistols. A little bit afraid, the promoters cancel all the concerts for December, except for 3.

In February 1977, Glen Matlock quits and he is replaced by Sid Vicious who doesn't know how to play bass. In March, the band signs a new contract with A&M Records. Because the first single to be released is "God Save the Queen", they sign the contract outside Buckingham Palace and everything is taken on pictures. A few days later, after trouble by Sid, the record company decides to fire the Sex Pistols talking about the lying attitude of McLaren on the signing of the contract. In May, they sign their third contract (and their last) with Virgin and "God Save the Queen" is finally released. The album includes a picture of the queen with a pin in the nose, in the pure punk culture. So it's not with any surprise that the single is banned in many countries. For the queen jubilee, the Sex Pistols give a concert on a boat. They are arrested as soon as they come back on the ground for public disorder and big alcohol intoxication. They have other charges for obstruction and insults to the policemen. They are now definitely the kings of controversy.

Two new singles are released: "Pretty Vacant" (played on the Top Of The Pops TV show) and "Holidays in the Sun". A few weeks later, on October 1977, the eagerly awaited first album of the band Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols is released. It goes straight to the top of the charts, even if some record stores refuse to offer it. After a secret tour to be sure not to be banned, they do their first concert in England at Ivanhoes in Huddersfield on Christmas day of 77, before flying to the USA for 8 concerts. At their last US concert in San Francisco, Rotten who was tired of the band tells the now famous sentence "Did you ever have the feeling you get screwed?" He was fired the next day and he formed his own band, Public Image Limited, with whom he made many albums. A few days after the firing of Rotten, Cook, Jones and McLaren fly to Rio to meet Ronnie Biggs and record with him when he was in exile.

Depressed, Sid Vicious records on his own a cover of "My Way" and does his final concert at Camden's Electric Ballroom under the name The Vicious White Kids with former Sex Pistols bassist, Glen Matlock. On October 1978, Sid's girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, is found dead in their hotel room in New York City. Sid is accused of the murder and goes in prison. They release him thanks to a $50 000 bail paid by McLaren. He is found dead himself on February 2nd 1979 from a heroin overdose, when he was waiting to go in court. He was only 21 years old. The Sex Pistols are now officially over.

In 1996, 20 years after their official debut, John Lydon (who doesn't want to be called Johnny Rotten anymore), Steve Jones, Paul Cook et Glen Matlock reform the Sex Pistols for a tour, the Filthy Lucre Tour. It has a huge success worldwide and they do their final concert in Santiago, Chile on December 7th 1996. A live album is released from this tour, Filthy Lucre Live.

 

Richard Dion

 

 

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