Posts Tagged ‘Steve Jones’

Masterpiece: Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols

27 May 2010

[Today: The towering inferno…]

“Maybe I’m just a really bad comedian, but I thought Never Mind The Bollocks… was hilarious from start to finish. Pointed, but hilarious, and therefore useful,” claims Johnny Rotten in the Classic Albums documentary on this record. The joke, as it were, was on a starched-shirt music industry looking to cash in on the nascent punk scene. The Sex Pistols were a high-profile hot potato that jumped from EMI to A&M before finally landing at Virgin. Band manager Malcolm McLaren lived by the adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” and his lads more than took him up on it, flaming out in a drunken scene at A&M that got them kicked off the label the same week they signed.

Of course, the band’s legend was fueled by some incendiary singles. ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and ‘God Save The Queen’ are two of the essential songs in the punk canon, and both still sound nasty and provocative. Johnny Rotten’s sneer was one of punk’s most lethal weapons – he built his character on Sir Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of King Richard III, and both men played their roles brilliantly. Rotten provoked crowds, crouched behind his mic stand like a demented Quasimodo and ready for battle. Steve Jones built a wall of layered guitars in the studio that sounds like punk Phil Spector and brooks no imitation. The rock mainstream has come around to Jones’ guitar style enough that Never Mind The Bollocks… now sounds like contemporary rock rather than vintage punk.

“Bollocks” is a British slang term for the dog’s balls (or nonsense), and this album came under fire almost immediately upon hitting the shelves on October 27th, 1977. Sued for obscenity, the band and Virgin head Richard Branson were eventually and “reluctantly” found not guilty. Beyond the dirty word on its cover, this album was a thumb in the eye of the British establishment. It bespoke of abortions and mental illness, smeared the royal family and openly called for anarchy, and generally sounded like the worst nightmare of every upstanding British subject.

But Never Mind The Bollocks… has proved to be very useful indeed, becoming one of the most influential albums in the history of rock, and providing a guiding sneer for albums well beyond punk. Its nasty swagger can be found in Guns ‘N Roses’ Appetite For Destruction, its title was clipped for Nirvana’s generationally epic Nevermind, and its bad attitude has been aped by nearly every hard rock album to hit the shelves since the early 80s. The Sex Pistols may have been quickly consumed by the flames of their own nihilism, but while they were still burning brightly, their fire was second to none…

Listen: Anarchy In The U.K.

Listen: God Save The Queen

Listen: Pretty Vacant

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

12 April 2010

Malcolm McLaren, the svengali behind the formation and rise of the Sex Pistols, died last week at age 64. Before his foray into the music business, McLaren came to prominence in the fashion industry. Along with partner Vivienne Westwood, he ran a shop on Kings Road in London that changed themes several times before becoming a bondage-themed store called Sex. It was at Sex that McLaren gathered the future Sex Pistols (including a frequent shoplifter named Steve Jones) and suggested they become a band. And it was McLaren who took a shine to a young outcast named John Lydon (whose I HATE PINK FLOYD t-shirt caught McLaren’s eye) and had him rehearse for the group by singing along to the store’s jukebox.

As manager of the Sex Pistols, McLaren was an impish character who delighted in stirring up controversy. He urged the group to release ‘God Save The Queen’ around the time of Queen Elizabeth’s silver celebration, and then arranged for them to play the song on a boat trolling the river Thames. When police predictably busted the performance, punk rock had one of its best photo ops. It was just another day at the office for Malcolm McLaren. “Malcolm was definitely the Brian Epstein of punk – without him it wouldn’t have happened the way it did,” said Jones of his ex-manager. “My fondest memory of Malcolm, and I loved the guy, was his birthday gift to me when I turned 21 – he got me a hooker and some heroin.”

Guitar Gods – The Cover Art

19 November 2008

Here’s the cover art for one of my latest mixes – a four disc box-set called Guitar Gods. A compilation like this invites furrowed brows, lists of corrections, and plenty of harrumphing from all corners. Strike up the chorus: “But what about ____________?” There were dozens more guitarists that ideally would have been included, but four discs seemed like enough, and the line had to be drawn somewhere.

World B. Furr (sometime commenter on this blog) was kind enough to collaborate on this mix with me, and help me figure out where to draw that line, and it was a clear case of two brains being better than one. We had a lot of back and forth about who to include and who to leave out, and inevitably there were compromises to be made.

From the liner notes to this mix, here’s a six-pack of guitarists who just missed the cut:

Ace Frehley – When I was a kid I thought every guitarist should sound like The Spaceman. But then somewhere along the way I grew up. Still, I have a strange desire to shout “ACE FREHLEY! SHOCK ME!!!” and put him in the mix. Didn’t happen… [dk]

Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman – Scott Ian of Anthrax once said that if he goes to Hell, there’s no doubt Slayer will playing on the loudspeaker. These two guys have spent the better part of the last 25 years kicking out some of the heaviest and most sinister riffs of all-time — never once losing the fire that first got things started. [Furr]

George Brigman – Brigman is a Guitar God for me because he represents the dreams of the everyman player. As a 17 year-old kid, Brigman self-released his debut album Jungle Rot in 1975 and then watched it disappear. Time has proven it a fuzzed out, lo-fi classic. [dk]

Mick Taylor – Although we ultimately chose ‘Satisfaction’ and the Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones, I feel it’s imperative to point out the genius of Mick Taylor. Few could argue that the Taylor years were the Stones finest, and that’s largely due to the “other” Mick. [Furr]

Peter Green – The driving force of the original, bluesy Fleetwood Mac, Green was one of the best guitarists of his generation. Unfortunately, he lost his sanity in a worm hole of drugs, and disappeared from the music scene for decades. But his is a brilliant, if truncated, body of work. [dk]

Alex Lifeson – There are a lot of excuses people will give for hating Rush. Alex Lifeson’s guitar work is never one of them. This guy is one of the greatest players ever and he’s one-third of the reason why I absolutely LOVE Rush. [Furr]

Without further ado…

[Here’s the front cover…]
Guitar Gods | Front

[Here’s the inside front cover…]
Guitar Gods | Front Inside

[Here’s the inside booklet cover…]
Guitar Gods | Booklet Cover
[Guitar pick photos courtesy of Umlaut!]

[Here’s the guts of the inside booklet…]
Guitar Gods | Inside Booklet

[Here’s the back inside…]
Guitar Gods | Back Inside

[Here’s the back…]
Guitar Gods | Back

[Here’s the track listing…]

Disc 1ne
Chuck Berry * Johnny B. Goode
The Rolling Stones * Satisfaction [Keith Richards]
The White Stripes * Seven Nation Army [Jack White]
Link Wray * Rumble
Dick Dale & The Del-Tones * Let’s Go Trippin’
Cream * Sunshine Of Your Love [Eric Clapton]
Quicksilver Messenger Service * Mona [John Cipollina and Gary Duncan]
Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia etc * Keepers (Live)
The Allman Brothers Band * In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Live) [Duane Allman]
The Faces * Around The Plynth [Ron Wood]
Santana * Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen [Carlos Santana]
The Who * Won’t Get Fooled Again [Pete Townshend]
ZZ Top * La Grange [Billy Gibbons]
U2 * Bullet The Blue Sky [The Edge]

Disc 2wo
John Fahey * St. Louis Blues
Robert Johnson * Sweet Home Chicago
Mississippi John Hurt * Frankie
Muddy Waters * Baby Please Don’t Go
Bo Diddley * Who Do You Love?
Howlin’ Wolf * Smokestack Lightnin’
Albert King * Born Under A Bad Sign
Otis Rush * I Can’t Quit You Baby
Freddie King * Key To The Highway
Buddy Guy * A Man and The Blues
Johnny Winter * Dallas
B.B. King * Everyday I Have The Blues
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble * The Sky Is Crying
Albert Collins * Frosty
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band * East-West [Mike Bloomfield]
Roy Buchanan * Sweet Dreams

Disc 3hree
Nirvana * Come As You Are [Kurt Cobain]
Deep Purple * Smoke On The Water [Ritchie Blackmore]
Aerosmith * Sweet Emotion [Joe Perry]
Black Sabbath * Fairies Wear Boots [Tony Iommi]
Ted Nugent * Stranglehold
Spinal Tap * Sex Farm [Nigel Tufnel]
Sex Pistols * God Save The Queen [Steve Jones]
The Ramones * Judy Is A Punk [Johnny Ramone]
The Clash * Clampdown [Joe Strummer and Mick Jones]
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers * One Track Mind
AC/DC * Highway To Hell [Angus Young]
Van Halen * Eruption [Eddie Van Halen]
Ozzy Osbourne * Flying High Again [Randy Rhoads]
Guns N’ Roses * Mr. Brownstone [Slash]
Judas Priest * You’ve Got Another Thing Coming [Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing]
Iron Maiden * The Trooper [Dave Murray and Adrian Smith]
Metallica * The Four Horsemen [Kirk Hammett]
Rage Against The Machine * Bombtrack [Tom Morello]

Disc 4our
Andrés Segovia * Suite Compostelana: I. Preludio
Buena Vista Social Club * Chan Chan [Ry Cooder]
Jeff Beck * Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers
Led Zeppelin * White Summer/Black Mountain Side [Jimmy Page]
The Jimi Hendrix Experience * Little Wing
John McLaughlin * Peace Piece
Funkadelic * Maggot Brain [Eddie Hazel]
Neil Young * Cortez The Killer
Pink Floyd * Comfortably Numb [David Gilmore]
Buckethead * Lone Sal Bug
Dire Straits * Ride Across The River [Mark Knopfler]
The Beatles * While My Guitar Gently Weeps [George Harrison]
Les Paul * Lover


[I’ll be extremely disappointed if there are less than two dozen fired up comments about how we screwed this up. This mix couldn’t possibly cover off on everyone’s personal list of Guitar Gods, so I look forward to hearing who you think we missed, and what we got wrong. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to slip into my flame retardant Kevlar suit…]