As we all know, the Sex Pistols were the most notorious of all UK first wave punk bands. Johnny Rotten (vocals), Steve Jones (guitars), Glen Matlock (bass) and Paul Cook (drums) became the tool that Malcolm McLaren used to become famous.
Shortly after the band was signed Glen Matlock was tossed out of the band for "liking the Beatles" and replaced by Sid Vicious - who had no bass playing skill at all. Glen Matlock was a good bassist and one of the writers of all the Pistol's songs. He went on to front the not too successful power pop band Rich Kids. The only songs Glen plays on are the three songs of the Chris Spedding sessions and the Anarchy In the UK 7inch. Steve Jones played bass on all the other Sex Pistols recordings.
What we have here is a double CD that came out in 1996 (the bands 20th anniversary). It has the original 'Never Mind the Bollocks' LP (produced by Chris Thomas) plus a second disc with 21 studio songs. The first 12 songs on the second disc are the often bootlegged but never released A&M tapes. These are followed by the pre-Bollocks 'And We Don't Care' 7inch, with very different sounding versions of Problems, No Feelings, and Pretty Vacant. These mixes are always credited to Chris Spedding. They were recorded by Spedding at Majestic Studios in May 1976, but the fact is that Dave Goodman remixed the tracks and the original Chris Spedding mixes remain elusive. The CD closes out with another six studio versions that I do not know the source of.
The Pistols started off signed to EMI Records. The controversy over their first single Anarchy In The UK and the rude TV appearance they did caused them to get dropped and the single to be recalled and destroyed.
(From the Sex Pistols diary) The Sex Pistols appeared on the 'Today' show on December 6 1976. The host, Bill Grundy said "Say something outrageous." Steve Jones complied "You dirty bastard ... You dirty f**ker ... What a f**kin' rotter!" The TV station was deluged with complaints, one irate lorry driver puts his foot through his television screen in disgust.
On January 6 1977 their contract with EMI was terminated. Original copies of the EMI 7inch are quite valuable. The band was then picked up by A&M Records, but that deal only lasted four days due to the bands bad behavior in London's Speakeasy Pub, and letters other A&M artists wrote to Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss (the 'A' and 'M' of A&M Records).
The Pistols finally found a home on Virgin Records, who put out the 'Never Mind the Bollocks' LP,and their singles. God save The Queen b-w Did You No Wrong was the first release on Virgin. It was followed by Pretty Vacant b-w No Fun (a Stooges cover which was produced by Dave Goodman).
Holidays In The Sun b-w Satellite was the final single before the Pistols broke up during their first US tour. A one sided 7inch of Submission was included in the second printing of the UK 'Never Mind the Bollocks' LP.
Their only US single was Pretty Vacant b-w Submission. As did the LP, it came out in 1977 on Warner Brothers, the US affiliate of Virgin. This double CD set does not include No Fun or Did You No Wrong. That is a shame.
Listening to 'Never Mind the Bollocks' in 2003 I can only really enjoy the songs Liar, Problems, and Submission. The song Bodies does not fit into today's climate at all. It is an anti-abortion song which the Pistols wrote after the initial set of songs they started out with. Like the never-released Belsen Was A Gas, Bodies is written to shock. Both songs do, but not in the way the band intended, I'm sure.
The only place you can hear Belsen Was A Gas is on the 1978 Rhino Records 'Saturday Night Pogo' compilation. The Low Numbers do a cover of the track.
Do you need to buy this CD set? Probably not, but it sure is good to hear the alternate versions on disc 2. The Pistols were victims of many second rate compilations with live songs. While there are no major revelations on this set, the A&M Tapes and the Spedding sessions are well recorded studio sessions sure to be of great interest to any fans of the band.