Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Never Mind the Bollocks....

The Sex Pistols reunion (more cash from chaos and more filthy lucre) and re-release of back catalogue has reminded me of the legal dimension to the Sex Pistols. There is of course the Bill Grundy show and the infamous four letter outburst, the transcript of which was captured for posterity in the Guardian 'Great Speeches of the 20th Century' series earlier in the year. There were of course the court cases and in particular the squabbles between Lydon and McClaren, but it was their output, or (some) product that really created mayhem all those years ago. Banned from performing at many venues the band were forced to tour incognito ('The Spots' - 'Sex Pistols on Tour' at one point and their recorded output was similarly maligned - God Save the Queen memorably prevented from reaching Number 1 during the Silver Jubilee and 30 years later on its reissue prompting an NME campaign to take it to its rightful place at top of charts - it failed of course!

They only released one album proper during their extremely short lifespan, and this had a number of tracks that some felt pushed the boundaries of taste and decency such as 'Bodies' and 'Holidays in the Sun'. The subject matter today seems pretty tame given what has followed it but it neatly captures the shock to the system that the Pistols were in the mid 1970's, a time when my colleague Steve Greenfield was still into Yes and Rick Wakeman on Ice, but a piece this month in the Guardian to launch the Guardian and Observer Digital archive really reminded me of an interesting legal dimension to the Pistols; http://century.guardian.co.uk/1970-1979/Story/0,,106929,00.html

The case seems like an antique now, the Indecent Advertisements Act 1889 even provided for 6 months hard labour as a possible penalty! It neatly illustrates the amorphous notion of censorship, and illustrates how many attempts to censor are very much of their time. This can be seen in film where we see different approaches to films such as Straw Dogs over the years. Anyway, an undergraduate Sex Pistols fan who wore a t shirt emblazoned with the album cover above to a tutorial reminded me of this and the ripe field of legal and extra legal censorship that they leave in their wake. anyone interested in reading more on this see for example Jon Savage's fantastic England's Dreaming and also parts of Martin Cloonan's book Banned. I believe that John Mortimer, who acted for Virgin Records in the case, also discusses the case above in his autobiography. All of this activity shows that the Pistols are perhaps ripe for a legal excavation.

2 comments:

John Flood said...

And of course there was poor Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon macabrely romancing in the Chelsea Hotel, with the resulting but never completed murder trial.

MARIONEXXES said...

nevermind the sex pistols, here the sex xer no i ram