Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
Two weeks ahead of their much-hyped, one and only studio album in 1977, the Sex Pistols – for the last time as a complete unit – first chummed the water with the release of their fourth and final UK single following “Anarchy in the UK,” “God Save the Queen,” and “Pretty Vacant.” The iconic sound of marching boots from the introduction of “Holidays In The Sun” marked the beginning of the single and also the first track on Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.
Lyrically, the song can be best described as John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon’s sarcastic observations about the band’s getaway from London and as a critique of consumer culture. To escape its pressures, an ill-fated trip to the Channel Islands (“They threw us out.” said Lydon.) gave way to a two-week blowout in Berlin. He likened it to the exchange of one “prison camp environment” for another. Musically, the song lifted its chord progression from the Jam’s “In The City” and the riff subsequently went on to become recognized as one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. It was also the first Sex Pistols single to give a co-writing credit to John Simon Beverly – also known as – Sid Vicious. It’s not clear who came up with the repeating chant of “Reason! Reason! Reason!”
A deep look at the countless covers available turned up the widest variety of genres for any Sex Pistol single (nearly a dozen) but only a relatively small group of standouts. No “cheap holiday” here – so join us as we go over the Berlin Wall!
Leæther Strip’s version is good.
ConvOi!’s version is better.
Hayseed Dixie’s version is best.
Leæther Strip – Holidays In The Sun (Sex Pistols cover)
Leæther Strip is the long-running project of Danish electro-industrialist and goth rocker Claus Larsen. This well-produced arrangement opens with, closes, and intersperses the marching boots. It’s slick industrial dance music with the influence of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Larsen’s Appreciation II, a covers album, was released in early 2018.
ConvOi! – Holidays In The Sun (Sex Pistols cover)
Little is known about the Austin, Texas alums ConvOi! and their apparently one-and-only album Husband Huntin’ released in 2008. A novelty yes, but the infectious toe tapping good time country cover of a punk classic features a great arrangement with plenty of pedal steel guitar and amphetamine-speed drumming to support Matt Jones’ southern rock vocals. For fun, there are some slight lyric changes and improvisations that include the Alamo – versus the Berlin – Wall. Makes you wonder if things would have turned out differently for the Sex Pistols had they played this version on their (purposefully) disastrous 1977 US tour of the Deep South.
Hayseed Dixie – Holidays In The Sun (Sex Pistols cover)
If you’ve been following this series, our selection here might be anticlimactic, but we stand by the choice. Unlike ConvOi!, Hayseed Dixie has successfully extended their novelty act from an infrequent joke to a career that now spans 15 albums over 17 years. The radical bluegrass arrangement from 2007’s Weapons of Grass Destruction slows the pace with the talented musicians/pickers featuring melodic mandolin, banjo and singer Barley Scotch’s tight vocal harmonies. It’s a delicious 180 degrees opposite of the original with a terrific video to boot.
- Jock McDonald’s new-wavy drum machine version with his band The Bollock Brothers. (1983)
- Sebastian Bach, wailing at the top of his lungs, in the metal version by Skid Row. (1989)
- Fun, live, skiffle version with “acoustic ska fervor” by The Legendary Staniero. (1994)
- A short, awkward attempt at a jazz version by Enzo Pietropaoli. (1999)
- Power pop with punk vocals from The Booked. (2000)
- “Texas farmer” country version from Parabellum. (2005)
- European acoustic synth-pop in what is an otherwise unclassifiable version from Queen of Japan. (2008)
- Beastie Boys-style hip hop version from The Bolsheviks. (2009)
- Celtic punk version from Mr. Irish Bastard. (2011)
- Swinging big band version from The Swing Punks. (2015)
- Ukrainian language kind-of-punk version from The Ukrainians. (2015)
Next Up – Finale: Part VI concludes our Sex Pistols series with a look at each cover performed by the band.