Apr 182018
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

sex pistols covers

Our casual Sex Pistols stroll down memory lane concludes today with a look at the covers they performed themselves. If you’ve been with us through the series, we’ve presented their one-and-only studio album Never Mind The Bullocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols as a Full Album feature along with several single-artist tributes to the entire album. We’ve also covered the covers spawned from each of their four singles: “Anarchy In the U.K.,” “God Save The Queen,” “Pretty Vacant,” and “Holidays In The Sun.”

Covers performed by the band first started to appear on official commercial releases only after the Rotten/Jones/Cook/Vicious line-up imploded in January of 1978. However, like most new bands with limited original material, covers were part of their live sets from the start. And since the band’s break-up, several poorly recorded versions from those early shows have found their way to market. But the bulk of any discussion about cover versions performed by the punk icons will focus on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, the early 1979 double soundtrack album from the “mockumentary” film about the band of the same name. Continue reading »

Apr 122018
 

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.

holidays in the sun covers

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! Continue reading »

Apr 022018
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

The hype and controversy brought on by the release of “God Save The Queen” had barely subsided before the Sex Pistols followed up with their third single. “Pretty Vacant” was released just over a month later, on July 1st of 1977. Both songs rode the UK Top 40 charts simultaneously throughout that month with “Pretty Vacant” ultimately peaking at #6 during an eight-week run. In a half step towards “establishment” legitimacy, the band was invited to perform the song – via a promotional video – for its first and only appearance on the popular BBC television show Top of the Pops. Even this track – and, of course, this appearance – garnered controversy when the special emphasis John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) was placing on the second syllable of the word “vacant” become obvious.

Glen Matlock, an original founding member of the band later replaced by Sid Vicious, cited ABBA’s “SOS” and Small Faces “Wham Bam Thank You Mam” as inspirations for the iconic opening guitar riff and arrangement. The song was lauded by NME magazine as its 1977 “Single of the Year.” It would chart in the UK three more times: in 1992 on its 15th anniversary, a live version from the re-formed group in 1996, and most recently on its 30th anniversary in 2007. According to our research, it’s spawned more cover versions than any other Sex Pistols song outside of “Anarchy In The U.K.”

As you’ll see, the covers here represent an embarrassment of riches. So stick with us as we pogo through five standouts and then call your attention to another more-than-a-baker’s dozen!

Continue reading »

Mar 262018
 
god save the queen covers

For their second single, The Sex Pistols followed their call for “Anarchy” with a direct shot at the British monarchy. For publicity-hunting manager Malcolm McLaren, the timing – Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 – couldn’t have been more perfect. There was no denying the inflammatory nature of the song’s lyrics – with the Queen being referred to as a “moron” in a “fascist regime” – and the closing “no future” refrain became a symbol for the angry working class and the punk movement itself.

The song explodes with energy from its opening chords, which build – along with singer Johnny Rotten’s anger – into a brief instrumental break. After Steve Jones’ guitar lick, Rotten comes back for a final verse before launching into the aforementioned refrain. Cover Me readers might be interested to know that original Sex Pistol bassist and co-writer Glen Matlock’s opening riff was admittedly influenced by 60s’ rockers The Move’s song “Fire Brigade” (in the chorus) and Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody.”

The single sold 200,000 copies in the first week and despite being banned by the BBC went on to top the UK charts. [The BBC were famously believed to have suppressed the song at number 2 on their charts as “punishment,” not allowing it to be seen formally at number 1. It reached number 1 on the NME chart.] The iconic song charted again in 2002 and 2007 on its way to becoming one of rocks most legendary hits recognized by Rolling Stone, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and various magazine polls.

There are dozens of generally uninteresting covers of the song that are little more than re-makes. We’ve sifted through the bollocks and found the ones you should know about. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already heard a few. The unique twists below come from at least five different countries, proving once again that the sun never sets on the British Empire!

Continue reading »

Mar 182018
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

anarchy in the uk covers

With the release of over 70 SecondHandSongs-verified versions of the Sex Pistols’ debut single since 1976 (and many more informal covers), “Anarchy In The U.K.” takes the punk prize for being their most-covered song. The harsh rallying cry for Britain’s disaffected youth has generated over 10 million views on one YouTube post alone. As noted in our track-by-track covers review of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy” kicked-off a cultural phenomenon and has garnered accolades from establishment icons like Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which, at the time, the band would have stood systematically against.

The original appeared as a single nearly a year before it was featured on the band’s one and only studio album. It opens with the crashing of guitars, drums and John Lydon’s shout of “Rrrright! Now!” followed by laughter. The sonic assault breaks for a fake belch before Lydon resumes his screeching diatribe that includes a laundry list of politically themed abbreviations (IRA, UDA, MPLA) and the recently-discontinued British music newsweekly NME.

Music writer Tim Sommer in The Observer had this to say in a great article about the song on its 40th anniversary:

But for a staggering, shattering few moments, “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the Sex Pistols shocked the world as no other artist ever has or ever will. We can never recreate that moment, the instant when a rock band from the wrong side of the socio-economic spectrum made a loud noise and shouted “Match!” while sitting on a pile of dynamite, but here’s hoping it can happen again.

We’ve rounded up a variety of styles of the iconic track worth sharing. John Lydon marked his final live performance as Johnny Rotten with the question, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” It’s safe to say that none of these covers will leave you feeling that way!

Continue reading »

Mar 122018
 

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

never mind the bollocks tribute

Conspicuously absent from our recent Full Album deep dive into The Sex Pistols’ classic Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols were any of the artists who covered the album in its entirety. Which a number of very different acts have, tackling all twelve tracks themselves. Because it required an extra level of commitment, we thought it only fair to highlight their work separately. These are the best full-length tributes to Never Mind the Bollocks by a single artist.

I. The Bollock Brothers – ‘Never Mind The Bollocks 1983’

Continue reading »