On January 4th of this year, they flew to Amsterdam for a club date and got involved in an incident at Heathrow Airport. One witness claimed the Sex Pistols were doing something so disgusting that she could not repeat it for publication. Steve Jones claimed he had a simple case of indigestion, but the papers had a field day, and it became generally believed Jones had been vomiting on old ladies in the preflight lounge. EMI dropped them at a cost of 50,000 pounds and 5000 copies of "Anarchy" to break the contract.
Glen Matlock also left about this time, charging that the group was so manipulated by McLaren that they had become like the Monkees. The group charged Matlock with being into old farts like Paul McCartney. Sid Vicious, an old school chum of Rotten's, inventor of pogo dancing, reputed mean hand with a bicycle chain and totally inexperienced hand with a bass guitar, was the replacement.
On March 10th, A&M signed the Sex Pistols, advancing them 50,000 pounds, and dropped them a week later for another 25,000 pounds. In between, the Pistols were apparently involved in incidents of vandalism at the company's headquarters and in a pub fight with the head of programming for the BBC. It is also thought that A&M was the target of heavy pressure brought by disc jockeys, distributors and its own employees.
This summer they signed with Virgin for British distribution and released "God Save the Queen," a raunchy denunciation of the monarchy, just in time for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. The song quickly went to Number One on the New Musical Express charts. They followed up with a two-sided hit, "Pretty Vacant," an original about not caring for anything, and "No Fun," an Iggy Pop cover that Rotten starts as a sociology lecture and ends as a sort of hymn to the general worthlessness of the universe. They have just completed a much anticipated album, Another Load of Bollocks from the Sex Pistols, due out in Britain between this writing and publication time. Though competition is thought to be hot, McLaren still has not signed an American deal.
In the meantime, the Sex Pistols are concentrating their efforts on a feature movie to take their message directly to their audience and bypass the journalists, record companies and disc jockeys. The boutique has been renamed Seditionaries to accommodate the new political mood and its line of T-shirts now includes swastikas. Both Rotten and Cook were assaulted this summer by "patriots" who sent them to the hospital briefly.
Fuckin' ell! They were unlucky, that was all," says Steve Jones, who has arrived in the office to look at some pictures. Jones is by far the healthiest-looking Sex Pistol, with an I'm-a-stud-from-the-coal-mines look about him, though his handshake proves as limp as Cook's. "It ain't hard to suss it out if a geezer's going to beat up on you."
I mention the recent Swedish tour of small clubs and the gangs of "razors" – youthful thugs who drive big American cars and assault immigrants – who disrupted some concerts by ripping the safety pins out of the cheeks of some of the Sex Pistols' fans.
"Yeah, they like the music, they just don't like the safety pins – that's wot a Swedish bloke told me. They're just fuckin' idiots," says Jones. "I wanted to go outside and smack'em, but the bouncers wouldn't let us. They think we're the crown jewels."
The phone rings and it is McLaren. I fall on my knees before his assistant and write "Please!!" on my notepad. She has mercy and lets me talk to him for a moment. To my great surprise, he invites me to his apartment late that evening. I express my heartfelt thanks and take off with Jones to the studio, where the Sex Pistols are doing the final overdubs on the album. At the curb, Jones pats a passing woman on the behind, much to the distress of the woman and a roadie who is worried what I'll write. "I don't care!" exclaims Jones. "I like slappin' birds' arses!" A Chinese man grabs the cab he'd been motioning and Jones shouts, "Fuckin' little slit eye got it! Oy! Oy! You cunt!"
In the taxi, I ask his impression of Russ Meyer. "Seems like a nice bloke," he says. "Very aware of everything. There's going to be plenty of sex in this film, lots of birds with big tits."
One of the things that strikes me about the punk movement, I say, is that it seems antisex – kids making themselves so ugly and mutilated that no physical attraction is possible. Sid Vicious described himself in one article as a "sexless monster," totally bored with the whole subject.
"Sid said that?" says Jones. "'e was puttin' on."
I felt like a sexless monster because at the time my head was shaved and I was wearing this vile tuxedo that was four sizes too big. I had no money to buy clothes, and people would run away when I walked down the street. It was a right laugh," says Sid Vicious in the lounge of the recording studio. Queen is recording at the same time, and Freddie Mercury's high-pitched howls waft through the not-quite-soundproofed door. "I didn't like fuckin' then, and I still don't. It's dull."
Vicious' voice has a tone of goofy absurdity, something like Ringo Starr's (though he'd hate the analogy), that elevates almost everything he says to high humor. Pencil thin, he is dressed in a black leather jacket with no shirt underneath and enormous black combat boots. His teeth appear not to have been brushed in several years. His hair is about two inches long and sticks straight out at odd angles. Several bright red scars highlight his solar plexus.
"One night nobody was payin' any attention to me, so I thought I'd commit suicide," he explains, belching loudly. "So I went in the bathroom, broke a glass and slashed my chest with it. It's a really good way to get attention. I'm going to do it again – particularly since it doesn't work. They all said I didn't cut myself enough to be realistic and ignored me." Vicious laughs at the non sequitur, adding, "You better not make a fool of me in this article."
Vicious went to college, the English equivalent of American high school, with Johnny Rotten. "We were right thick cunts, we were," he says." 'e was the vilest geezer I ever met – all misshapen, no 'air, 'unchback, flat feet. Everybody 'ated'im. Everybody 'ated me. We 'ated each other, too, but nobody else would talk to us, so we'd just get drunk and criticize each other. 'e used to tell people 'e had to cut his piles off with a razor blade because they were'anging out'is pants, and they'd believe 'im. 'e used to tell them that niggers 'ad 'air on the roofs of their mouths. They believed that too."
Vicious dropped out of school after somehow finagling a scholarship ("I didn't know about the dole yet") which he used to start some sort of illicit business that he declined to specify. He first touched immortality when attending the early Sex Pistols' concerts. "They were the only group I ever wanted to see," he says. "I didn't know how to dance, so I just jumped up and down and bashed people. Then everybody else started doin' it, but they didn't get it right, so I quit."
"Did you really get into all those fights attributed to you?"
"Don't believe everything you read in the press. If somebody starts with me, I try to mess them up, but I don't look for trouble."
"When did you first pick up the bass?"
"I never played seriously until I joined the group. Learned quite fast, I suppose. Before I started playing, I never really noticed the bass – couldn't tell it from a piano. I heard records as just a wall of sound. I'd have to think before I could pick anything out."
I say how surprised I was the other night to see teenage punks responding so enthusiastically to reggae music. "Yeah, I like reggae," he says. "But I don't know what it is. I never quite find out what things are."
"It's true you hate the traditional rock stars who've made big names for themselves?"
"I absolutely despise those turds. The Stones should have quit in 1965. You never see any of those cunts walkin' down the street. If it gets so you can't see us that way, I don't want it."
"But the entire American music industry is poised to turn you into the next big thing. They'll suck out any integrity the band has."
"But how can they? I only know one way to live. That's like now. In Sweden, they wouldn't let us out the door. Those fat cunts, they said the crowds would tear us apart, but nothin' 'appened. I won't be filled with that shit."
"Will you have anything to sing about when you're rich?"
"I don't think we'll ever be millionaires. I don't really think about the future. I 'aven't got a clue."
Two groupies, dressed like That Cosmo Cadaver, interrupt. "Can we stay with you tonight?" they ask. "John wouldn't let us."
"Of course not," says Vicious. "You're not worth anythin' to me. There's nothin' you 'ave that I want. And I can't stand the sound of your friend's voice. I'm very mercenary about these things."
"So I see."
When she doesn't respond in kind, Vicious immediately changes his tune. "No, it's just that I don't'ave a place to stay mesef. Every time I'ave a place, I get bored in a week. I sleep where I can."
"With all the money you make, you'aven't got your own flat?"
"I'aven't seen any of it."
Vicious pulls out his pockets. One coin falls to the floor. "Look, I don't even get paid till Friday, and then it's all gone by Monday. I'aven't seen any of the money."
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