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Behind the Filth and the Fury: Rarely Seen Sex Pistols Photos

Photographer Dennis Morris chronicled the U.K. punks amidst the chaos of 1977

The Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious

Dennis Morris

Photographer Dennis Morris first captured the attention of the Sex Pistols when Johnny Rotten saw some of the work he'd done with Bob Marley. The punk singer, a huge reggae fan, quickly brought Morris into the fold when the Pistols signed with Virgin in May 1977, and for the next seven months the photographer was constantly by their side, capturing incredibly intimate natural images during the absolute peak of their career. It was a time of madness, drug addiction, infighting and constantly canceled gigs, and Morris caught it all on film. The Bollocks, an exhibition of his work, opened at the Known Gallery in Los Angeles on August 9th and runs through the 23rd. Click through to read the stories behind some of his best photographs. 

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

Paul Cook

"To me, the band would not have existed without Paul," says Morris. "He was a brilliant, brilliant drummer. The same goes for Steve Jones on guitar. The sadness for these two is that their abilities have gone so unrecognized. They really crafted the sound of the band. John's voice is on top of them, but all the sound is coming from them."

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

Roxy Pistols

"This was taken backstage in Sweden," says Morris. "As you can see, Johnny was constantly changing his look. He was very into Brian Ferry, and I call this his Brian Ferry stage with the white jacket and tie. With Sid, he's usually wearing the same thing in most of my photos. He basically just woke up, ran his fingers through his hair, put on a jacket, with or without a shirt, put on that chain and he looked amazing. John, however, really worked it."

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

Wink

"Even though this looks like it was taken in a photo studio, I actually just snapped it one day in Sweden," says Morris. "One morning I just decided to take some portrait shots. We opened the curtain, moved away some furniture and that was it. This shot with Sid winking is one of the most bootlegged shots of mine. It's been ripped off so many times. It's just unbelievable. People often tell me they thought it was public domain or they come up with some other excuse. One guy actually told me he had no memory of bootlegging it because he had Bird Flu! I had no sympathy for him. These people will come up with any excuse they can think of."

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

Disco Punk

"This was taken backstage at a club in Sweden," says Morris. "It was another example of complete chaos. It was a disco club and they had to play on the floor. Again, there was no division between the crowd and the band. Just a rope. The gig was pulled after a few songs, just complete chaos. It was exactly what Malcolm wanted."

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

The Rise of Sid

"When you look at this image, which I think I took at the Marquee, you get a sense of life in the band," says Morris. "Like in other bands, a time comes when one member becomes more of a focus than another. When I look at this picture, I see Sid becoming stronger within his presence in the band. John was an amazing frontman, one of the best I've ever seen, but Sid had huge potential. He just didn't know what he had, but he slowly figured it out. You can see Sid coming forward in this photo and John kind of lurking back."

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

Virgin Boys

"This was taken right after they signed a contact with Virgin," says Morris. "They were known as a hippie label at the time. Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield was their best-selling album. Richard [Branson] had a real vision, and after they were dumped by a bunch of labels, he knew signing them was the best way to break out of the hippie thing. It was a very brave move, and it caused Virgin to just go through the roof. It allowed them to sign Human League, Culture Club and many others. Signing the Sex Pistols was the best move he ever made."

The Sex Pistols

Dennis Morris

Sid’s Fall

"I shot this at the side of the stage during a gig in Penzance," says Morris. "It was one of the best gigs they ever did. They had a proper stage and a functioning PA. The crowd was really up for it. Sid suffered from real stage fright. The adulation and hysteria was becoming too much for him. In that photo, he's yelling 'Shut up!' John is looking at him like, 'Oh shit.' That was really Sid's downfall, when he sank more into drugs." 

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