Sex Pistols' Influence: Billie Joe Armstrong, Genesis Uwusu, and More - Rolling Stone
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The First Time I Heard the Sex Pistols

Six artists who followed in the Pistols’ footsteps — from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong to rising singer Genesis Owusu — on experiencing the band’s anarchy for the first time

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 15: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs during the Hella Mega Tour at Wrigley Field on August 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 15: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day performs during the Hella Mega Tour at Wrigley Field on August 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images)

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day

Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

“No future for me/No future for you,” roared the Sex Pistols on their 1977 U.K. smash “God Save the Queen,” and the legendary British punk band seemed to fulfill their own prophecy in January 1978, when their disastrous first U.S. tour ended in an acrimonious breakup.

But the Sex Pistols have enjoyed a far lengthier run than anyone could have predicted 45 years ago. Their lone studio album, 1977’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, finally went platinum in the U.S. in 1992. The band enjoyed several massively successful reunion tours from 1996 to 2008, and the Pistols’ enduring legacy has been recounted, analyzed, and celebrated in numerous books and films, including Alex Cox’s 1986 biopic Sid and Nancy and Julien Temple’s 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury.

Pistol, a six-part miniseries premiering May 31 on FX on Hulu, is the latest screen version of the Sex Pistols saga. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday), and co-written by series creator Craig Pearce with Frank Cottrell-Boy, Pistol is based on guitarist Steve Jones’ gritty 2017 memoir Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistol. As is typical with anything Sex Pistols–related, Pistol has come with its share of controversy; frontman John Lydon, known as Johnny Rotten during his initial tenure with the band, called the series the “most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure,” and filed a lawsuit (ultimately unsuccessful) against his surviving former bandmates Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and bassist Glen Matlock in an attempt to keep the band’s music from being used in the series.

But the true measure of the Sex Pistols’ impressive reach can be seen in the several generations of musicians — and not just of the punk persuasion — who have been influenced and inspired by their music and attitude. Rolling Stone asked six such artists to recall the first time they ever heard the Sex Pistols, and to reflect on how the band continues to impact them to this day.

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