Sex Pistols on 'The Grundy Show' - Rolling Stone
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Craziness Strikes Britain

Inside the TV appearance that made the Sex Pistols infamous

8th December 1976:  Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), British singer with punk group The Sex Pistols.  (Photo by Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images)8th December 1976:  Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), British singer with punk group The Sex Pistols.  (Photo by Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

8th December 1976: Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), British singer with punk group The Sex Pistols.

Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Getty Images

LONDON — Notes from the decline and fall of the British Empire: In the tradition of satisfying sex, comfortable footwear and a warm place for bodily func­tions, the American press has again abandoned its readers in the dark night of euphemism about an issue of vast impor­tance: what did Johnny Rotten actually say to Bill Grundy on British television?

Rotten, lead singer of a punk band called the Sex Pistols, used certain four-letter vulgarities in a live interview with Grundy on the British Today show. A few bemused and bowdlerized ac­counts made it across the At­lantic, but the incident has cre­ated a furor in England unlike anything since the Stones’ first marijuana bust. It has inspired days of screaming headlines like: “The Foul-Mouthed Yobs” and “The Punks—Rotten and Proud of It: Worthless, Decidedly In­ferior, Displeasing.”

The following is excerpted from a transcript of the show on Thames Television, the commercial net­work, which refers to Rotten and his group collectively as Pistol:

GRUNDY: I am told you have re­ceived 40,000 pounds from a rec­ord company. Doesn’t that seem slightly opposed to an anti-materialistic way of life?

PISTOL: The more the merrier.

GRUNDY: Tell me more.

PISTOL: Fucking spent it, didn’t we?

GRUNDY: You’re serious? Bee­thoven, Mozart, Bach?

PISTOL (sarcastically): They’re wonderful people, they really turn us on.

GRUNDY: Suppose they turn oth­er people on?

PISTOL (whispering): That’s just their tough shit.

GRUNDY: It’s what?

PISTOL: Nothing, a rude word.

GRUNDY: No, no. What was the rude word?


GRUNDY: Was it really? Good heavens. (To some girls who have accompanied the Pistols) What about the girls behind? Are you married or just enjoying your­selves?

GIRL: I’ve always wanted to meet you.

GRUNDY: Did you really? We’ll meet afterwards, shall we?

PISTOL: You dirty old man.

GRUNDY: Go on. You’ve got a long time yet. You’ve got an­other five seconds. Say some­thing outrageous.

PISTOL: You dirty sod. You dirty bastard.

GRUNDY: Go on. Again.

PISTOL: You dirty fucker. What a fucking rotter.

GRUNDY (to the audience): Well, that’s it for tonight. I’ll be seeing you soon. (Turns to Pistol) I hope I’m not seeing you again.

Thames suspended Grundy for two weeks when it was deter­mined he had helped to provoke the obscenities. When approached by reporters the next day for a comment, he told them to fuck off, and his photo later appeared under the headline in the Daily Mirror “The Filth and the Fury.”

The Sex Pistols opened their concert the following night at Leeds Polytechnic with Johnny Rotten announcing, “The first number is dedicated to Bill Grundy and the Queen. It goes ‘Fuck ya.’ I hope you all have a really bad night. I hate you all.” Their first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.,” immediately entered the charts at 43.

Meanwhile, Bill Haley, the man who started it all over two decades ago with “Rock Around the Clock,” gave a concert where two rival factions of Teddy Boys fought a gang war. Haley was moved to condemn punk rock at the airport before leaving for home. “I think it’s carrying things too far,” he said. “I’m all for entertainment, but I’ve got a teenage daughter and I wouldn’t like her to listen to some of the language these fellows used.”

This story originally appeared in RS 230 on Jan. 13, 1977.

In This Article: direct, FXpistol, Sex Pistols


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