Between 1975 and 1977, the punk outfit’s late manager Malcolm McLaren leased out the building of the 17th century townhouse at 6 Denmark Street. The downstairs was used as a recording studio, while Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and bassist Glen Matlock lived upstairs.
The home still bares the markings of its old tenants too, including graffiti done by frontman John Lydon (then known as Johnny Rotten). Among his drawings are an unflattering caricature of McLaren — referred to as Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British leftist-turned-anti-communist — clutching a fistful of cash; and the blunt musing: “DEPRESSED MISERABLE TIRED ILL SICK BOOED & BORED.”
The townhouses at 6 and 7 Denmark Street were previously listed as “Grade II” by Historic England, but the added asterisk designates them as buildings of “more than special interest.” Grade II* is Historic England’s second highest listing category and includes just 5.5 percent of listed buildings.
The designation, however, comes as many have expressed disgust over a series of state- and corporate-backed events in London celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk. McLaren’s son, Joseph Corré, has even promised to burn millions of dollars worth of memorabilia in protest on November 26th to mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the Sex Pistols’ debut single, “Anarchy in the U.K.”
Still, Posy Metz, the listings adviser who assessed the buildings, argued: “The purpose of listing is to flag things which are of historical and cultural importance and I think punk is a really important part of our cultural history and including it in the listing is a way of recognizing that. The alternative is saying: Let’s forget all about punk because they don’t want to be remembered as part of our history.”
Metz added that the Sex Pistols’ affiliation with the house wasn’t the primary reason it was upgraded to a Grade II*, either. She noted the remarkably preserved architectural details and fittings of the townhouses, which are two of eight original buildings dating from 1686 to 1691 that remain on Denmark Street. “Punk was not the clincher, but it certainly adds a layer of interest,” Metz said.
Denmark Street also has played a major role in British music beyond the Sex Pistols holing up in one of its homes. Through much of the 20th century, the street served as London’s Tin Pan Alley, home to numerous publishing houses and recording studios. During the Sixties and Seventies, David Bowie, Jimmy Page, the Kinks, Elton John and countless others frequented the studios.