Because it’s the f***ing Sex Pistols, arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time, at their most pop, such as it is. Pretty Vacant being the one you could find on a mixtape with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Who, The Doors, The Cars even, without offending anyone. Certainly no one you didn’t want to be offending. Based on an Abba song apparently.
“Public Image was the first single from Public Image Ltd, the concern that Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) threw together amid the wreckage of the recently crashed and burned Sex Pistols. And it was damned good. Hell, even I liked it on first listen from my then mostly anti-punk perspective. A serious call to … seriousness, I guess, Mr. Rotten making the point that he was more than just a cartoon character, a gimmick, a punk, that he knew a thing or two about music, how to sing a song, make a record, take steady aim, hit them all where it hurts. And damn, what a bass line!” (Philip Random)
“I’m pretty sure the first time I heard what came to be known as rap music was 1982, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. To my ears, it was just another pop-gimmick, albeit a pretty cool one. Big funky groove with some hip rhyming on top. But jump ahead a few months and no less than Malcolm McLaren (who’d previously helped invent the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, if you believe his bio) seemed to be singing (for lack of a better word) this new form’s praises. But it wasn’t just about the rhyming and grooving now, it was also the sampling (not that we’d heard that word yet), grabbing beats and pieces from wherever you could find them (some local NYC radio DJs, an old funk 45, a square dance album, some high school girls having a blast, the backstreets of Soweto), and just sort of jamming everything together, smacking it all around, somehow squeezing out what might be called a song, the weird and wonderful part being that it worked. In fact, I’ll always remember the party where I first heard Buffalo Gals, a friend’s place, everyone trying to get excited about Elvis Costello or whoever and suddenly this other tape got put on. So weird and fun that all you could do was dance to it. And then the album Duck Rock showed up to drive home the point that whatever was going on, it wasn’t just some one-off. Having ex-Buggle and Yes man (and future Art Of Noise instigator) Trevor Horn in the producer’s chair may well have been a factor.” (Philip Random)
“At first I wasn’t even going to include anything from Ziggy Stardust on this list. It just seemed inconceivable that there was anybody who hadn’t already heard it all perhaps way too many times. But then Five Years popped up on an old mix tape and young Tracy (who isn’t even that young) said, is this John Lennon? Five Years being the 1972 song in which David Bowie accurately predicted the end of the world in 1977. Which I realize is a confusing fact to lay down, particularly to those born since 1977. Just trust me, it’s true. This is not the same world as before. Something very odd happened in 1977 and we’ve all been spinning in weird gravity ever since.” (Philip Random)
“Nobody saw this coming in 1986. Public Image Ltd (ie: original Sex Pistol John Lydon) combining forces with Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Riuchi Sakamoto, Stevie Vai (and more) and the result was something called Album (unless you bought it in cassette or CD format) which absolutely thundered when it wanted to. In the case of Ease, that meant the closest thing to a proper Led Zeppelin planet cruncher that anybody’d heard since at last 1975. I’m still pretty sure it set the atmosphere on fire for a few seconds one night in early spring.” (Philip Random)
In which Malcolm McLaren, best known for his genius level mismanagement of the Sex Pistols (it’s a long story) leaves Punk well in the rear view and embraces … what exactly? “It was Young Tim (friend of a friend) that turned me onto Duck Rock. More to the point, he forced it on me, because I wasn’t biting at first. Even with the Pistols connection. Because the guy clearly could not sing, and there was no evidence of proper punk aggro on it anywhere. Just exotic sort of party grooves and sounds (sampling before we even had a name for it, Trevor Horn take another bow). And, in the case of Double Dutch, high school girls skipping rope with a vengeance. Until one night, a little wasted, there I was dancing to it. It was fun. Cultural boundaries were eroding, great Jericho walls were crumbling, everything seemed possible, I was smiling.” (Philip Random)
Side One Track One of the first (and only really) Sex Pistols album is a solid and enduring f*** you to everyone that’s ever taken a cheap holiday in some broken down so-called Third World locale. Because it was true in 1977, it’s even more true now – the world ain’t equal, your luxurious fun and good times inevitably involves some other guy’s blood, sweat, pain, misery. But don’t let that worry you. Just stick to the big hotels and always drink bottled water, and if you see a new Belsen in the distance, look the other way.
“You don’t truly own the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks unless you’ve stolen it. Such was the logic of a guy who called himself Limey Len, an English ex-pat who I remember for chiefly two things. 1. the marijuana he sold was always underweight. 2: he’d never shut up about how he’d been there, actually seen the Pistols in a small club in London, which was probably a lie, he lied about everything else. So anyway, one night, at the dog end of some shitty New Years party when he was passed out on his kitchen floor, I stole his copy of Never Mind The Bollocks. I’m not even sorry.” (Philip Random)
Mr. Neil Young and his horse friends at the very peak of their shambolic grandeur. We credit and/or blame the Bolivian marching power that was all the rage at the time if you were a certain class of rock star or movie director (or the kind of person that hung with them) way back when in that cultural depression between the death of the Elvis and the Sex Pistols and whatever the hell happened next. Some have argued nothing — the world ended and it’s all been a feedback loop every since.