Top 10 Sex Pistols Songs
Everything that can be said about the Sex Pistols has probably been said about a thousand times already. From the filth and fury to the scandals and headlines, the pioneering punk band impacted both music and society during its brief run in the ’70s. But among all the hype and hate was a batch of great songs that still inspire kids to pick up guitars nearly 40 years later. These are the Top 10 Sex Pistols Songs.
A revved-up rocker from the band’s and only album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols,’ ‘No Feelings’ overflows with attitude and energy. “I got no emotions for anybody else / You better understand I’m in love with myself,” Johnny Rotten sings with middle finger flying high. Later, he focuses his anger: “I look around your house, you got nothing to steal / I kick you in the brains when you get down to kneel and pray to your god.” Rock ‘n’ roll attitude served with a wink and a smile.
‘Did You No Wrong’
The B-side to ‘God Save the Queen’ (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Sex Pistols Songs) features some great guitar breaks by Steve Jones and a searing vocal performance by Johnny Rotten. ‘Did You No Wrong’ recalls David Bowie‘s ‘Hang Onto Yourself,’ but angrier. Surprise.
After Johnny Rotten left the band following an onstage meltdown at the Sex Pistols’ last show in San Francisco in 1978, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook tried to pick up the pieces with ‘Silly Thing.’ The song has more in common with the pop-leaning Buzzcocks than with the Pistols’ raging punk. Still, the guitars are loud and the melody is simple and sweet. (‘Silly Thing’ can also be found on 1979’s ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ soundtrack.)
Manager Malcolm McLaren suggested that the band write a song about submission. Johnny Rotten and original bassist Glen Matlock thought it was a lame idea, so they instead wrote a song about a submarine mission, avoiding the bondage theme McLaren asked for. As Matlock stated in the DVD ‘Classic Albums: Never Mind the Bollocks,’ “the song is more about taking the piss out of Malcolm than anything else.” Musically, the Pistols play a slow and sleazy grind — like the Kinks on Quaaludes.
Super-charged from the start, the full-throttle ‘Problems’ never lets up. Johnny Rotten lays out his mission statement: “Eat your heart out on a plastic tray / You don’t do what you want, then you’ll fade away / You won’t find me working nine to five / It’s too much fun a being alive.” Ultimately, it comes down to the chorus refrain of “the problem is you,” which gains greater resonance at the end of the song, as the word is repeated in an increasingly bored tone that drives home the point.
‘Holiday in the Sun’
The powerhouse opening song on the Sex Pistols’ only album sounds more than a little like another classic from the era — the Jam’s ‘In the City,’ which was released six months earlier. But the Pistols song is louder and heavier. “I didn’t mind them nicking it,” Jam frontman Paul Weller told Uncut in 2007. “You’ve got to get your ideas from somewhere, haven’t you?” The song was recorded after Glen Matlock had been kicked out of the group, leaving guitarist Steve Jones to play the bass parts.
One of the Sex Pistols’ most unhinged and violent records, ‘Bodies’ moves at 100 miles per hour. Lyrically, it’s even heavier. Johnny Rotten delivers this abortion tale with typical anger. “I wrote … ‘F— this and f— that / F— it all, and f— the f—ing brat,'” Rotten told Spin in 2007. “I don’t think there’s a clearer song about the pain of abortion. The juxtaposition of all those different psychic things in your head, and all the confusion, the anger, the frustration you have to capture in those words.”
‘Anarchy in the U.K.’
Released in the fall of 1976, the band’s debut single would become a rallying cry for a generation of restless kids in England. The descending riff that launches the song is the sound of walls crumbling to ruins. “I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist,” Johnny Rotten spits out from the very start. In spite of the awkwardly inventive rhyme, there’s no denying the music that immediately hits. It’s set against a wall of guitars that create a massive sound; ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ is heavy without being metal, metallic without being heavy. It still resonates.
Released in the summer of 1977, ‘Pretty Vacant’ is, in many ways, the definitive Sex Pistols anthem. Written by bass player Glen Matlock, with some input from Johnny Rotten, ‘Pretty Vacant’ was inspired by the “blank generation.” Matlock also admits in the ‘Classic Albums: Never Mind the Bollocks’ documentary that it was partially inspired by the Small Faces song ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam.’ “Glen was a little bit more eclectic,” band manager Malcolm McLaren said. “He liked the Beatles and, dare I say it, ABBA.”
‘God Save the Queen’
“There is no future in England’s dreaming” perfectly captures the restlessness and frustration of U.K. youth in the ’70s. ‘God Save the Queen’ was released during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and immediately banned by the BBC. Just as quickly, it became a monster hit, even though there are rumors that the song was kept from the No. 1 spot by industry insiders who didn’t want to fuel the controversy further. More than 35 years later, ‘God Save the Queen’ remains one of the most incendiary and powerful records of all time.