YouTube Live: The Sex Pistols’s “Anarchy” in Sweden ’77

If you sliced, diced, and pureed a rock song of all its commercial fluff, and then diluted what was left with hellfire, the result would pretty much sound like the Sex Pistols. Music doesn’t come much more primal than the tuneful riots created by this collection of English misfits. Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious (replacing original bassist, Glen Matlock), Steve Jones, and Paul Cook, otherwise known as The Sex Pistols were 100% pure rock n’ roll trash – and I mean that in the best possible way. The band released only one true studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, in its short existence, but became one of the most influential and controversial bands of the late seventies and one of the forefathers of the punk movement. “Anarchy in the UK” was the group’s first ever single, and remains one of the band’s most recognizable anthems.

The raw and messy quality of this live footage of the song, shot in Sweden in 1977, is tailor made for the band’s mystique. The hand-held camera, the close-ups, and the overall fuzzy tone of the performance is live music at its most surreal. Hell, even with a big Hollywood budget, David Lynch couldn’t have done it any better. No fancy camera work or theatrics – just loud music, disillusioned youth, and a raucous audience. Of course, the two most recognizable faces of the band, Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, steal the show. Rotten does his best impersonation of a man that’s just been released from a straight jacket, but Sid Vicious is much more laid back and extremely cool in his demeanor. Actually, if you watch closely, he even takes a break from his trademark sneer. Yes…. in 1939, Garbo laughed; in 1955, Brando sang; and in 1977, Vicious smiled. He oozes stage presence, and although he couldn’t really play bass, he had that rare larger than life aura, almost unheard of amongst the anti pretty boy rock star personalities of punk.

I remember seeing a press conference of the newly reformed Sex Pistols back in the mid- nineties. The much older and wealthier band members seemed to be trying too hard to live up to the hype of their youth and came across as being a little too phony. If you want the Sex Pistols at their best, check out this YouTube clip from their out-of-tune prime. There was nothing phony about four kids in 1977 that really believed that there was no future, and although it may sound a little cliché to tell you to play it loud…well, with this quality, you pretty much have to.


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