Singer Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook were in a band together called Strand, in London, England and convinced clothing store owner Malcolm McLaren to help them out. McLaren became the band’s manager and paid for their rehearsal space. Glen Matlock worked for McLaren and soon became the band’s bassist. The trio eventually gave the group’s guitarist the boot so Jones started playing guitar. The guys changed their name to QT Jones and the Sex Pistols and started their quest for a new singer. John Lydon was introduced to Jones and Cook and since the guys liked his “look,” they convinced him to sing. John Lydon took on the stage name Johnny Rotten and the guys shortened the band’s name to Sex Pistols. They began working on original songs and on November 6th, 1975 played at Saint Martin’s College, where Matlock was enrolled. They opened for a band called Bazooka Joe who let them use their amps and drums. They performed cover songs by artists such as The Who but, due to the fact that they were damaging Bazooka Joe’s equipment, had the plug pulled on them before they were able to play any of their original material. The band began playing at other schools around London and gained a following by opening for the group Eddie and the Hot Rods, and putting on increasingly rowdy shows.
The band continued to gig, playing at Oxford Street’s 100 Club and opening for the band The 101ers at an other club called Nashville. After getting into a fight they ended up blacklisted from the Nashville, which only increased their popularity. They landed a month long playing engagement at the 100 Club and toured around North England, recording demos in London. They debuted their song “Anarchy in the U.K.” at a show in Manchester and were soon made their first TV appearance on a show called “So It Goes,” where they played multiple songs. This was of course despite the fact that they were only booked to play “Anarchy in the U.K.” The band played its first show outside of England on September 3rd 1976, and on October 8th, were signed by EMI records.
“Anarchy in the U.K.” was released as a single on November 26th, 1976 and reached #38 on the UK charts. The band was gaining popularity more for its antics than its music and made headlines after getting into a profanity laced verbal skirmish with a host on a live TV show. This only increased their fan base, and the band set out on its Anarchy Tour of the UK. They successfully played 7 out of 20 shows due to the fact that organizers and local authorities kept shutting down the venues at which they were supposed to perform. Despite the fact that the bad publicity only made them more popular, EMI soon canceled their contract. In February of 1977 bassist Glen Matlock quit the band and was replaced by Rotten’s friend and super fan, John Ritchie, who would later take on the stage name, Sid Vicious. Vicious, looked and acted the part, but when it came to playing had some issues.
Vicious was a drummer who had been recruited to play bass, which didn’t work out very well. Sid met Nancy Spungen, a drug addict and reported prostitute, and started using heroin. Despite his band mates objections, Sid continued to see Spungen and his condition continued to worsen. The band signed with A&M Records on March 9th, 1977 but after only a week were, once again, dropped for bad behavior. Sid Vicious debuted with the band on March 28th, 1977 and the group was picked up by Virgin records in May. The song “God Save the Queen,” was finally released on May 27th, but was quickly banned from being played on the radio. The single reportedly sold 150,000 copies a week and a half after its release.
The album “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” was released on October 28th, 1977 and went to the top of the charts in the UK. The album included previously released material and little contribution from Sid Vicious due to the fact that the band tried their best to keep him from actually being able to record. The Sex Pistols began their US tour in January of 1978, which was the beginning of the end for the band. The tour was poorly planned, the members were fighting with each other, and Sid was getting more addicted to heroin by the day. On January 18th, Johnny Rotten arrived in New York where he announced that the band was breaking up. After the break up, Vicious and Nancy Spungen moved to New York. On October 12th, 1978 Spungen was found stabbed to death in the hotel room that her and Vicious shared. Vicious was arrested and later released on bail. There was reportedly evidence that linked Spungen’s heroin dealer to her murder, but unfortunately Vicious was thrown back in jail on assault charges. Later, while attending a party celebrating his release from jail, Vicious overdosed on heroin and died at the age of 21. Since their breakup, the original 4 members of the Sex Pistols have reunited for concerts throughout the years. The band most recently performed in 2008 throughout Europe.
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