Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols review


Okay, the storm has passed. Universal's "super-deluxe" box set of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols has been out for a while now and I have finally gathered the strength to assess it all. Three CD's, a DVD and a book. Didn't come cheap though. A snifter shy of a hundred pounds, to be exact.

But the Sex Pistols have always been about swindling the consumer though, haven't they? It doesn't help that they are one of the most collectible bands out there. As an old school collector myself, I almost begrudge handing over the coin. Fortunately, there are enough must-own's on this package to warrant a purchase, despite the cost.

Never Mind the Bollocks is the greatest punk record ever recorded. Period. From the opening march of 'Holidays in the Sun' to the dying rasp of 'E.M.I.', it is a devastating display of near-perfect youth rebellion. Anthems like 'Anarchy in the U.K.' and 'God Save the Queen' are ingrained into the culture of modern society now. It is hard to believe given how oppressively the whole scene was regarded in mainstream media throughout the seventies and eighties.

The Pistols' unexpected launch into super-stardom wasn't without its' casualties, as Sid Vicious died one year after their implosion. His tenure as bassist in the group has been the topic of heated debate in many punk forums, mostly for his musical ability. He produced very little music with the band, so it is a joy to hear that the powers-that-be have unearthed the presumed-lost (thus much sought after) final Sex Pistols 'Belsen Was a Gas' demo from September 1977, with Sid playing in-session.

As for the album itself, what more is there to say? If you're still in doubt then do a Google search. The remastering here is nice and crisp, although I'm not sure of how much of a leap it is from previous Never Mind the Bollocks reissues. Naturally, you get all the b-sides (minus 'I Wanna Be Me', what the f...?), a bonus disc containing the complete 1977 sessions, and a third CD of live Scandinavian bootleg material from 1977. The main dollar incentive is, of course, the 'Belsen' demo with Sid and it is nice to be finally able to close the book on that myth once and for all. In a nutshell: glorious!

Talking of dollar incentives, the DVD packs even more of a punch with live performances from 1977 at the River Boat Party in London, Happy House in Sweden, and the Winter Gardens in Penzance. While all of these are incomplete, it's worth it for the quality of the footage alone. It would've been nice to have seen a little more on there, but the disc is padded out with the full Pistols promo videos and a selection of radio interviews. I wouldn't be surprised if this DVD is re-released as a stand-alone in the future.

Then there's the book, The Bollocks Diaries, which is over 100 pages long and contains a well-written and fully illustrated Pistols timeline. This is something else that should be a stand-alone, and I mean ALONE. I have a major problem when CD's in box sets are housed inside a book or prop. Unfortunately, this means that every time you wish to indulge in any of the discs on offer, you have to take out The Bollocks Diaries and open it. Just a minor gripe, that's all.

Bundled-in for good measure are some additional bells and whistles: an A&M 'God Save the Queen' replica 7" single, a replica Never Mind the Bollocks poster, replica stickers, replica handwritten lyrics... see a pattern emerging? While all are nice to look at for ten seconds, they are completely pointless and issued primarily for the novelty factor.

But is it worth it, though? If you were to value the package sensibly and take away the novelties, you'd be hard to justify a price of more than sixty to seventy pounds maximum. Because this thing being a Sex Pistols product, I'm surprised Universal kept it as low as £99 - they could sell this thing out just as easily if it was £149. It should be noted that other incarnations of the package carry different tracks, so if you are a completist then it's gonna cost you.

It's a matter of whether you feel obliged to shell out for it all over again. Some will find its charms irresistible, while some may prefer to download the handful of essential extras and leave it at that. Basically, this will appeal to two audiences, the die-hard and the newcomer, and you're either one then I say go for it. Especially the newcomer, as it is a good place to start with the band.

I think if the third CD was swapped in favour of the complete 1976 studio recordings to make an all-encompassing career release then the price would've been far easier to digest. The non-inclusion of material from the 'Anarchy in the UK' single was a baffling omission. Unless Universal have a Spunk-era box set up their sleeves, who knows?

The thing that I find to be the most amazing about this box set is that us fans are still salivating for scraps that were recorded by kids in shitty basements during the late-seventies. Like I said earlier, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols is the greatest punk record ever recorded. Do you need another reason to fall head-first back into your youth and relive it once again? Worth all the gold in the world, mate.


Brett Dunford (4/10/12)