Crate Skimmers #31 Sex Pistols – Flogging a Dead Horse

Owned since: 2012

Genre: Malcom McLaren boyband pop

Where I bought it: Thrift store

Year: 1980

Label/pressing: Virgin

Flogging a dead horse (alternatively beating a dead horse; or beating a dead dog in some parts of the Anglophone world) is an idiom that means a particular effort is a waste of time as there will be no outcome, such as in the example of flogging a dead horse, which will not cause it to do any useful work.

In 1980, the Sex Pistols were beyond being death. They’re more a joke than anything, replaced by a ton of more politically tinged bands in the punk scene. Most of the first wave punk bands like The Damned, The Banshees and The Clash were playing the same venues the rock giants they were riling up just a couple years before. Worst of all, they all were charting and the Sex Pistols did this also with Never Mind the Bollocks. For the Pistols themselves; John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd just released their influential Metal Box/Second Edition the year prior, Paul Cook and Steve Jones did a great record as The Professionals, Glen Matlock did a solid power pop punk record with the Rich Kids and was in some other bands. Sid Vicious was dead and that was the most interesting thing to be said about them.

Looking back at the Sex Pistols these days is interesting. Very much a marketed outrage act by the despicable Malcom McLaren who formed them from a existing band that frequented his clothing store SEX and added Rotten to it. I think they’re more a historical footnote these days than anything musically worth revisiting. They were a solid band who played dumb a lot and with switching out their good bassist for Vicious pretty much signed their own death note as a band. A marketing stunt that got eyes on a ton of more interesting bands pretty much, which is cool. Their reunion tours have also been pretty hilarious; they named one after The Wombles’s pretty infamous Combine Harvester song which always cracks me up. Nothing more punk than reuniting, playing your shit songs and getting paid loads for it.

I’ve read a lot about English punk and listened to a lot of stuff about it also, check out No Dogs in Space’s tremendous Sex Pistols episode(which seems wiped now), and the Pistols breaking up as a ‘working band’ on their USA tour really kicked off some of the best stuff the whole scene had going for it. There is tons of footage from that tour also and it’s absolutely great to watch a band that is on their last mental and physical legs forcing themselves through short sets. It’s like watching a trainwreck, pretty much, and McLaren pretty much killing another band like he did before with the New York Dolls. There is some real venom in there when Rotten goes on his famous ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated’ line at their San Francisco show the last of the original Sex Pistols run. Because, well, the Sex Pistols were a act in most ways. Whereas a lot of bands that came up with them or formed just after their early shows just portrayed (slightly bigger versions of) themselves, the Pistols’ main thing was outrage.

Johnny Rotten is still doing those things these days with his endless edgy opinions and butter commercials (EVERYONE please watch this) and it still feels like an act. In retrospect, McLaren’s outrage act did a lot better than he expected it to do and he would repeat it several times in different ways; the most famous being Bow Wow Wow which is a can of worms for another time. It’s a play pretty much, the band cared little about the subjects they made opinions on and beside Rotten they were quite apolitical, even during their run, and Rotten mostly got a lot more political in his follow up project Public Image Limited. Which will get covered later, because their debut album is amazing.

I’ve never beaten around the bush about thinking Never Mind the Bollocks is at best an OK record. It opens great with Holidays in the Sun, but then goes into Liar which is just a godawful song, No Feelings isn’t much better and then it’s God Save the Queen time which is a OK song at best and more a cultural moment these days.The B-side is a lot better; Anarchy in the U.K., Bodies and Pretty Vacant are great but the rest is godawful. When you compare it to The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned for example it is such a weak record that mostly gets by on history these days.

Wow the hits of TOMORROW and TODAY

Flogging a Dead Horse is a cash grab that is aware it’s a cash grab. A contractual release for Virgin with an on purpose tacky cover by Jamie Reid which looks like a lot of those ‘hip sound of the 60s’ compilations you will find in any thrift store. This must be the reason why my copy wasn’t picked up by someone else in a rather busy thrift store that is nowadays long gone. The backside has a fake plastic dog turd on one of the gold discs they got for Never Mind the Bollocks. It’s also a pretty record, honestly.

It fixes the ‘quality problem’ Bollocks had by including all the 4 singles released on the record: Anarchy, God Save the Queen, Pretty Vacant and Holidays in the Sun with their B-sides and some other random garbage. The garbage honestly is pretty good. Mostly hailing from the bizarre ‘second’ Pistols album/’movie’ the Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle which is a scattershot selection of outtakes, weird one-offs and demos that don’t even have Rotten on it half of the time. It’s a pretty great record honestly for the absolutely insanity it is.

The A-side are the singles. Anarchy in the UK is backed by I Wanna Be Me, which is honestly a solid little buzzsaw punk song that sounds a lot more like Sham 69 then the Sex Pistols. God Save the Queen is backed by Did You No Wrong; a song so old it has a writing credit by the Pistols long fired first guitarist Wally Nightingale. It’s a pub rock song that isn’t that far off from a less complicated Dr. Feelgood song. Nothing amazing, but far from bad either. Pretty Vacant is backed by that infamous No Fun cover, which is honestly the most punk stuff ever. It’s quite a good cover also, this is from, if I recall correctly, an unrehearsed demo recording and doesn’t hold a candle to The Stooges original of course but Rotten really laying into the no fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun’s never get old. It’s also the long 6 and half minute cut that is on this record for further insanity.

The B-side is where the real mayhem starts. Starting off with No One Is Innocent, the song the Rotten-less Pistols did with famed train robber(!) Ronnie Biggs. It’s well what it is, Biggs is a godawful singer but it has a certain charm to it and really lays hard again into the pub rock sound. Also, Biggs was a fugitive at the time after escaping prison so that’s a fun fact I guess.

The next song on there is, oh boy, Sid Vicious’ infamous My Way cover. Well, what to say about this- it’s from The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and it sucks. It’s also still extremely funny. Vicious isn’t a bad vocalist but man he’s really laying it on thick on this. The backing is nice, I guess.

Something Else is another Vicious fronted track and this time it’s a cover of the Eddie Cochran classic and honestly it is a pretty solid cover. Really laying it on thick with the whole rockabilly vocal tics and again with a bar band like backing it’s a fun little cover, nothing more nothing less.

Silly Thing is different from the original single version as it is sung by Paul Cook here. Honestly, it sounds like Slade or Mud. I like Slade, so this is a compliment. High strung 70’s power-poppy hard-rock and a pretty catchy song to boost. By far the best song on this B-side and the only original beside No One Is Innocent.

C’mon Everybody is ANOTHER Vicious fronted cover of a Eddie Cochran classic. At least it includes the tune’s iconic thundering bass and Vicious does a fine job as vocalist. Also, according to what I read earlier today all the songs on the B-side are the whole of officially released Sex Pistols songs which has Sid Vicious on it. So that’s a thing.

(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone is a great Monkees tune which was also covered, far better, by Minor Threat. This cover is OK I guess, and sounds a lot more like the Monkees original just played in what sounds like echoing hall. It’s the first song on the B-side to have Rotten on the vocals also. It’s fine.

Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle has a bunch of guest vocalists doing auditions for the Sex Pistols and is straight from the movie. It’s a pretty funny track, but really brings home the cash grab nature of this all. At least it has Edward Tudor-Pole on it, who nearly was put in the role by McLaren as the new singer of the Sex Pistols and is featured in the movie in some spots in that role. Really interesting guy, you might remember him from bit parts in the Rocky Horror Picture Show stage shoe, various Alex Cox projects, Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners and as villain in the godawful 1997 movie Kull the Conqueror. He also fronted around the time of this record Tenpole Tudor, who released one of my favorite singles of the post-punk outwash; 1981’s The Swords of a Thousand Men. A song the questions what if Adam and the Ants were the hard drinking punk rockers they tried to be on their first record for real

Honestly, this record has no need to exist and yet it does. It’s not bad either, an odd-and-ends collection of a band that could not even get one good record out in their time together. The cover rules and the A-side pretty much collects all the songs by the Pistols I wanted to own anyway, except maybe Bodies. It for sure was worth the 50 cents I paid for it. No, I didn’t feel like I was getting cheated but I think the band sure did when this got released. The shit on the virgin lp on the back cover sure seems to hurt them more then anything Even Public Image Limited was with Virgin at the time. I just think in classic Pistols tradition, they just didn’t care.

Never mind the Sloot thoughts: John Lydon needs to sell butter to afford more iPad app purchases.