“Anarchy in the UK” was the debut single by the Sex Pistols, it was released 42 years ago today on November 26th 1976, and was banned by the BBC after the Pistols sweary appearance on the Bill Grundy show 6 days later.
Released without artwork in a generic EMI single sleeve, “Anarchy in the UK” was maybe our first taste of the sheer ferocity of Punk, the thundering drums, the wall of guitars and the lyrics which were delivered more like a manifesto than a song. Also it was very, VERY exciting.
Rather than hearing the whole song on the radio (see above), and without buying it we were more likely to catch snippets of it during news or magazine shows as portions of it were played until the presenters duly reeled, tutted and screwed up their faces in disgust. This made it all the more enticing.
Recorded in October 1976, “Anarchy..” was also one the first songs to be an intellectual challenge, I didn’t even know what anarchy was in 1976, so I asked my parents; they said it meant having no government, and that if that were to happen then all the schools would shut. They said this like it was a bad thing.
The BBC devoted whole chunks of screen time to puff up their “outraged” glands about these new punk rockers and the news magazine show Brass Tacks even set up a phone line for worried parents to call in, and had a vicar on hand to answer questions. “Anarchy…” was a record that made you think, and where pop music was concerned, this was also new.
Malcolm McLaren called the song “a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them. It’s a statement of self rule, of ultimate independence.”
He was right, this was no vapid sing-a-long chart music, Anarchy in the UK was an exciting call to arms, a call for personal anarchy, not a political one, it was about self rule and had little to do with over-throwing the actual government…anyway with all the new bands and a friend up the road with an Atari, there was far too much to do to have time to over-throw the actual stupid government.
Although titled “official”, here’s a very mashed up video, featuring a myriad of costume changes, no continuity, and yes we know…two bassists….it’s Anarchy ok?