Picking out a favourite album of all time is a difficult thing to do for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer or a surgeon; picking an album that you cast into the immortal fires as your “favourite” is a big commitment to make. The same can be said for when James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy, was asked the very same question.
Gunn’s filmography is growing at an impressive rate. Not only did he helm the Marvel blockbuster starring Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper, but he also took charge of Dawn of the Dead, Slither and 2021’s Suicide Squad, proving he’s one of Hollywood’s hottest properties. It’s fair to say that Gunn has become a bit of a cash cow in recent years, which make his pick for favourite album of all time even more unusual.
Rather than picking out a crowd-pleasing trip across a sonic landscape, Gunn went for the chaos of British punk and the seminal record Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. It’s a landmark album with plenty of admirers, most of which were gathered thanks to the band’s incendiary appearance on the music scene. Like so many other kids growing up, when Gunn saw Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook on TV, his eyes lit up with all the possibilities that punk seemingly offered. For a kid from a small town in Missouri, it was a groundbreaking experience.
Speaking with NME, Gunn said of his most cherished record: “I saw the Sex Pistols on TV when I was a young child, and they shook my world. I didn’t like them. I was freaked out by them, actually. But they made me see over the rim of my simple suburban Missouri existence into the wild cultural world of punk rock. I couldn’t forget them.
That wouldn’t be the end of his fascination with the gobbling punks. Seeing may well have been believing, but it would take their outlandish record to embed them in Gunn’s creative brain permanently. “A few years later, as an early teen,” he continued, “I bought their album for a buck or two in a used record store. I felt guilty listening to it for the first time – as a Catholic kid, the chant of ‘I am an Anti-Christ!’ didn’t sit easily… but it was forbidden and exciting.”
It’s a common sentiment. Much of what made the Sex Pistols such a tantalising property was that they were routinely banned from performing, refused entry to elitist circles and generally frowned upon. For any teenager, this is like holding a match to a Molotov cocktail. It would be enough for Gunn to begin an obsession with punk.
“All in all, it was part of an internal revolution that soon included the Ramones and the Jam and especially The Clash,” he confirmed, “turning me from a nerdy middle-schooler into the punk rock kid I pretty much still am today, In addition to being life-changing, the album is catchy as hell, and there isn’t a loser track on it.”
The album still has plenty of detractors who claim it to be too simple or, at best, a little vulgar. Of course, both notions are somewhat correct but placed within Gunn’s framework of fueling a transformative teenage rebellion; it’s hard to see a record more perfectly suited for the job.