It is not unkind to say that Sex Pistols were a band more about attitude than musicianship. In their snarling, short-lived career, they followed the Mark E Smith mantra of “if you’re going to play it out of tune, then play it out of tune properly.”
However, their less-than-Mozart-level musicianship was not for lack of trying, at least on the part of Motörhead bassist and legendary frontman Lemmy Kilmister. “Punk was great,” he explained to Louder Than War back in 2011, four years prior to his sad passing.
“It was what rock ‘n’ roll needed at that point in time. I never had time for the Clash and their pretend politics but the Damned and the Ramones were great rock n roll bands. Motorhead fitted right in. We may have had long hair, but the punks understood us.”
In fact, Motörhead developed such a strong relationship with the happening scene of punk rock that his life even became heavily entwined with Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious themselves.
“Johnny Rotten used to go and see Hawkwind play. I remember him turning up in his long hair and great coat at London gigs.” Lemmy continued, “Sid Vicious lived in my flat for a couple of months and I tried to teach him bass, but he was hopeless.” Aside from stirring up thoughts of tortured neighbours and the state of their asylum-like flat, the quote serves as an interesting insight into the history of punk.
“One day he came rushing into the flat all excited saying. ‘Lemmy, I got the job with the Sex Pistols’ and I said ‘Great, as part of the road crew’ and I laughed ‘You can’t even play the bass, you’re hopeless’.”
The rest, as they say, is history, for better and also certainly for worse. Always from the grisly end to Sid Vicious’ life which requires a far more judicious approach than this article can offer, when all else is stripped away it can’t be ignored that the band certainly changed music forever. The band were probably the best musicians there never was.
For now, you can check out Motörhead’s cover of the Sex Pistols classic ‘God Save The Queen’ below.