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How Queen gave the Sex Pistols their big break


Queen and The Sex Pistols had a chequered history, and, unsurprisingly, the two acts were far from close friends — but they did cross paths occasionally. The Freddie Mercury-led group even handed the punk saboteurs their first glimpse of the big time and what the future had in store.

This golden opportunity in question came shortly after the release of the anarchic hell-raiser, ‘Anarchy In The UK’, which helped kickstart a revolution and provide a lifeline of hope to a lost generation. By the time the track came out in 1976, Queen had already completed their adjacency into superstardom and arguably the biggest band in the country. A reason why the need for a band like The Sex Pistols was so essential.

The debut single proved to be popular among the London crowd, but they needed to get it out to the rest of the country if Sex Pistols were ever to fulfil their potential. Their aggressive anti-establishment stance was enticing to the youth but not so much to the petrified TV bosses.

However, their freak break occurred in fortuitous circumstances when their manager wrangled a spot on the Today programme, which led to a day that host Bill Grundy would try to erase from his memory.

Initially, Queen were booked to perform on the show, and that would have been a walk in the park for Grundy compared to the chaos that ensued from Johnny Rotten alongside his motley crew.

Mercury had suffered severe toothache earlier that day and was left with no choice but to face his fear of the dentists, which led to Sex Pistols taking his place on the sofa. The band devilishly used the given airtime to produce one of the most unforgettable incidents in television history, sending shockwaves into millions of homes throughout the country.

Grundy wasn’t a fan of the band from the very off. After a condescending introduction, the host decided to take the band on regarding their anti-capitalist credentials. After asking about their £40,000 advance from EMI, Steve Jones replied, “We’ve fucking spent it, ain’t we?”.

Somehow, the swearing didn’t get picked up by the host, but later on, Johnny Rotten was scolded like a school kid by Grundy for saying the word “shit”, something the host then asked him to repeat for the audience, and things got even wilder from there.

Guitarist Steve Jones was affronted by Grundy’s attitude and was aggrieved by how he acted around fellow guest Siouxsie Sioux. Furthermore, he had no problems letting the host aware of his discontent, calling him a “dirty bastard”, to which Grundy says, “Go on, again”, and he labels him a “dirty fucker”.

If you didn’t know about the Sex Pistols before their appearance on Today, then there was no escaping them after it, and it cemented their place as the most notorious band in Britain.

Before the show, the band were well on their way to becoming infamous already, but this confirmed their status, and if it wasn’t for an injury to Freddie Mercury, the future of the Sex Pistols could have turned out differently. However, this sliding doors moment gave them an opportunity they clung onto with both hands and made sure everybody knew their name.