Remembering when the Sex Pistols debuted on Top of the Pops with ‘Pretty Vacant’ in 1977
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to take a look back at a watershed moment for punk as the Sex Pistols were finally given their deserved spot on Top of the Pops.
The year 1977 was a crazy time for Britain. The country was struggling to maintain the upswing of the sixties, a time London had felt like the cultural centre of the world, now stank with the disrepair of a country running on empty both financially and seemingly morally. If there was one band determined to shake Britain out of its slumber it was the Sex Pistols.
A band born out of the London punk scene, it was a situation they not only relished but it was a scene that had built and crafted by the band and their Bromley contingent. Forged in London’s West End and, more importantly, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s boutique shop ‘SEX’, the scene really took shape. It was there that the ethos of punk had been expertly crafted out of ripped fabric and safety pins.
By the summer of ’77, the Sex Pistols had already left an indelible mark on British society. Their song ‘God Save The Queen’ had rumbled HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilee as the band tore down the Thames screaming their desperate need for revolution, or at the very least their desperate need to be heard.
It was a song which sent shockwaves across the nation and was therefore routinely banned by radio and television stations — BBC was no different, stopping the band performing the number two single on the famous Top of the Pops weekly chart show. However, that all changed when the band screened the promo video for their next single ‘Pretty Vacant’ — a lip-synching festival of ‘fuck you’ to the establishment.
The track was a bastion of that very sentiment. As Johnny Rotten, the band’s menacing frontman and songwriter said of the track: “’Pretty Vacant,’ the concept, turned into really just kind of a football chant. And it was adopted on the terraces by quite a few firms – firms being gangs of hooligans.”
He continues: “There is an irony in that song because we weren’t very pretty, and we were far from vacant.”
It was a momentous occasion for the band, a time when they were able to break through the walls put in front of them and solidify their presence. More importantly for the youth of Britain, however, they had finally found the band who would shock their parents out of their armchairs.
Take a look at the ‘shocking’ video below and imagine just how sensational the band must’ve been to the audience of 1977. There’s also an added bonus of the band performing the same track in 1997.