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Music

The curious connection between The Beatles and the Sex Pistols

@TylerGolsen

The Beatles and the Sex Pistols seemingly occupied opposite ends of the musical spectrum at the height of their fame. On one side, you had the highly melodic pop band that refined their sound with perfect harmonies, and on the other, you have one of the original punk bands who favoured aggression and attitude over anything else. The Beatles were anathema to the Sex Pistols, to the point that original bassist Glen Matlock was allegedly given the boot due to his Fab Four fandom.

Despite their obvious differences, there was a surprising thing that both The Beatles and the Sex Pistols had in common: producers, but not George Martin, The Beatles’ almost exclusive producer for the entirety of their career. The producer in question would be Chris Thomas, a technician who began his career as an assistant to Martin.

At just 21-years-old, Thomas was left a note by George Martin in late 1968 that said the producer was going on holiday and that he should make himself available to The Beatles. For the few days that Martin was out, Thomas acted as the band’s producer, helping them record the songs ‘Birthday’ and ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’. Thomas also performed as a musician on the songs ‘Piggies’, ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’, ‘Savoy Truffle’, and ‘Long, Long, Long’.

By the mid-1970s, Thomas had racked up quite a resume, including producing five Roxy Music albums and mixing Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Then came a call from the offices of EMI – a music manager named Malcolm McLaren wanted Thomas to help produce his newest act, a firebrand punk outfit called the Sex Pistols. McLaren had asked producer Bill Price to do the same, and the pair wound up producing the songs that would end up on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

According to Price, he and Thomas worked separately which led to two different versions of most of the album’s tracks. The album art was being pressed before the final decisions of which songs were chosen. Since they didn’t know which one of them was responsible for the final versions of songs, Thomas and Price share a unique credit on the final LP, which proclaims that Never Mind the Bollocks was produced by “Chris Thomas or Bill Price”.

Thomas helped shape Steve Jones’ guitar tone, emphasising multiple overdubs and liberal use of phaser effects. He also asked Jones to record bass parts for the album while Sid Vicious was laid up in the hospital and previous bassist Glen Matlock refused to return as a session musician. Thomas expected to continue working with the Pistols, but a disastrous American tour and a swift breakup put an end to those plans.

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