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What Paul McCartney thought of the Sex Pistols

Paul McCartney is one of the most iconic musicians of all time. The pioneering steps he made as one-quarter of the biggest band in history, The Beatles, were so groundbreaking that without their advancements, music wouldn’t have developed into the diverse melting pot it is today.

McCartney, alongside the other three Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, dragged music out of the past and cast it into the future. They established recording and writing techniques that are still used today, changed how we thought about musical compositions, and totally transformed how we view the concept of album artwork. They effectively wrote the handbook for modern pop music.

After The Beatles split in 1970, each member embarked on solo careers of varying qualities and of differing significance. A strange period for each of the ex-members, it saw John Lennon go missing on the ‘Lost Weekend’, George Harrison find his artistic footing, McCartney form the band Wings and Ringo earn himself a handful of US hit singles. 

As the decade wore on though, the ex-Beatles and their contemporaries would see their significance greatly reduced by the advent of punk. The punk movement was essentially a reaction to the complacency of the ’70s, and particularly music.

The hordes of leather-clad, snotty-nosed punks had come for the throne of The Beatles, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones et al. To put this into perspective, one of the key reasons cited for the departure of Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols was that he was a fan of The Beatles and Joni Mitchell. 

Although punk “frightened” the likes of Clapton, the ex-Beatles members seemed to be huge fans of the growing genre. Famously, John Lennon said in a 1980 interview with Playboy: “I love all this punky stuff. It’s pure. I’m not, however, crazy about the people who destroy themselves”.

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McCartney also loved punk, but in a greater capacity than Lennon did. McCartney was such a fan of the Sex Pistols, that frontman John Lydon recalled him desperately fanboying him one day in the late ’70s. Rotten recalled on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories: “I was with my wife and we were going to visit my brother. We were driving through London, and two people come running across the street, and it’s Paul and Linda McCartney. They were banging on the car window. I put the lockdown and just turned. I could not cope with it. My shyness took over”.

In December 1979, when appearing as part of the Australian show Countdown‘s episode ‘End of the Decade’, McCartney was just one of a whole host of icons, including David Bowie and Stevie Wonder, who discussed the musical events of the ’70s.

Of the Sex Pistols, McCartney said in his typically rambling way: “If you listen to the music, that’s the enthusiasm for me. The music’s really good rock ‘n’ roll, and a lot of other people try it, but it took kids like that and the energy that they could bring to it, to really rock out.” He appended: “It’s really good music if you give it a listen”.

In a strange way, The Beatles first espoused the punk spirit years before the idea of punk began to germinate, so it’s not a great surprise that McCartney and Co. were fans of the Pistols and their ilk. Ironically, punk wouldn’t have had the room to flourish if it wasn’t for The Beatles, which is a reality that many punks would attempt to refute.

Listen to McCartney discuss punk below.