When it comes to the Sex Pistols, high-fidelity recording and engineered live shows went out of the window and its place was a maelstrom of mayhem. While Pink Floyd and the likes were toiling away in the studio making songs that ventured into double-figure length and sweating over every high-end nuance of sound like sonic scientists, the Sex Pistols were reclaiming the youthful energy of rock ‘n’ roll in a manic frenzy that had never been seen before.
Thus, it perhaps comes as somewhat of a surprise that it is the purist’s format of choice that John Lydon champions a great love for. Speaking to Esquire, he proclaimed: “My record collection is extensive. It’s spread out over three different countries. It’s so big that it got to the point where the friends that used to look after our house in London called to say we’d damaged the ceiling of the room below with the weight of the vinyl.”
And more so than the simple joy of a physical copy, the artwork sleeves or collectability, it is the sound that vinyl is capable of reproducing that makes him favour it over any others. “One of the most expensive things I ever bought was a turntable. It was a Gyrodec. I went all in. It’s fantastic just looking at it, all clear Perspex with brass rings,” he tells Esquire.
Adding, “And my amplifier? The word is transparent. I make sure that there’s no electrical hum of any kind, so that exactly as the record was made is what you’re hearing. You can get the quality level up there on a CD, but for me, ultimately: vinyl.”
As music engineer Adam Gonsalves explained to Oregon Live, “Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that’s fully analogue and fully lossless.” Adding, “You just need a decent turntable with a decent needle on it and you’re going to enjoy a full-fidelity listening experience. It’s a little bit more idiot-proof and a little bit less technical.”
This is very much a notion that John Lydon seconds, as he explains, “There’s something about the spaciousness to the sound. It’s not digitally compressed. There’s that sense of movement of air, too.” In short, it simply seems closer to how humans listen to music naturally.
However, it wouldn’t be John the one-man riot Lydon, if he didn’t add that he also enjoys the warmth and depth of vinyl when its roof rattlingly loud. “I go for big old speakers,” he says. “My favourite choice of speaker are English, from B&W. They’re whopping monsters and powerful, but my God you don’t need to turn the volume up.” Before concluding his eulogy of vinyl with the following magnificent metaphor: “You can hear anything at any level. You can hear an ant fart in the corner of the studio! I like that.”
One vinyl that I’m sure he would’ve loved to own, which sadly escaped his collection was the rare copy of the Sex Pistols’ single ‘God Save The Queen’ that sold for £13,000 at auction back in 2019.