Well, there's just so much to take in - it can't be done in one sitting, which is exactly what a Super Deluxe Box Set retailing at £100 should be.
First, the 100 page 12" x 12" 1977 diary. It seems strange to use the word "beauty" in relation to the Sex Pistols but 1977 The Bollocks Diaries is an item worthy of such an accolade. With its glossy presentation and many unseen pictures, posters etc, it is a joy to behold. In fact, I feel as though I need to wear cloth gloves when handling it, to avoid any finger prints. It belongs in the British Museum.
The fold out NMTB poster is lovely as well, as is the replica A&M God Save The Queen. Just think, Universal own A&M these days, so surely this is a GSTQ A&M original?!
The above, along with the reproduction NMTB stickers and copy of GSTQ hand written lyrics, makes it all highly desirable. But what of the music? This has to deliver if the box set really is as "Super" as it claims.
Firstly, Disc One: Never Mind The Bollocks. At last, a true re-mastering, and it shows. The album has always sounded like a Chieftain Tank, only now you can hear the mechanics in action as it roars into view. Try listening both with and without headphones - both are spectacular. The backing vocals benefit as well as the guitars and drum sound, with subtleties detectable like never before. Same goes for John's vocals. Submission and New York particularly caught my imagination.
It is important to remember that this is not a re-recording, nothing has been tampered with. What we have here is the best possible sound gleaned from the master tapes. It still sounds like NMTB should - and it is essential that it does. It's tempting to say it sounds "fresh, like it was recorded in 2012", but it has always sounded fresh. What is certain is that it will never sound better than it does here. This mastering will ensure it still sounds fresh in 3012.
Disc Two promised much, and proves the jewel in the crown. The 1977 B-sides start proceedings and have been given the same treatment as NMTB. No Feeling, the flip side of the junked A&M GSTQ does, at last, sounds like it should - it's never before been quite right on any outing - other than on the original A&M.
The Dave Goodman demos from January 1977 follow. Dave was known for tinkering with his demos. Lord knows why. They are punchy and direct, and feature some expert musicianship and inventiveness from Steve, Glen, and Paul, much of which was lost on previous "versions" of the demos. Once again, New York was a highlight for me. Proof positive that untouched original classics should not be messed with.
Disc Two cranks up yet another gear with the Chris Thomas demos and outtakes. Mind blowing stuff. Presented in chronological order of recording (EMI recorded In April now finishing with "Goodbye A&M"), this disc shows the band's use of the studio developing as they hone their sound to perfection. From the alternative vocal tracks of Did You No Wrong ("my wet head"), Seventeen ("tell me your secrets do") and Satellite, through the rough mixes on show, it's all terrific, and (with one exception) previously unreleased.
Did we ever think we would hear two new mixes of Holidays In The Sun, one a rough - but stunning - take, with the song clearly in an early stage of development? Same goes for Body. Oh my. The lyrics differ but are just as scary as the NMTB version; "it was killed for a minor fee". A band argument also follows the track!
The surprising thing is that the recordings are good enough to release as the Pistols debut LP. Most bands would have settled for this. Not the Pistols. Funny that. For a group not supposed to care - they did when it came to creating a musical legacy built to last. Forward thinking from the boys. Also nice to see the original song titles from the time of the demos retained: Unlimited Edition, No Future and Body - nice attention to detail. Belsen Was A Gas has of course been made available online - so everyone has had an opinion. The main disappointment is the vocal track which is almost inaudible. Sid does a good job with his bass performance, following Steve note for note, almost. Anyway, there it is, make of it what you wish. It's certainly better to have it than not.
Basically Disc Two is a fan's dream. It's been in my CD player/iPod constantly and I love it. If you don't, I'm so sorry, nothing will be good enough. It's magical. Thank you Universal!
On Disc Three we have two soundboard recordings from summer `77, the ideal time to capture the band during such a turbulent year. Sid is at his peak in terms of performance, pounding away - it leads to a very compact sound. Although too rudimentary for the studio, it works in claustrophobic club surroundings; brutal, intense, and at times disconcerting. Wasn't that the Sex Pistols in 1977? The Trondheim show was previously available as part of the limited Kiss This box, back in 1992. A further 2 decades has passed since, so it makes a welcome return here.
One week later - 28th July - the band was captured in Stockholm. This recording brings back so many memories for old time bootleg collectors. Released incomplete many times over the years, here we have the full concert which includes No Feelings and No Fun, (both missing from the vinyl bootlegs). The gig serves as reminder that away from the mayhem back in the UK, the Sex Pistols could breathe and show what a tremendous live rock and roll band they were, notwithstanding Sid who doesn't let his band mates down.
Disc Four - the DVD. First up: the Riverboat Party footage in perfect condition. If it was an event taking place in recent times, the full show would have been recorded from multiple angles and so forth. But the filming we do have captures the spirit of the day, from the paranoia, the blistering performances in cramped confines, through to the Police bringing it all to an end. Doesn't it just show how loathed the band were at this time? Don't the Police overreact to a band playing music on a river? Perhaps that is what makes it all so encapsulating and poignant. Everything the Pistols stood for, and the threat they posed, is here in this film.
Also in perfect condition, is film of the Pistols in Stockholm. The six songs caught on film from 28th July have been around for decades in various Nth generation bootleg copies; New York & Seventeen have previously showed up as extras on the NMTB Classic albums DVD. Now we have it all together - it will forever remain the best filmed document of the Vicious line-up delivering the goods in 1977. Close-up - excitingly filmed - with great sound, it just had to be included in the box set.
A real treat are the three songs recorded at the Winter Gardens, Penzance, during the SPOTS tour. Again it's hard to fault the performance of the Pistols, it is epic stuff. By late '77 the audience were well and truly acting like Daily Mirror Punk Rockers, flicking endless V-signs at the camera. Much more importantly, the band is incredible. Again.
The newly compiled Holidays In The Sun video is expertly edited together from late '77 footage, making it an authentic addition to the established videos for GSTQ and Pretty Vacant. Watching this on TV with the sound turned up makes your hair stand on end. Another triumph.
Interestingly, the DVD disc also pulls together audio only interviews conducted during 1977. So why choose these particular interviews? The Heyday Interviews conducted by Judy Vermorel in August 1977 are important for many reasons. They were recorded to form the basis for Fred & Judy Vermorel's authorised book on the Sex Pistols, originally called simply Sex Pistols (Star Books 1978). It was the only biography put together during the band's short career, and consequently the questioning is not provocative, but seeks to delve beneath the surface for all the right reasons - to let us know the truth behind their story. The interviews with John, Steve, Paul and Sid, first saw the light of day back in 1980 as the unofficial Heyday cassette released on Factory records, and then in 2003 on CD via the Boutique Label, this time including the interview with Glen.
You may or may not have these, but either way, as part of the 1977 theme of the box set, it's nice to have them included. The famous BBC Radio 1, Rock On, December `77 John Tobler interview with John and Sid is here as well, and for the first time in a full, uncensored form. We can now consign the badly edited, butchered versions to the back of the cupboard, if not the bin. If you've never heard it, this review will remain spoiler free, just bear in mind that a month later the band was no more.
So, is it all worth it? When Universal took over the Pistols catalogue I feared a rehashing of everything the average fan, let alone the hardcore collector, would have in their possession, with a few novelty incentives thrown in.
Thank God, Universal have not taken the easy route, they've taken the hard one. The Pistols don't come cheap, and UMC have wisely invested a lot of resources into this project.
Mixing NMTB from the master tapes is what we've always wanted; now we have it. And it's bloody good. But it is the appearance of the genuinely unheard demos and mixes on Disc Two that lifts this collection into the stratosphere. The discovery of these tapes represents the Howard Carter / Valley of the Kings moment for Pistols fans. It won't happen again, just be glad it did. And enjoy it. Even the Dave Goodman '77 recordings sound fab now. The live audio and videos have been presented in the best possible condition; in as complete a form as is (now) known to exist. Let's not forget the new Holidays In The Sun video, another indication of Universal's commitment.
I've hardly touched on the lavish 100 page Bollocks Dairies, or the A&M single. These alone would make the package worthwhile.
What do you mean you are still undecided? For crying out loud, buy it and embrace it. Now.
GOD SAVE THE SEX PISTOLS SUPER DELUXE BOX SET REVIEW
Superbly packaged in a heavy duty box, this package is a Sex Pistols fans dream, for the completist or someone new to the group.
The 100 page diary, with it's many unseen pictures is a great read, the NMTB replica poster, NMTB stickers, God Save The Queen hand written lyrics replica and God Save The Queen A&M replica are also nice to have, but surely the music and DVD's are what we're really buying this for.
Disc One: Never Mind The Bollocks. The album has never sounded more in your face than this, with improvements in clarity, depth and tone, a great re-mastering.
Disc Two: B-Sides, Demos and Out-Takes. The B-Sides are given the same treatment as the album, whilst both the Chris Thomas and Dave Goodman Demos all sound better than we've heard before, the only disappointment is the muddy, almost inaudible vocal on the until now 'lost' Belsen Demo. Rotten's vocal is so low and it sounds like he was in the studio next door. Much of the interest around the box set played on the inclusion of this track, but it's a bit of a let down if I'm being honest.
Disc Three; Live soundboard recordings from Scandinavia, Trondheim has been available before on the Kiss This release from 1992, now available in complete form as opposed to on vinyl bootlegs.
So onto the DVD. Julien Temple has finally lets us see his seemingly unedited footage from the infamous 'Jubilee Riverboat Party', rather than the brief glimpses we've seen before the footage captures a band being followed like they were 'terrorists' sailing down the river to blow up Parliament, Police boats follow the whole journey, which begins with the band onboard witnessing the disdain from onlookers.
There is some great footage of the gig onboard and as the boat comes in to Dock Richard and the Police board to bring proceedings to a close, Richard Branson informs them that the only reason is that it is The Sex Pistols and if it were any other band they wouldn't be interested. True, but any headlines are good publicity, except those you're currently getting from what Virgin are doing to maximize profits whilst lowering quality in areas of the Health Service Virgin have invested in hey RB.
The Stockhom gig from 28th July features six songs from the Sid Line-Up excitingly captured with great sound, far better than on any bootleg, there's songs from the Winter Garden gig in Penzance, during the Spots tour, the videos including one created for 'Holidays In The Sun' and audio interviews from 1977.
The only short comings in my opinion are the non-inclusion of The Bill Grundy interview, surely this would have set the scene nicely at the start, and will Julien Temple ever release footage from the Christmas Day Ivanhoe's Huddersfield gig. We've seen bits of it, with the band having a Christmas Party with the kids. It was their last UK show and it would have fitting to show the band having some fun after this tumultuous year and a Grand Finale, as the gig wasn't half bad either. Maybe one day Julien.
That said all in all this is a great package and makes a terrific Christmas present.Read more ›
There are very , very few albums that excite the listener over thirty years down the line as much as the first time you clapped ears on them. The album that does it for me is Big Fun by Big Fun.......no only kidding it's Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols. A ferocious blast through the musty halls of the establishment and middle England it still sounds vital to me. Released on the 28th October 1977 i can still remember buying the vinyl version of the album ( i was 14 years old and paid for it with my paper round money - i still have the vinyl copy i first bought) getting it home , playing it ( as opposed to making a table lamp out of it) and almost bursting with excitement as the sheer vitriolic verve and lung shredding energy of the music blasted out of the speakers. Curiously my dad poked his head round my bedroom door and enquired what it was i was playing .When i told him he remarked " It's good .....can i borrow it?".This came from a man who listened to Jim Reeves. Truly here was a band to reckon with. Never Mind The Bollocks is still the only official album released by The Sex Pistols- the group had to all intents and purposes disbanded just a few months after it's release- and the storm created by it's release and some of the songs therein would seem astonishing now( although the Ross/Brand thing shows you can never be sure what will set the controversy meter whirling ) Having said that there is still something compulsively illicit in listening to a song like "Bodies" - gurgling bloody mess....another discharge" - one of only two songs on the album written by the poster classic Pistols line up of Cook/Jones/Rotten and Vicious , along with "Holidays In The Sun". Has there ever been a better album opener than that song? - the crunching jackboots then the static bolts of guitars ushering in Rottens gnarly vocals. But then Never Mind The Bollocks is chock full of iconoclastic classics. "God Save The Queen" ( especially in the silver jubilee year) "Anarchy In The U.K.", "Pretty Vacant" as well as the acerbic record company riposte "E.M.I." . It is also a mire varied album than given credit for with the more studied chugging rhythmic "Submission " ( not included on the first batch release V2086) and the knotty arrangement of "New York" sitting next to flaying tempestuous tracks like "No Feelings" ( which predicted Thatcherism with it's me me me attitude) and "Liar". The impact of this album cannot be underestimated . Rottens vocal delivery a snarling form of anti-singing , dripping with sarcasm and over enunciating particular words -"They made you a MORON" - still sounds audacious today and the way producer Chris Thomas eschewed the usual punk method a capturing a live raw sound for denser gradated layers of sound made the songs vivid impeccably musical orchestrations. How anyone can find this album tuneless or just a lot of noise is beyond me. It crackles with sardonic intensity sure ...but it also resonates with fizzing tunes. Chris Bailey of The Saints called it "loud pop music" which is fair enough really as far as I,m concerned . It's constant high position in albums of all time polls while not an irreducible signifier of the albums quality and importance is a pretty broad hint and one i certainly wouldn't argue with .It makes my top ten no problem. A brilliant coruscating seething statement Never Mind The Bollocks still makes me want to jump up and down my bedroom like i did when i was 14 . You can argue about the relevance and motivations of the band , especially given their recent shenanigans , but you cannot doubt this albums importance in musical history or it's continuing relevance.Read more ›