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Never mind the out cry
9:58am Friday 28th September 2012 in Music
The Sex Pistols' seminal album, Never Mind The Bollocks, is 35 years old. To mark the occasion, it's being re-released as a three-CD and DVD set. Andy Welch talks to the band's guitarist and founding member Steve Jones to find out more.
By Andy Welch
'The filth and the fury,' wrote the Daily Mirror.
'Four-letter words rock TV,' reported the Daily Telegraph.
National newspapers were not shy in reflecting the nation's outrage at the Sex Pistols' profanity-loaded appearance on Bill Grundy's prime time chat show, Today, in 1976.
The band, now heralded as punk pioneers and one of the most important of all time, were due to tour the UK shortly after their Grundy interview.
Thanks to the headlines and media campaign that followed, just seven of the 20 booked shows took place as promoters and venue owners rushed to withdraw their support.
Almost a year later, packers at their record label's pressing plant refused to handle their Never Mind The B****** album due to its title.
"That was all pretty crazy," says Steve Jones, recalling the events of 36 years ago when he was the Sex Pistols' guitarist. "And our intention was never to go on Grundy's show and cause trouble."
It's been widely reported that Grundy goaded the band, asked them to swear, and made advances on Siouxsie Sioux, who travelled as part of the Pistols' entourage.
"We didn't think we were being controversial, we always just did our thing," says Jones. "Grundy asked us to swear - and he was going to get it anyway because he was being an idiot.
"We wanted to promote the Anarchy In The UK single and tour, but Grundy had no intention of finding out about that."
The interview, which was broadcast at 6pm, signalled the end of Grundy's TV career. He had been a regular fixture of regional news reporting, but was suspended the day after the Pistols' appearance and his show was cancelled shortly afterwards.
"He got what he asked for," says Jones, "and later what he deserved."
The landmark album that started it all has finally been remastered and will be re-released on September 24 in a luxurious three-disc package.
While the album has been re-released in the past, this is the first time engineers, and its original producer Chris Thomas, have had access to the studio master tapes.
"Miraculously, we found the original tapes during moving from EMI to our new home at Universal," says Jones.
"I really like the new version. It's got more bite and you can hear things more clearly, especially the guitars.
"The remastering was done in London, and obviously I live in LA so I wasn't there each day, but Chris would send me mixes and things to check over, and we'd talk on the phone about how it was all going."
Jones says he still enjoys the album, but doesn't sit at home playing it.
"In a way I understand why people like the record so much. It was one of those albums that was done out of ... well, not naivety, but there are so many albums now where you can tell the artist was looking for a hit single, and that there are co-writers everywhere to get the right chorus.
"Never Mind was just one of those moments in time. It represented what was happening.
"We didn't know what was going to happen when we were making it, it was just made because we wanted to. Now, the album's become something that people look back on, but in truth we just recorded it."
He cites the lyrics of God Save The Queen and Anarchy In The UK as his favourite elements of the album, and lists Bodies, No Feelings, New York and Problems as his favourite songs.
"More than any song I like, I love the fact there's no fat on there. The songs are all three minutes long, and there's no obvious single, they're just great songs throughout.
"It's just rock 'n' roll, really. I suppose it's a punk record, but it's not defined by that. Who came up with the word punk anyway? What does it even mean?"
Many books have been written about the punk movement of the mid to late Seventies, and debate over who started it and how long it lasted rages on, as do arguments about which bands were punk and which weren't.
"I don't know how long it all went on for, but I suppose the purest part of it was before the Bill Grundy show, so just 1976 and 1977. That's when everyone was being creative," says Jones.
"After Grundy, it was just people wearing leather jackets and jeans, and it was mainstream, but that's the way it goes.
"When you're in a band, you want to be successful, so when you are you can't knock it, but that's when originality disappears slightly."
Jones admits it's "amazing" that a band which made only one album, and was only together for three years, could have caused such an impact. "Here we are still talking about it today!" he exclaims.
Nowadays he hosts a daily radio show on LA's KROQ FM. Jonesy's Jukebox has been one of the station's most popular for years, attracting guests from all over the world.
"I don't really play music in bands any more," he says. "So the radio show is my connection now. I spend nearly all my time either doing the show or listening to new music to play on it.
"I've also recently done a bit of acting," he adds, referring to an upcoming, four-episode role in hit US show Californication.
"I've always done bits and bobs, cameos and things, but I really got into this. I don't mind saying I'm pretty good at it, either, so I'm going to get an agent and take it seriously."
What comes next is anyone's guess. He's quite happy carrying on as he is, but doesn't rule out the possibility of a Sex Pistols tour. "If I needed a new Rolls Royce I could be tempted..."
The band last reunited in 2007 for a series of shows, and while Jones doesn't call John Lydon and Paul Cook every day, he says there's no animosity between them.
"I'm not the same person I was, I'm much happier now for starters. I've let go of it all. I'm still proud of what we did together, but I don't hold on to it.
"I was 57 the other week. That's too old to be slagging off people in the papers. We might have had our differences over the years but it's not like that any more.
"I'm old enough to forgive and forget."
Extra time - Steve Jones
:: Steve Jones was born in Hammersmith on September 3, 1955.
:: Together with future Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, he formed The Strand in the early Seventies.
:: In 1975, Jones, Cook and Glen Matlock founded the Sex Pistols. John Lydon joined later, with Sid Vicious joining in 1977 once Matlock had left.
:: After the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, Jones and Cook founded The Professionals and released one album.
:: Jones also went on to play with Thin Lizzy, Adam Ant, Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop among others.
:: The remastered 35th anniversary version of Never Mind The B******s, Here's The Sex Pistols will be released on September 24