A couple of years ago, when I was 16, I remember listening to Never Mind the Bollocks a lot. In particular I remember a family holiday to France that summer where I swelled with anger at having to stay in a nice hotel in the Dordogne and being stuck in the countryside unless I went anywhere with my parents. Of course if I’d have been in a town I wouldn’t have done anything at all – it was the principle, and at that point principles mattered to me. (Of course now it’s the perfect holiday and my principles are already lapsing into lazy pragmatism.)
So, anyway, I listened to the Sex Pistols fairly consistently all the way through those ten days. In particular, I remember one night-time drive through the countryside where every song off that album filled me up with explosive energy, not in a violent way, but in a way that seemed to empower me and place everything in a different perspective – with the Pistols by my side, I had some sort of pride in my moroseness. I didn’t have to care about anything. I was right, and sod the world and what it thought of me. It was a welcome adrenaline rush, made larger by the intimacy of complete immersion through headphones – a secret to everyone else.
Nearly two and a half years later, I pull out the LP after not having listened to it for a while. When the guitars in Holidays in the Sun crash in over the marching, I expect to be filled with that vital energy yet again, to feel good. And then it just feels like lazy, boorish pubrock. I can’t go crazy to this, it doesn’t fill me with anything apart from slight indifference. And it makes me think, were those few days in 1999 my 1977? Are the Sex Pistols irresistible at certain moments and only then their album takes on the attitude it needs to become essential to someone? And then I think, but that’s what music does isn’t it? Fills us with energy and emotion when we really need it. Suddenly I wish I had those principles again.