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40th Anniversary Boxset

Never Mind The Bollocks 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
3CD + DVD Box Set (UMC SexPisRedux)
CD1: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols: Holidays In The Sun / Bodies / No Feelings / Liar / God Save The Queen / Problems / Seventeen / Anarchy In The UK / Submission / Pretty Vacant / New York / EMI
CD2: Studio Rarities / Dave Goodman Demos / Chris Thomas Demos & Outtakes /
Studio Rarities & B Sides
No Feeling (B side of withdrawn God Save The Queen On A&M Records) / Did You No Wrong (B side of God Save The Queen) / No Fun (B side of Pretty Vacant) / Satellite (B side of Holidays In The Sun)

Dave Goodman Demos: New York (Demo Version) / Unlimited Edition (Demo Version of EMI) / Liar (Demo Version) / Pretty Vacant (Demo Version) / Problems (Demo Version) / No Future (Demo Version of God Save The Queen)

Chris Thomas Demos & Outtakes: Did You No Wrong (Alternative Vocal) / Seventeen (Alternative Vocal) / Satellite (Rough Mix) / Submission (Rough Mix) / Holidays In The Sun (Rough Mix) / EMI (Rough Mix) / Seventeen (Rough Mix) / Holidays In The Sun (Alternative Mix) / Body (Demo Version Of Bodies) / Submission (Alternative Mix) / Belsen Was A Gas (Demo Version)

CD3: Live Trondheim, StudentersamfuNdet, Norway: Anarchy In The UK / I Wanna Be Me / Seventeen / New York / EMI / No Fun / No Feelings / Problems / God Save The Queen
Happy House, Stockholm, Sweden: Anarchy In The UK / I Wanna Be Me / Seventeen / New York / EMI / Submission / No Feelings / Problems / God Save The Queen / Pretty Vacant / No Fun
DVD: Riverboat Party, River Thames London 1977: Pretty Vacant / Anarchy In The UK / Problems
Happy House Stockholm, Sweden 1977: Anarchy In The UK / I Wanna Be Me / Seventeen / New York / Problems / No Fun
Winter Gardens, Penzance, Cornwall, 1977:  Problems / No Fun / Anarchy In The UK
Promo Videos: God Save The Queen / Pretty Vacant / Holidays In The Sun
Radio 1 Rock On Interview: John And Sid Interview
Plus: 48-page hardback book

Contents Reviewed

NMTB 40THThe 2012 boxset undergoes a revamp in the guise of a new robust package from Universal.

The first item to greet you on removing the lid is a 48 page hardback book:

It's a smart looking miniaturised 7" square version of the 100 page "1977 The Bollocks Diaries" which adds a touch of quality to the set. As well as taking you on a whirlwind visual and fact filled trip though 1977, it also contains all the information on the tracks included in the set.

Disc 1: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols

A true re-mastering, and it shows. The album has always sounded like a Chieftain Tank, and now you can hear the inner workings 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. What is certain is that it will never sound better than it does here.

NMTB 40THDisc 2: Studio Rarities / Dave Goodman Demos / Chris Thomas Demos & Outtakes / Studio Rarities & B Sides

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 sounds like it should – it’s never been quite right on any earlier 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 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.

Essential for the Pistols fanatic are the two 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. 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.  Everyone has had an opinion on the take of Belsen Was A Gas since it emerged in 2012. 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 2 is a fan’s dream.

NMTB 40THDisc 3: Live Trondheim, StudentersamfuNdet, Norway Happy House, Stockholm, Sweden

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?

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 4 / DVD: Riverboat Party, River Thames London 1977 / Happy House Stockholm, Sweden 1977 / Winter Gardens, Penzance, Cornwall, 1977 / Promo Videos / Radio 1 Rock On Interview (audio)

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. 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.

NMTB 40THThe Holidays In The Sun video compiled in 2012 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.

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 famous BBC Radio 1, Rock On, December ‘77 John Tobler interview with John and Sid is here as well in a full, uncensored form. 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. The intereview has more recently been included in the More Product Box Set (2017).

Mixing NMTB from the master tapes is what we always wanted; now it's available for all to enjoy. The appearance of the demos and mixes on Disc 2  lifts this collection into the stratosphere. 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 Holidays In The Sun video either.

If you missed out on the 2012 super deluxe edition or thought it too expensive, then this revamped re-release is for you. The ultimate Pistols audio experience awaits - find out for yourself what the Sex Pistols were all about. Their musical legacy is simply second to none.

Review by Phil Singleton

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©Phil Singleton / 2017
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God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton / 2017

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