SEX PISTOLS: 90 DAYS AT EMI BY BRIAN SOUTHALLSKU: AC-BK117
‘EMI and us was like a mini world – a world within a world of what was going on in Britain at the time. Establishment and anti-establishment. EMI versus the Sex Pistols. Who won? Did anybody win?’ – Glenn Matlock, Foreword
Sex Pistols: 90 Days at EMI succinctly rips, stitches, and safety pins back together the story of the most iconic – and provocative – punk band, and their brief stint with one of the world’s most reputable record labels. With a foreword from Glenn Matlock, the book reads as an insider’s account of the rise and the downfall of the band at EMI.
The Sex Pistols were signed to EMI Records on 8th October 1976, but little did they know that the band would notoriously shake, rattle and tear open the capitalist cages at the corporation. Their first single on the label “Anarchy in the UK” was epitomical: it was a punk-infused political manifesto that nihilistically promised no future for the country based on the way it was. The band completely turned convention on its head: the idea for the album artwork for ‘Anarchy in the UK’ was that there was none. A simple, plain black sleeve that was devastatingly anarchic.
The next few months at EMI were a tumultuous trip of profanity, sacrilege and chaotically seditious behaviour. After weeks of tensions with label – who were suspected of not promoting their single as thoroughly as they could – the band replaced Queen on the local London evening TV show, Thames’ Today, presented by Bill Grundy. The presenter is said to have got ‘wicked drunk’ before the show, and angered the band. In true punk style, they retaliated. When Bill Grundy teased them to say something outrageous, he wasn’t expecting what was to come next. Steve replied: ‘you dirty bastard…. You fucking rotter’. Uproar ensued; the TV station were inundated with complaints and it’s safe to say EMI were not best pleased by their budding band. In the subsequent months the Pistols ruffled more feathers: at Heathrow airport they ‘shocked and revolted passengers and airline staff as they vomited and spat their way to an Amsterdam airport’; Johnny Rotten called the EMI offices ‘a fucking dump’, and TV and radio stations lost interest in promoting the band “just in case”.
After ninety days of grinning and bearing it, it became clear the partnership wasn’t working. The Pistols were too magnificently iconoclastic and vicious, and EMI were too corporate and controlling; the marriage of the label and band ended in divorce.
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