Oh the humanity! Some would say punk was born on this day in 1976 as the Sex Pistols released their first single, “Anarchy in the UK” on EMI Records. Despite getting a 40 000 pound contract with that company (the largest it had ever given a new artist and equivalent to about $500 000 now), EMI fired the band and gave them more money to walk away after an infamous BBC-TV interview in which Steve Jones called the interviewer a “dirty f***er” and hearing various reports of mayhem at their shows.
Astoundingly, despite the band’s notoriety at the time, it might have gone relatively unnoticed if not for a high-profile, last minute TV appearance in the UK when they replaced… Queen! The Freddie Mercury outfit pulled out at the last moment and someone figured the Sex Pistols would be the next best thing for the viewers! One’s named Queen, the other sings “God Save The Queen”, some unaware booking agent probably figured. The single ended up selling 55 000 copies and hitting #38 in the UK before EMI pulled it; their next single “God Save the Queen” went to #2 on Virgin Records and in between the band had signed on with , then been fired by , A&M Records.
Never afraid to bite the hand that feeds them, the Pistols quickly went and wrote a scathing song knocking the old label, fittingly and simply called “EMI.” John Lydon (Rotten) says that’s one of his favorite songs of theirs and it was written because “EMI wanted to sign us to show what a grand, varied label they were, but really they were not.” The EMI single was received with a variety of opinions: NME said “it will take a far better band to create raw music for a generation” while journalist John Robb opined it was “the perfect statement of a stunningly powerful piece of punk politics.” It, “God Save The Queen” and “EMI” all made it onto their only real studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks. Remarkably, showing they’re equal parts savvy businessmen as well as anarchist rockers, except for a handful of cover versions they recorded that were put onto another album, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, they never recorded again…but that hasn’t stopped them putting out seven compilation and five live albums since!
Should you happen to own one of the original 7″ singles, it won’t make you rich, but will help you buy a Christmas gift or two. Depending on condition, original copies go anywhere from about $100 to closer to $1000 if you sell it.