Blood on the Turntable – The Sex Pistols, BBC3

by | Sep 20, 2004 | All, Reviews

What to say of you liked it

A welcome revision of the pioneers of punk that approached the genre from the fresh angle of the eternal enmity between singer John Lydon and manager Malcolm McLaren.

What to say if you didn’t like it

A sanitised rehash of one of the most shameful musical episodes in this nation’s history, that gave new voice to the vile Johnny Rotten and the repugnant Malcolm


What was good about it?

• John Lydon approached each topic with the same deranged fervour that once characterised the impact the Sex Pistols had on 70s Britain.

• When Lydon discussed an incident, he didn’t merely laugh about it or dismiss it, he tried to analyse what occurred and why he acted in the way he did. He remarked about the Bill Grundy show, where he swore, that he had been up for three days and was high on speed; and while it didn’t mitigate his misbehaviour, it did offer a welcome insight. And, most acerbically on the authorities’ censorship of God Save The Queen:

“That’s like superiority. ‘We (the authorities) have the right to stop you thinking.’ Well, we think differently.”

• We learned that Lydon wasn’t the original choice of singer. McLaren’s girlfriend had recommended a “John” that turned out to be Sid Vicious (real name John Ritchie), but with typical incompetence, McLaren auditioned the wrong John.

• It’s still funny to hear about the nationwide hysteria the Pistols caused eg record company workers refused to touch the copies of God Save The Queen as if they were infected by a contagious plague.

• A snippet of Rick Wakeman’s dreadful doodling in Yes (a prime inspiration of the Pistols’ rage) reminded us all why we should all be thankful for the Sex Pistols or else we might still be listening to 30-minute drum solos.

• The way John Lydon sardonically raised an arched eyebrow when describing how McLaren viewed himself as “an art object”.

• McLaren’s opinion that he was the driving force behind punk was indelibly crippled by the soundtrack of Anarchy In The UK and its ilk that still sound as caustic today as almost 30 years ago.

• When Lydon used the same choice language as on I’m A Celebrity…, we weren’t persecuted with the soprano voice of a Geordie midget apologising to the “ladies

and gentlemen” every five seconds.

What was bad about it?

• Despite initial premise being the enduring feud between Lydon and McLaren over the ownership of the Pistols’ songs, this was only briefly touched on at the conclusion.

• McLaren appeared insufferably arrogant. All his stories were merely subjective anecdotes where his primary concern seemed to be to protect/boost his own

ego and offered little in self-scrutiny, unlike Lydon.

• McLaren was also very superficial in his views on other people, happy to deal in hackneyed slogans. On Richard Branson he said: “I never trusted hippies. I never really liked him or anybody who worked with him.”

• We didn’t find out from anyone involved if the story about a Sex Pistol vomiting over a flight attendant was true or not.

• Why was former “rogue” MI5 agent turned publicity whore David Shayler asked to comment on the social impact of God Save The Queen?

• When dealing with bassist Glen Matlock’s departure for liking Abba, was it necessary to play SOS throughout the whole piece?

• The reverence in the narration that “questions were asked in Parliament” about the Pistols. While that may have seemed shocking in 1977, we now know that many of

the “questions” are asked at 11.30pm by a red-faced drunk to a chamber of six inebriated, snoring pensioners.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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