Tuesday, February 20, 2018

SEX PISTOLS "No Fun" (Dave Goodman demo)

John Lydon started rehearsing with the Sex Pistols in the fall of 1975, and they quickly added a Stooges cover "No Fun" to their repertoire, playing it as a regular part of their live shows by at least 14 February 1976 (Happy Belated 42nd Anniversary), when a particularly memorable example went down at a place called Butler's Wharf, as described by Nick Kent in Jon Savage's essential England's Dreaming book: "John Lydon was on three trips of acid and god knows how many grams of speed... They were doing this version of 'No Fun', kept doing it over and over. Lydon got it in his head to start smashing the equipment: flying around with this mike stand, throwing things around. It wasn't aimed at the audience: they didn't matter. Lydon was in this state, it was obviously drug-induced but he clearly wanted to get completely out of himself. He wanted to go straight into the eye of the hurricane, and the group was backing him up."

A few months later, on 10 October 1976, just two days after the band signed their first major record contract with EMI, they ran through their set a couple times in a studio, and had their soundman Dave Goodman record it. The resultant demos are fairly legendary, and were even bootleg-released a year later, probably by band manager Malcolm McLaren himself, to show his disappointment with how over-produced their official major-label debut LP Never Mind the Bollocks had turned out. The version of "No Fun" they laid down that day in 1976 with Dave Goodman is one of the signal punk performances, especially by Lydon; I don't know what his drug intake was that day as opposed to 14 February, but sober or not, he gets very much into the "out of himself" "eye of the hurricane" state that Nick Kent witnessed on that earlier date. It's also the closest the Pistols ever got to the tranced-out psychotronic music he loved like Can and Hawkwind, in his own blown-out vocals and the band's relentless midtempo drive:

A month later, the band and others were featured on an episode of the London Weekend Show, a half-hour news presentation that Jon Savage says in England's Dreaming, "remains the single best documentary about Punk, captured just before its fall." It really is terrific, including a lot of footage from a Sex Pistols gig and sometimes intense, sometimes very funny interviews with them, the Clash, and a brand spanking new Siouxsie & the Banshees. (Hostess Janet Street Porter is charming throughout too, with a great 'Bowie kid' look, even though she was 30 years old at the time.) The programme (sic) ends with a version of "No Fun" which is pretty (pre-Sid) vicious, though not even close to the sheer immolation of the Goodman demos:

In June 1977, the Goodman demo of "No Fun" saw mass release as the B-side of the "Pretty Vacant" single. It was the third Sex Pistols single, still a few months before their debut LP Never Mind the Bollocks was to come out. It was released on the Virgin label and reached #6 in the UK. Later, after the Sex Pistols broke up, it was included on one of many cynical compilation/receivership releases allowed by court decisions, Flogging a Dead Horse, which is where I personally discovered its unearthly power, what Savage described as "searing, ridiculous" on page 379 of England's Dreaming.

And, of course, "No Fun" was the last song the Sex Pistols ever played together as a band, ending the final show of their US tour with it in January 1978. It's the song after which Johnny asked the audience, and the world, "Ever feel like you've been cheated?" Shit man, it's all right there on YouTube:


ommyth said...

Hey - for my cowries, "No Fun" (I prefer the amended flip-side version to the unedited take) and "Satellite" (the "Holidays in the Sun" flip) represent the Pistols at their absolute apogee. Just fucking perfect, forever untouchable.

Larry said...

Love u ommyth - "No Fun" b/w "Satellite" on repeat 43va

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