While no one would ever dare question Sex Pistols’ cultural impact, such was Malcolm Mclaren’s obsession with publicity stunts, that by the time Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols was finally released in late October ’77, they had very nearly missed the bus. Both The Damned and The Clash had beaten them to the punch when it came to album releases, and even Buzzcocks – a band only formed after they had seen the Sex Pistols perform – had managed to release their iconic Spiral Scratch EP. By the time Never Mind the Bollocks… finally hit the shelves, punk was as much a part of the mainstream as disco and AOR rock, and the much ballyhooed desire to shake up the system was somewhat undermined by the fact that they were now as much a part of the system as anyone else. Of course, it was going to be a hit due to name recognition and a marketing campaign based purely on the cheap shock value of having a profanity in the window of your local HMV.

While no one could deny the impact of the four singles that remain the corner stones of Never Mind the Bollocks…, with the jackboot-march opening of “Holidays in the Sun” proving an effective opening track to the album and the potent riffing double punch of “Anarchy in the UK” and “Pretty Vacant” being two rightly celebrated energetic punk tracks. The thing is, arguably their most notorious/ famous number, “God Save the Queen”, while utterly iconic, was also a cheap and easy shot aimed to get maximum publicity and media outrage. While its intention was no doubt honourable, you could argue that they could have maybe been a bit smarter about it all.

Musically, while the shock value of their singles must have been seismic at the time of their release, by the time “Holidays in the Sun” was released in October 1977, two weeks before Never Mind the Bollocks…, it was starting to become obvious that Sex Pistols were a slightly out of tune rock band, sped up and fronted by a pantomime-esque street urchin (admittedly played brilliantly by the man we would come to know as John Lydon). Both guitar player Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook were evidently capable, if somewhat rough and ready musicians, but while Jones would no doubt happily admit that Never Mind the Bollocks… was the most iconic material of his career, in truth, as far as his playing went, his best days were ahead of him. Lydon aside, the Sex Pistols’ most valuable player was Glen Matlock, the most musically achieved member of the band. It is ironic then that Matlock was shown the door in favour of the musically incapable and more easily led Sid Vicious.

Forty years after its release, while Never Mind the Bollocks… retains its iconic status, listening back to it now, it really is just a discordant rock and roll record with Lydon sneering over the top. Which is fine, but it is not the timeless masterpiece that some would have you believe. Within three months of Never Mind the Bollocks…’ release Lydon would declare his discontentment with Sex Pistols and the band would split, only for Mclaren to start his barrel-scraping exercise a few short months later, as there was more cash to be milked from the now dead cash cow.

Lydon of course would go on to form Public Image Ltd and enjoy a solo career, but in recent years has become an ever more erratic character, with his contradictory statements on where he stands politically and occasionally popping up in ill-judged adverts. Cook, Jones and Matlock have each gone on to great things in their career, forming bands, becoming celebrated sidemen and making guest appearances alongside acts as diverse as Edwyn Collins, The Faces, Iggy Pop and Siouxsie and The Banshees. Vicious would of course die young, thus cementing his place as the most iconic member of Sex Pistols alongside Lydon, and becoming punk’s ever young martyr.

While Sex Pistols were utterly necessary to kick-start punk here in the UK, which in turn helped give an admittedly stale music industry a much needed boot up the backside, a case could be made that Never Mind the Bollocks… came too late in the day. The Sex Pistols’ four singles released prior to this album’s release did all they needed to to seal the reputation of the band, and maybe, just maybe, they would have been even more iconic if they had never released a full album.