Anarchy in the U.K.

Album: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)
Charted: 38
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  • Anarchy is society without government or law. The Sex Pistols were very anti-establishment (as were many young people in England), but the song isn't actually advocating anarchy. "I have always thought that anarchy is mind games for the middle class," frontman John Lydon told Rolling Stone. "It's a luxury. It can only be afforded in a democratic society, therefore kind of slightly f--king redundant. It also offers no answers and I hope in my songwriting I'm offering some kind of answer to a thing, rather than spitefully wanting to wreck everything for no reason at all, other than it doesn't suit you."
  • This was the Sex Pistols' first single, and it caused quite a stir in England with its lyrics advocating violence against the government. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols was not released until a year later, partly because of distribution concerns: after hearing "Anarchy In The UK," some organizations refused to ship the album. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Sid Vicious, who died of a drug overdose in 1979 and was the subject of the 1986 film Sid and Nancy, had not yet joined the band. Vicious replaced original bass player Glen Matlock after this was released. Along with the rest of the band, Matlock is a credited writer on the track.
  • The Sex Pistols were dropped by two record companies before finally releasing the Never Mind The Bollocks album with Virgin Records. Virgin had a hard time promoting this song because no one would let them advertise it. The subsequent record store and radio bans helped generate publicity that was more valuable than what they could have bought.
  • The manager of The Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, put them together to deliberately cause controversy. He knew the band would stir up trouble and get a lot of media attention in the process. That's what happens when you have a lead singer named Johnny Rotten singing that he was an "anarchist" and the "Antichrist."
  • Recording this song proved rather difficult. The first sessions were produced by Dave Goodman, who was the band's sound man for concerts. "He had never really produced anybody properly, so he didn't have enough clout or wherewithal to tell Malcolm McLaren not to be in the studio," Glen Matlock said in a Songfacts interview. "And Malcolm was like the devil at his ear, going, 'It's not exciting enough - it's got to be faster.' And it was getting faster and faster, and losing all its groove.

    In the end, we effectively went on strike, and said, 'No, it's fine,' and we got a different guy in, Chris Thomas, who has done some fantastic work over the years. We set up, started playing, and he said, 'I think we've got it now.'

    The first part of the song is from take three, and the second part is from take five. We were waiting for Rotten to turn up and do the vocals, and he didn't rush down because he was like, 'You're useless, you can't play. You've been in there for weeks.' And we said, 'No. We've done it.' We were right all along - we just needed the right person to realize it. And then Steve loaded up the guitars over the next few days."
  • The line, "I use the enemy" is a play on words: "Enemy" is actually "NME," a British magazine called New Musical Express. The Sex Pistols were famous for manipulating the media, and NME apparently took the bait: they said in their review of this song, "Johnny Rotten sings flat, the song is laughably naïve, and the overall feeling is of a third-rate Who imitation."
  • After this was released, the band went on a British talk show where they repeatedly swore at and berated the host, Bill Grundy. This caused a great deal of controversy, which resulted in their record company, EMI, dropping the band and pulling the single.
  • Here's an explanation of the alphabet soup in the lyrics:

    MPLA: A political group in Angola - the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola.

    UDA: The loyalist supporters in Northern Ireland conflict. The UDA (Ulster Defence Association) supported Britain and opposed unification of Northern Ireland.

    IRA: The Irish Republican Army, who opposed Britain and were in favor of unification in Northern Ireland.
  • As a publicity stunt, the band performed this song on the Thames River from a boat called "The Queen Elizabeth" on June 7, 1977. Celebrations were underway for the Silver Jubilee, celebrating the Queen's 25 years on the throne. Two days later, she was scheduled to ride on the river as part of the ceremonies, so the Sex Pistols decided to make a mockery of it.

    The plan was to perform the song as they were floating by the House Of Parliament, but they didn't get close, as police intercepted the boat. The record company executives who organized the event were arrested when they docked.

    The stunt got them plenty of press and boosted their punk rock bona fides. "That came about, oddly enough, just as a giggle because of not getting gigs," Johnny Rotten explained in Melody Maker. I had in my mind not the slightest knowledge of there being a Jubilee at all. I was quite stunned by it all."
  • Mötley Crüe often played this song in concert, and they recorded it for their 1991 compilation Decade of Decadence. While their version is still titled "Anarchy in the U.K.," Vince Neil sang it as "Anarchy For the USA," with the lyrics changed to make references to American entities, including the PMRC, an organization that led a crusade to keep albums with explicit lyrics from being sold to minors.
  • John Lydon told Mojo magazine July 2008 about writing this song: "It flowed quite naturally to me. These are just long, long-term motivations that are there and you can't, can't, can't ever underestimate the sheer driving energy poverty will bring you. Being denied everything and access to everything. Government, schools, the lot, tell you that you don't count. You are scum. Go with flow or else. That's an incredible driving energy, to be better than their estimation of you."
  • Glen Matlock told Mojo magazine that this is his favorite Sex Pistols' statement. He explained: "Everything about it is just right. It's one of those rare moments captured, the vibe, the groove, and the bass ain't bad! It still sounds outrageous."
  • Megadeth did a popular cover of this song that was included on their 1988 album So Far, So Good... So What! and also released as a single. A video was made for this version directed by David Mackie.
  • Guitarist Steve Jones told Mojo that he thought when the specific moment when he felt the Pistols had clicked was when "Anarchy in the UK" came into the fold. He explained; "We had the riff and Rotten was in the corner writing words and McLaren started grooving on it. It felt like we were onto something then."
  • the Sex Pistols re-recorded this song for the video game Guitar Hero 3.

Comments: 59

  • Dan Gillespy from Courtenay BcA very very true punk rock classic.
  • Davie from NzPunk wasn't originally about a style of music. It was a rebellion against the music industry and the big arena bands who were around at that time. Punk was saying anybody could do it... don't try and rewrite history while some of us old punks are still alive....
    (and if we are going to accuse a punk band of selling out... that would be the Clash)
  • Pedro from PortugalFirst paragraph have 2 errors. Anarchy means "no rulers". Don't mean no law and no govern. Anarchy is like and originated co- operatives.
    Second, British monarchy have no power at all. Margaret Tatcher was the prime-minister then, and many people strongly oppose her, many unemployed, etc
    Btw, Jonhy Rotten was a nihilist, a kind of anarchists against everything in Russia in 19th century, revolutionaries, etc,
    For the rest, I agree with David , Newcaslte.
  • Rich from San Francisco Bay Area, California, UsaSo many transcription mistakes!
    To my ear anyway. This is what I hear:
    Line 6: "the passerby" should be "power supply"
    Line 12: "Your future gleam is a shopping scheme"
  • Kieran from Brisbane, AustraliaGreen Jelly covered this in 1993. Didn't like Megadeth's version as they played it far too well.
  • Whiplash from Glendale, NyI like megadeths cover of this song, its amazing!
  • David from Newcastle, United KingdomAnyone who claims this is the best/or start of punk, should really consider actually listening to real punk. This was cashing in on the punk scene and turning it into pop music for the mini mainstream /alternative teenyboppers who liked to think they were punk - but are about as punk as Blink 182 are (of the time).

    For what its worth, I rather enjoy most of the Pistol's songs.... but good punk, it ain't.
  • Oreip from Guayaquil, EcuadorI love all songs of the sex pistols except EMI sucks
  • Bill from Martinsville, NjNever Mind The Bollocks, I always say. I guess their influece went beyond the music industry - even to pompous nouveau mugs.
  • Nady from Adelaide, --i want Sid Vicious. HOT.
  • Tim from Guildford, United KingdomWith the greatest respect, Bill of Martinsville ,NJ.

    You are talking utter bollocks.

    The Sex Pistols was as raw as raw can be in the music industry,whatever followed by whoever thereafter, was in some way influenced by them.

    And as for your comment about selling to working class posers, you sound like a pompous nouveau mug.

    "Overrated, prefabricated snotty whiners! They were NOT punk, they were someones manufactured vision of punk, packaged and sold to working class posers.
    - Bill, Martinsville, NJ"
  • Bill from Martinsville, NjOverrated, prefabricated snotty whiners! They were NOT punk, they were someones manufactured vision of punk, packaged and sold to working class posers.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesArgue all you like about the details, but when the line "I AM AN ANTICHRIST" first roared out of your radio, you were probably knocked as flat on your ass as I was. "Wow! Did he SAY that?!"
  • Kyle from George, Cayman IslandsI like this band because there a punk band and there kinda cool sounding at the beginning
  • Paul from London, United KingdomYou'd never dream of it happening today, but EMI were so fearful of negative publicity after the Grundy episode, that they flatly refused to promote the single and major retailers refused to stock it.

    It's reckoned that had these events not happened, the record would have easily climed into the UK Top Ten.
  • Jon from West Bend, IaZiggy, don't forget The Clash!
  • Ziggy from Redding, Caagreeing with many other people, the sex pistols are pure punk. Anyone who even places
    "Green Day" or any other band of the sort in the same category are retarded. Pure punk are The Ramones, the Dead Kennedys, the Circle Jerks, The Damned, Siouxsee and the Banshees, and many, many more. Ive had a sudden obsession with punk music lately (probably brought on by the fact i just watched the sensational movie Sid & Nancy), and i agree strongly with Joe from WA. This is probably the song that turned me onto punk
  • Sydney from Massillon, United Statesi love this song and I also love sid vicious and nancy spungen.i also agree with frank. green day is not punk either.
  • Chris from Laval, CanadaI agree that it's so sad that they're put in the same box as new age punk jerks who aren't punk. The Sex Pistols were punk. Anarchy in the UK was punk. Musical quality has nothing to do with a classic anthem like this, because it's goddamn punk - for better or worse.
  • Joe from Bellingham, WaI think this song is mediocre. Motley Crue re did it suprisingly okay. How low has punk music sank that today we put the Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones in the same category as gay poser sh*t bands like Green Day, Simple Plan, and Blink 182. it sends a shiver down my spine.
  • Leela from Balimore, Mdisn't this banned in the uk (and their radio stations)
  • Conor from Dublin, Irelandthe line 'another council tenancy' was always sung by Rotten as 'another c*nt, I'll tell him see''
    And alex you are an embarrassment if you think Glen and Sid are the same person.
  • Brandon from Cambridge, CanadaAlex from Lancaster you are the biggest idiot of all time and believe me,if this was me and you face to face i would kick your ass.Sid vivious and glen matlock are two completely different people.Sid s real name is simon ritchie not matlock,and he got the name from john lydons hamster, sid who bit him and he described as vicious.
  • Colin from Bradford, EnglandSorry Alex but you are completely wrong. Glen Matlock went on to join the Rich Kids after the Sex Pistols and is definitely not the same person as Sid Vicious.
  • Joe from Chicago, Argreat song from great album and i saw the video on the punk show a month or two ago, awesome video.
  • Ron from Chicago, Ilwell, Zachary, sid vicious wasn't that talented. sure he had the punk and the punk attitude, but he was just there. if you are a true sex pistols fan and a sid vicious fan, you'll know he couldn't play the bass and didn't do so well on his own. don't get me wrong though. i love sid and the sex pistols. if sid would have learned the bass before he joined, his band members wouldn't have unplugged his amplifier during their shows.
  • Janette from Las Vegas, Nvalex,
    perhaps it is you who does not have their facts straight. in johnny lydon's biography, not only does he go on about how glen and sid were damn near total opposites, but there are images of both of them in the same photo. that, and why would glen still be alive if sid died years ago?

    congrats to the pistols for their fabulous letter to the rnr hall of fame. read it if you can.
  • Alex from Lancaster, PaWhoever runs this site, Glen matlock WAS Sid Vicious. He changed his name to Vicious to fit the overall rebellious theme of the band. Just letting you know that one of your facts is wrong
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoIn his book, "I Was A Teen-Age Sex Pistol," Matlock says the original three of he, Jones and Cook were looking for a vocalist when McLaren brought Lydon to them for the purpose, and their first impression was that he couldn't sing. Matlock reports on some of the tension between he and Lydon and claims he was perfectly okay with getting the boot, though he also claims that the press release saying he was kicked out because he liked Paul McCartney was entirely a fabrication to attract attention. Matlock was welcomed back for their 1996 reunion tour.
  • John from Seattle, WaThis was also recorded and performed by Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm at the 1999 Reading Festival. When she finished the song, it was punctuaed by the crowd's cascade of loud boos and jeers.
  • Fry from Dumass, TxSid Vicious was innocent
  • Matt from Columbus, Oh>angelo
    Nirvana is close to punk rock, and i understand the misconception, but they are officially labeled as grunge. although both bands are pretty decent.
  • Erica from Illinois, Il"Anarchy in the UK" What can I say? This song is truly AMAZING!!!! I truly love it so much that I could cry. The absolute minute you hear the mad electric guitars and Rotten's voice, you start rockin' on, dancing like a freak, and singing. The Sex Pistols rock!!!!! THEY ARE THE TRUE DEFINITION AND START OF PUNK!!!
  • John from Corfu, Greeceyeeah a great song and pretty infuencing from me. I think this is punk's national Hymn. F**ck pop punk bands like "Busted" "Blink 182"....this is the true thing!
  • Angelo from Las Vegas, NvThe sex pistols were about more punk then anything
    a great example of punk rock is Nirvana,The Ramones,and most of all The Sex Pistols
  • Frank from Hickville, GaThis song is what got me into punk rock. I'd also like to take this time to tell all those emo freaks out there, EMO IS NOT PUNK! MCR is not punk. The Used is not punk. The Sex Pistols, Social Distortion, Rancid, etc. is punk. Get over it!
  • Matt from Millbrae, CaThe Sex Pistols weren't that talented...but I'll give them this they were revolutionary
  • Zachary from Charlotte, NcWhats up, why is it that the Sex Pistols fans don't flood the message boards with Sid Vicious conspiracy talk, his story is just as intriguing as Kurt Cobain's which is all they talk about in the Nirvana chat rooms. Is it just that all you guys are to young to remember Sid Vicious and The Sex Pistols story, or is it that you just don't care and its actually about the music, I am hoping it is the ladder
  • Mleissa from Wasaga Beach, CanadaGlen Matlock was ousted from the band because he wanted to give the Sex Pistols a more commercial image. Lydon was quoted as saying "He wanted to make us fun. Like the Beatles!" He was apparently not happy with the idea.Glen Matlock was more of a clean, crisp person and Lydon decided that was not "punk" enough.
  • Shane from Cork, IrelandMatthew from Tampa, FL:
    The term "Loyalist" does not mean a violent Unionist, nor does the term "Republican" mean a violent Nationalist. Unionist/Loyalist are simply interchangeable words that essentially mean the same thing. The same applies for Nationalist/Republican.
  • Matthew from Tampa, FlMPLA stands for Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. That's the former Marxist rebel group that made up Angola's government and still does. At the time they were fighting a civil war against another group, UNITA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. IRA is the Irish Republican Army of course and the UDA is the Ulster Defense Association, a Loyalist (voilent Unionists are called Loyalists just like voilent Nationalists are called Republicans) group that opposed the IRA.
  • Sean from Cork, Irelandjones wasn't happy eith rhyming antichrist and anarchist but he shut up when johnny rotten asked him to come up with something better
  • Ben from Kent, EnglandIf you watch the Bill Grundy clip it shows that the band weren't to blame. One of the members swore (i think it was Johnny) and tried to cover it up. Grundy kept pressing him to repeat it and the band didn't want to until pushed too far and let loose. Grundy got what he deserved for being so patronising.
  • Rich from Coventry, United Stateshow can anyone say the sex pistols are the worst punk band, i mean they did practically invent the genre, and took it to a new level. they were basically saying, 'we are going to sing about whatever the **** we want whenever the **** we want to and nobody is going to stop us even if it means getting arrested.'
  • Chase from Pasadena, CaDamn, that was annoying. I don't dig that voice, but I guess Sid Vicious changed everything once he came along.
  • Uncle from Preston, EnglandFor a start, Britain was run by a labour government in 76-77...not "the British Royalty". The myth surrounding the Sex Pistols continues to grow year on year... in particular the idea that Malcolm McLaren "created" the band to cause chaos etc.. The band clearly had creative talents in John Lydon and Glen Matlock and a great performer in Steve Jones... but produced for a reason and with a specific outcome?...I don't think so! McClaren is an egomaniac who wallows in such self importance and crude post-event theories, as shown in films such as "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" (another Julien Temple film). Anarchy in the UK is a good song... from the writing of Matlock/Lydon/Jones, but it means nothing more than John Lydon's angry youth-inspired lyrics that also happened to rhyme.
  • J-raff from Boston, MaI've heard Sex Pistols fans are angry that Motley Crue covered this, since the lyrics don't apply to them at all. But does that really matter? I'm sure Crue just covered it because they like the song...
  • Jamie Bower from London, EnglandThere are few bands that people can say changed their lives....... The sex pistols and the clash are among the few...... The sex pistols and clash reflected the feeling of the british people at the time and were against the oppression and racisim of the time.... They are truely legends..... God Save the Queen
  • Zac from Gastonia, NcReally though there can be the best and worst punk bands judging by your definition it is the guys who failed to make any impact at all and got no points across
  • Zac from Gastonia, NcBut lets say there is a worst band in punk history it is not the Sex Pistols
  • Megan from Portsmouth, Englandthe sex pistols are 100% punk. with brilliant music, songs with meanings and are out there to put their opinion across for not alone themselves but for us too. thank you sex pistols!!!
  • Eli from Bellingham, WaThere is no "worst band in punk history." Punk is the idea that anyone can play any insturment, and it doesn't have to sound nice as long as you get the message out. Punk is about the attitude, the lyrics and the image, not about how good the music sounds. The Sex Pistols fit this criteria very well. The alledged "punk" bands that really suck are Blink 182, Good Charolette, and such ilk, because they have no soul behind their music.
  • Evan from Freehold, NjThis song was in Tony Hawk 4
  • David Garcia from Bakersfield, Caughh horrible band, no talent what so ever, worst band in punk history
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesJohn Lydon's best days came not with the Pistols, but with his other band Public Image Ltd during the 1980s. That said, this song is actually quite good, but the Pistols bnest record was "Pretty Vacant".
  • Si from London, EnglandJohn Lydon was not nicknamed Rotten by any childhood gang, and it wasn't because his teeth were black and falling out. The name "Rotten" was actually given to John by Steve Jones at the time that John actually joined the band, and the reason was that one of John's favourite phrases was "you're rotten, you are".

    The original bassist, Glen Matlock, was ousted from the band, primarily because Steve Jones found him annoying; he was apparently not "punk" enough - too interested in being clean, and apparently "too into the Beatles". However, Matlock didn't leave the band until after the release of "Anarchy in the UK", "God Save the Queen", and "Pretty Vacant".

    The Sex Pistols actually only ever recorded one album of new material, and that was "Never Mind the Bollocks". So it is incorrect that they had to use their original bass player (Matlock) to record "Anarchy in the UK" - that album was a compilation.
  • Bob from Ada, MiThe band also wasn't formed by Malcolm McLaren. Instead the band formed and the original bassist left so they just used Sid because he was a close friend of John's. They only shopped at McLarens store. The album "Anarchy In the UK" wasn't made until after Sid joined the band, but he was practically useless so they were forced to use there original bassist to record the album. The song wasn't truly about Anarchy either it was about how they were bored nothing was happening in the U.K.
  • Chad from Huntington Station, NyI know for a fact Matthew is right - John's own words, featured in The Filth and the Fury, a Julien Temple film.
  • Matthew Desimone from Toms River, Nj1. John Lydon was nicknamed Rotten by his childhood gang because his teeth were black and falling out.

    2. The rhyme "antichrist/anarchist" was not proposed by malcolm, but out of neccessity by John. A direct quote "The first line i ever wrote was 'I am an anti-christ'..and I couldn't thing of a damn thing that rhymes with that. Anarchist just fit."

    3. The song which caused them to be arrested during the Queens Jubilee is "God Save the Queen". "Anarchy in the UK" was viewed as a novelty, but God Save the Queen was seen as almost blasphemous to 70's British society, and the song was black listed and outlawed. By playing it on the boat, they were arrested for public indecency.
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