Submission

Album: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)
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Songfacts®:

  • Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren owned a store called SEX that sold various fetish items. He asked the band to write a song about bondage and sadomasochism, and lead singer John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), having already grown tired of McLaren, wrote the lyrics not about a sexual submissive, but about an underwater vessel, the first line of which is, "I'm on a submarine mission for you baby." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Guilliermo - New York, NY
  • John Lydon and original Sex Pistols bass player Glen Matlock wrote this song, composing the lyrics at a pub after their bandmates Steve Jones and Paul Cook didn't show up for rehearsal. They traded lines back and forth over a pint, then Matlock worked out some chords when he went home. Matlock and Lydon both have fond memories of composing the song.
  • In a Songfacts interview with Glen Matlock, he told the story behind the song:

    "I went to a rehearsal, at a place called the Roundhouse, which is a place in London, in Camden. We were rehearsing there for a bit - the rehearsal room was downstairs. I met up with John, and Steve and Paul didn't turn up. So, me and John went over to the pub to have a drink, and he said, 'Have you seen Malcolm?'

    'Yeah.'

    'What's he got to say for himself?'

    'Oh, he has an idea that we write a song.'

    'What about?'

    'He had a title - 'Submission.''

    And John went, 'What? All about domination and all that sort of stuff? I'm not having that.'

    So we sat down, and I can't remember which one said, 'What about a submarine mission?' So, we traded line for line, and wrote the song there and then. Then, I went home that night and worked out the music. The next time we rehearsed, I said, 'Look, we have this idea. It goes like this...' And it went like that, and that was it really. The song is basically about taking the Mickey out of Malcolm McLaren."
  • Lydon said this was the closest thing to a love song the Sex Pistols ever wrote.
  • Part of the band's debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, "Submission" was also part of an early demo of the album Malcolm McLaren pedaled to record companies in the Summer of 1976 (he found a taker in Virgin). This demo later appeared as a bootleg called Spunk.

Comments: 6

  • Linda224 from Asheville, NcI knew this song was written quickly to get Malcolm's stupid request which John wasn't having any of out of the way, without Malcolm realizing it. But to me it's always seemed a perfect double-meaning about the brainwashing controllers in society trying to social-engineer us through popular culture and our TV content in particular. The underwater part was imo (maybe John said this in later interview somewhere lol, who knows?) was like when the Beeb would sign off around midnight and the verticle lines or whatever go up the screen making you feel you're going under the water... esp if you're tired, drunk or high.

    I love this song as the band f-ing with shallow Malcom's boring sex focus, and as a song against the deep state in my personal story of it.
  • Louise from Oxford UkAndy is right. Strange, I played the album to death when it first came out and only recently started listening to it again and just yesterday I realised what this song was about. I always it was about the zombie-like way people submitted to social norms; the Pistols never wrote anything else about their sexual experiences, but i think it’s clearly about oral sex. It makes sense of lines like ‘you’re sitting it out in heaven above’ and, for heaven’s sake ‘I feel your undercurrent flowing’.

    It was the seventies and cunnilingus was not so popular with guys as it is now. It was a favour, hence the whole idea of submission and the spluttering at the end, but there’s a fascination too in exploring a woman’s vagina; a mystery, a secret. It’s an intimate song about a personal experience. They did nothing else like it.
  • Andy from Las Vegas, NvFor me, this song was always about submitting to a woman's request to perform cunnilingus. I won't go through the lyrics line by line, but there is a lot of context there that could be interpreted as a sexually excited woman--stuff like "I feel the way you're flowing." The line "I'm going down, down," seems pretty clear. The term, "submarine mission" itself could be a simile for the act. Have you ever felt somewhat suffocated in the act?

    The thing is, Johnny isn't very good at this. Look at this passage: "You've got me pretty deep baby, I can't figure out your watery love, I gotta solve your mystery." Sounds like he is pretty lost to me, an idea which isn't all together incomprehensible for any male going back to his first experience at this. Which just feeds the whole "Submission" secondary level.

    I don't know, maybe I'm just a pervert, but this subtext is pretty clear to me. Couldn't find anything else on the internet to confirm my theory, so maybe I'm all wet. All wet, get it?

  • David from Levin, New ZealandThe lyrics were written line by line by Rotten and the Pistol's original bassist, Glen Matlock. This was clearly referenced in the Classic Albums BBC series - see http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=5366055
  • Viking from Queensland, AustraliaSubmission was actually written on BOTH subjects (Sexual submission AND a Submarine mission). In typical Sex Pistols fashion it was done to keep people guessing and start rumours. The song was co-written by Johnny and [research], each writing a disconnected line, this gives the song it's random lyrics. Johnny was telling the annecdote on a documentary I saw (Sorry can't reference that).
  • Razor from London, EnglandThe song actually IS about a sexual submissive - although there are no references to BDSM activity and the "submarine mission" imagery has used to confuse the listener.
    There are at least three studio takes of the song in circulation - the original on NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, a version produced by Dave Goodman which has appeared in several mixes [some are very psychedelic/dub-like], and an alternate take produced by Thomas & Price, which features Sid on bass, with a similarly experimental production. This version is many fans' favorite.
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