FX 'Pistol: From heroin addiction to cheating, here's how Sex Pistols came to a tragic end

Sex Pistols was regarded as one of the most influential bands in history and started the punk rock movement in Britain, then why they split up


                            FX 'Pistol: From heroin addiction to cheating, here's how Sex Pistols came to a tragic end
Steve Jones, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), Glen Matlock and Paul Cook Original Publication: People DisC (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
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When the Sex Pistols split in 1978, it was not the first time that the world was seeing a successful musical group calling it quits due to the reasons that they only knew. In 1970, the world suffered a setback when Paul McCartney suddenly announced that The Beatles is no longer a group. Till today, no one knows what is the “real” reason behind the group’s break up, and people still argue if Yoko played a part in the split.

However, when it comes to Sex Pistols, the reasons for their breakup are very much known, and to be honest, it’s really tragic to know that one of the most influential bands in the world had to shut their operations so early. The story of how the band became an integral part of the punk movement is captured magnificently in Danny Boyle’s FX series ‘Pistol’.

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Even after being so successful, why did the group decide to split even when they were in their prime? Let’s dive in and get to know more about the band.

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A cheque of 25000£ on behalf of A&M Records to Glitterbest Limited, management, publishing and production company founded by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, UK, 22nd March 1977. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Why did the Sex Pistols split up?

Formed in 1975, the British punk rock band originally consisted of lead vocalist John Lydon, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and bassist Glen Matlock. However, Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious in 1977. In the initial part of the band’s career, they played at several colleges and art schools around London and started gaining prominence.

Their dressing style and cutting-edge fashion turned out to be a rage among the youngsters. There were times when the band pushed the boundaries during their gigs and started doing things that were deemed culturally inappropriate by a certain section of British society. Lydon would walk off the stage, sit with the audience and even smash some of the musical gear. They made it clear that they were not just into music, but they were into chaos.

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British punk rock band The Sex Pistols perform live on stage at Leeds Polytechnic during their 'Anarchy Tour', Leeds, UK, 6th December 1976. (Photo by Graham Wood/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

They soon began to perform at several important venues such as 100 Club at Oxford Street and that’s when the punk rock movement gained wider recognition. In 1977, the band came out with their first and only studio album ‘Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’. The album was a massive hit in the UK and clinched the number one position in the country. Songs like ‘Anarchy in the UK’, ‘Pretty Vacant’, and ‘God Save the Queen’ were filled with profanity but became some of the biggest hits of all time. ‘God Saved the Queen’ was all about attacking the people of Britain for their deference to the crown. The song was banned by BBC and nearly every independent radio station.

The band was also known for attracting controversies in several matters, including the usage of drugs. It was reported that the band members were consuming heavy drugs while they were performing and their addiction got really worse as they continued.

But it was time for them to go global and believed that they need to introduce the band’s music to the people of America. The band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, organized a tour to some of the places in the US that were untouched by punk rock. So, they decided to start with Pennsylvania just after Christmas ’77. After their gig in the aforementioned state, the group had to perform in places like Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Memphis, and San Antonio.

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A still of Sex Pistols (Facebook/@SexPistolsOfficial)

 

The entire group was really excited about the tour, but it was also the beginning of the end for Sex Pistols. At first, US authorities didn’t give work permits to the band and they had to cancel the initial dates of the tour. When they finally got permission to perform, they traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, for their first performance. The group had to travel across the United States on a bus in the middle of the winter and that’s when things started going downhill for the group. Vocalist John Lydon had caught the flu while Sid Vicious struggled with heroin addiction. Suddenly, the mood started changing and everyone started hating each other.

Their final performance during the US tour turned out to be the band’s last performance as well. Lydon felt that McLaren was ruining the band’s legacy and didn’t want to be a part of it. As the tour came to an end, Lydon knew that the group was doomed and McLaren’s scheme to take the band to Brazil to record an album with ‘The Great Train Robber’ Ronnie Briggs was the final nail in the coffin. He felt cheated and was frustrated with how the band was functioning. Lydon was disgusted by Vicious’ heroin addiction and didn’t shy away from calling him out for playing ridiculously bad on stage.

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English bassist and singer Sid Vicious (1957 - 1979) with girlfriend Nancy Spungen (1958 - 1978) in the backstage of the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, UK, 15th August 1978. (Photo by Mike Lawn/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

As the tour ended, he decided to leave the group and reach New York, where he announced that ‘Sex Pistols’ has split.

Vicious went completely off the rails and ended up in a hospital shortly after the US tour. He died of a heroin overdose at the age of 21 in 1979.

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