1001 Songs Challenge #442: Anarchy in the U.K. (1976)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the U.K. (1976)
We’re staying in the UK, dear reader, and today we have the pleasure of one of the biggest names in punk rock. We’ve made reference to them a few times already but finally we have an appearance on our list from Sex Pistols. Formed in London in 1975, the most original line up comprised Johnny Rotten on vocals, Steve Jones on guitar, Glenn Matlock on bass and Paul Cook on drums. During a brief career the Pistols amassed loyal fans and immortal notoriety. We join them in 1976 with their debut single, Anarchy in the U.K.
Considered one of the key songs from the punk rock movement and for many one of the greatest songs of all time, Anarchy in the U.K. holds no punches with Rotten’s opening line being, “I am an Antichirst.” What follows is a metaphorical call to arms for the youth of the UK, disillusioned at this time with a struggling economy and a music scene that did not speak to them. Here we have Rotten practically spitting out his words, calling for “anarchy” and letting us know in no uncertain terms that he will not be a “dogsbody.” You can imagine for a generation of disaffected young people, this must have sounded like a form of salvation, pointing the way to a better future. Rotten continues by shouting he knows what he wants and how to get it, cleverly using a play on words connecting “enemy” with “NME”, the New Musical Express. There are also references to movements in civil wars with nods to UDA (Ulster Defence Association) and IRA (Irish Republican Army) both concerning Northern Ireland, as well as MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola) that fought for and took control of Angola following the 1975-6 conflict. The overall mood here is rising up against the establishment, to shout out loud for the downtrodden and silenced, and to carve out a new path.
When one thinks of punk rock then Sex Pistols are surely one of the first names that come to mind. Anarchy in the U.K. is testament to what they were all about. It’s loud, it hits hard, it challenges one to think differently. Both the song and the group resonated with a lot of young people in the UK at this time, while others looked on aghast at what they were seeing, even their record label, EMI, dropped the group when they swore live on television. It could never last and so it proved with the band disbanding after just one album and a handful of singles in 1978 but they had assured their place in music history.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)