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"Filthy Lucre Live" is a live album by British punk band, released in 1996 by the Sex Pistols and produced by Chris Thomas. The line-up for the album was Johnny Rotten (vocals), Steve Jones (guitar), Glen Matlock (bass) and Paul Cook (drums).
The Sex Pistols played their final gig in January of 1978 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California after Sid Vicious was visibly out of his mind on drugs and Johnny Rotten had clearly had enough. He announced to the crowd during the encore that they would get one song only and said "Ever feel like you've been cheated?" and walked off stage. It took 18 years before the band would be back together again, but in that time Sid had died of a heroin overdose and was replaced by original bass player, Glen Matlock, for the dates and on which this gig at Finsbury Park in London was recorded. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The gig starts with "Bodies", and has Rotten's warbling vocals all over it in that cockney accent of his, backed by Jones' punk-laden riffs. This is where the Pistols were at their best and the interaction between Jones & Cook's backing vocals with Rotten's ranting is excellent. It's a song about abortion, whether you believe in it or not. Here, Rotten is saying that it's bad to bring a child into the world with its current issues, and he's also saying that it's bad to abort the foetus of an unborn child. The Pistols are leaving it up to you to decide and they're not taking either side.
"Seventeen" is one of those songs that you can love or hate and I love it. It's about being young and being bored with nothing to do because you can't be bothered doing anything. As Johnny Rotten says in the lyrics, "I'm a lazy sod". It's actually a play on words and directed at Sid Vicious. On the studio version you can even hear Rotten sing "I'm a lazy Sid" in the song, too. At two minutes long, it's the shortest song on the album but one of the real surprises on there. If only Johnny Rotten hadn't gone all strange on us and sang in his Public Image Ltd. style, it might have been even better.
"New York" is a song about the difference between British punk rock and American punk rock. Bands like the Ramones, Blondie and the New York Dolls were completely different from British acts such as the Pistols, the Clash and the Damned, and it's one of those bands, the New York Dolls, which gets the attention here as some of their songs are listed in the lyrics. I'd like to think it's basic humour but it could also have been a dig at the American punk rock band for wearing make-up on stage.
"No Feelings" is one of my favourite Sex Pistols songs. It's pure British punk rock - which is completely different to that over the pond in the United States. The Sex Pistols are angry, the guitar is loud and Rotten has that snarl about him which says he just doesn't care what you think. He's basically saying that he'll do what he wants and doesn't really care whether you like him for it or not. Try listening to a band that call themselves punk, like Blink-182 for example, and then listen to this song. You'll get the idea of what punk really is once you've done that.
"Did You No Wrong" is allegedly the first record the Sex Pistols ever wrote, or didn't, if you believe the stories. A man named Wally Nightingale claims he wrote it while in an earlier version of the band, but nobody has backed up these claims. It was originally a B-Side to "God Save the Queen" and didn't appear on the band's official album, "Never Mind the Bollocks". It's a down-to-earth rock and roll song with some good guitar riffs and even better time keeping from the drums.
It's a little-known fact that "God Save the Queen" reached No.1 in the UK singles charts when it was released to coincide with the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 but it was kept off the top spot by the BBC, which banned it from airplay. Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want to Talk About It" was the official No.1 single and it took the BBC a further 24 years to admit to this happening. About the song, Johnny Rotten said "You don't write "God Save the Queen" because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you're fed up with them being mistreated."
"Liar" is an upbeat song with some great vocals from Johnny Rotten. His classic warble is present here and musically, this has everything even if Rotten does go off the handle a little bit. That shouldn't stop you thinking it's a good song because it really is a good song. Lyrically, it's directed at the band's manager, Malcolm McLaren who fired Glen Matlock and replaced him with Sid Vicious, who was actually a drummer. Malcolm told the band he didn't have anything to do with it but they always knew the real story.
"Satellite" is a song about the band's performances in lesser venues in the early days around the UK and not, at first, getting recognition, although that was part of the master plan of Malcolm McLaren's rock and roll swindle and 'filthy lucre'. I really like the chorus of the song, even though it's very simple. The best thing, though, is that Lydon's vocals are in the style of the Pistols and not in the mould of PIL. The bridge is good also, with a drawling guitar solo that doesn't really stand out but is noticeable all the same.
"(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" is a song which was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and was first recorded by Paul Revere & the Raiders in 1956, but it was made famous by the Monkees some ten years later. Unfortunately, it's murdered by Lydon's warbling vocals and he really doesn't do the song justice. The only good thing about it is Jones' punk riffs and the backing vocals sound pretty good as well. I realise a singer's vocal chords grow older over time, but as Lydon has proved on this live recording, he can still do punk rock tones, so I'm not sure why he chooses to change styles.
"Holidays in the Sun" is a political song about the Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Germany beginning with construction in 1961 until reunification in 1990. Communist East Germany erected the wall, and this is what the Pistols are singing about. Legend has it that Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren sent the band on a holiday to Berlin and their experiences are reflected here. "I'm looking over the wall and they're looking at me" is probably related to the differences between east and West, with East Germany's Communist iron rule being completely different from the freedom of Democratic West Germany. It's a great song, too, with a classic punk riff from Steve Jones and Johnny Rotten's iconic vocals.
"Submission" is the weak song on the album - most have them, and "Never Mind the Bollocks" is no exception. It's more rock orientated than anything else on the album and the little guitar solo over the chorus just doesn't work. I do like the story behind the song though; Malcolm McLaren wanted the band to write a song called "Submission" because he thought it would help sell clothes and equipment at his S&M shop, Sex. The band, however, thought otherwise and wrote a song about a submarine mission instead.
"Pretty Vacant" is my favourite Sex Pistols song. It's easily one of the best punk rock songs of all time and epitomises everything that the genre was in the UK back in the late 1970s. The lyrics are simple but very effective, especially in the chorus where the whole band comes together in unison. It's a song about teenage rebellion against the system, basically telling the kids to do something with their lives or let the system decide for them; it's their choice.
"EMI" is a song that attacks the record company which signed the band and then fired them not long after. The main riff is magnificent on this song and Jones' solo in the middle fits the song perfectly with its blues-like feel. As the story goes, the band signed with EMI, recorded "Anarchy in the U.K." and then appeared on Bill Grundy's "Today" show where they were encouraged to swear by the host, resulting in the show's cancellation and Grundy's career lay in ruins. After that the band was subsequently dropped with the record shelved.
"Anarchy in the U.K." is a punk rock song that needs no introduction. It's a song about how the punk movement was at the time with the kids feeling angry at the lack of jobs, poor education and hardly any prospects for the future. I'm not sure that the band wanted to incite anarchy in the United Kingdom but for many years afterwards, punk rockers could be seen with anarchy badges or the anarchy sign painted on the back of sleeveless jean jackets. It's a song that has been covered by a lot of bands, most notably American thrash metal outfit, Megadeth.
"Problems" begins with a great riff that has an interesting hook on the end of it which is still echoing in your ears even when Rotten's vocals come in and the guitar is quietened down. I like the guitar solo during the bridge on this song which is proof that the band could actually play, contrary to belief by a lot of people back then. Here, Johnny Rotten asks the question "What's your problem" and answers it with "the problem is you", making it self-evident as to what the song is about.
In summary, the live album is a bit hit and miss. When I first heard the Pistols were reforming for a few dates, I initially wanted to go along because I'd grew up in the 70s as a young child and got into punk at a very early age, the Pistols included. Then I thought it would be full of kids in attendance just because they could say they'd seen the band live, and decided not to bother. Incidentally, the same thing happened 12 years later when I did go to see Ted Nugent in the States, and I thought back to this and told myself I was right all along. The Pistols only did this for the money and they made no bones about stating that fact, but it's not a bad album. You get to hear the Sex Pistols live once more, but I'm not sure Johnny Rotten turned up. Instead, I think John Lydon turned up for most of the gig, and that's a shame.
3. New York
4. No Feelings
5. Did You No Wrong
6. God Save the Queen
9. (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone
10. Holidays in the Sun
12. Pretty Vacant
14. Anarchy in the U.K.
My rating: 6/10
"Fat, forty and back!" Rotten said. "We're not that f*ckin bad after all, are we? Twenty years on from the 100 Club in 1976, the Pistols Finsbury Park gig was both a pantomime and glorious celebration. This time around the band can actually play their instruments, but not all the songs stand up to scrutiny. Satellite and Liar are mere chants, while Stepping Stone is incomprehensible, a Monkees cover that didnít work. These are over shadowed though by the anthemic, cheeky delivery of God Save The Queen, EMI, Pretty Vacant and their crowning glory - Anarchy In The UK. All this and audience participation too. It's enough to make you feel proud to be British
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 New York
4 No Feelings
5 Did You No Wrong
6 God Save The Queen
9 I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone
10 Holidays In The Sun
12 Pretty Vacant
14 Anarchy In The UK