Album Reviews

The Sex Pistols – The Original Spunk Bootleg

(Castle) UK release date: 17 July 2006


In the months prior to the release of the Sex Pistols’ seminal album Never Mind The Bollocks, an album, apparently recorded by a band named Spunk made it on to the shelves (more likely under the counters) of various record shops. That record was an entire album of demo tracks recorded by the Sex Pistols with producer Dave Goodman. Whereas most bootlegs are of terrible quality, Spunk had the added advantage of being a studio album.

Of course these tracks have been available elsewhere for many years on various compilations and bootlegs; so anyone coming to this collection expecting new material or new versions is going to be sorely disappointed. However, what Spunk offers is a view into the world of the Sex Pistols when they were still operating as a fully functional four piece.

When these demos were recorded, Glen Matlock was still playing bass for the Sex Pistols (Steve Jones played bass and guitar on Bollocks) and his presence adds a more assured melodic side to the band. Many of the tracks here are driven by his rumbling bass runs, which rule the roost over Jones’ guitar.

In many ways, it’s a bit of a shock listening to the likes of No Future (later renamed God Save the Queen) or Problems with their original basslines guiding the band in a thoroughly melodic direction.

In addition to Matlock’s poppier sensibilities (he was after all, a man who based many of his basslines on ABBA melodies), there are also sections of guitar drenched in effects (Liar is swimming in flanger) and Jones’ guitar work also has a more blues orientated feel to it. Even Johnny Rotten’s normally abrasive vocal style seems a little tamer than on Never Mind The Bollocks: his infamous sneers are far less obvious.

It has a far more professional edge to it than you might expect, particularly from a punk band. After all, years later, rules such as no overdubs and no studio trickery still hold currency in the punk world. In this respect, Spunk is a fascinating document of a band’s progression, finding the Pistols at a time when they were very much a rock band. Having been schooled in Never Mind The Bollocks visceral attack for so many years it still all feels a little bit wrong.

Spunk does help to debunk the idea that Sex Pistols were a musically incompetent band, one of the more ridiculous myths associated with them, but it offers little for the collector of Sex Pistols ephemera other than another opportunity to own the same songs yet again. From a band whose entire career lasted two years and who once released an album entitled Flogging a Dead Horse, perhaps it’s a little optimistic to expect more.


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