Sex Pistols - Never Mind the B#llocks (Album Cover) © Sex Pistols, Virgin, 1977.
Design: Jamie Reid
Text below: © Richard Evans/Chartwell Books.

20.01.13: making of cover

Right, let's be quite upfront and give it its full title for a kick off, Never Mind the B#llocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. OK, now let's talk about one of the most famous sleeves by one of the most infamous rock'n'roll bands in the fifty or so years that rock'n'roll has been around.

There are two versions of how this cover came about - designer Jamie Reid's version and the late manager/impressario Malcolm McLaren's version.

Malcolm and Jamie originally met in 1968 at Croydon Art College, and both were excited by the ideas of the Situationist movement. McLaren claimed that at the time he didn't much care for Reid's graphic work, remarking: "It was all ancient druid symbols painted on pebbles and frankly, it annoyed me."

In 1972 Malcolm and his then-girlfriend Vivienne Westwood opened a shop on the Kings Road, London, called Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die. Several young bands hung out there, including Steve Jones' band The Strand. In 1975 McLaren had seen the burgeoning punk scene in New York and wanted to create something similar in London. Now managing The Strand, McLaren was looking for a new front man and settled on John Lydon, who Jones immediaely christened Johnny Rotten owing to the bad state of his teeth.

McLaren renamed the band the Sex Pistols and realized he would need quite a striking visual for their forthcoming album. He had seen some of the work that Jamie Reid was prodicing for the Suburban Press, a magazine publishing essays by French philosophers, and got in touch with Reid to see if he'd be intersted in designing some singles covers and album sleeves.

According to Jamie Reid, he was farming in the Outer Hebrides when a letter arrived from McLaren asking if he'd like to be part of the Pistols' project.

McLaren claimed that the arresting look of the cover was inspired by his friend, Helen Welllington Lloyd, who produced promotional leaflets for the Kings Road shop as well as for gigs. She couldn't be bothered to have type set or to buy rubdown type, preferring to cut out letters from newspapers and magazines and paste them up in the style of a ransom note.

According to Reid's version, there was no money for typesetting at the Suburban Press so he had resorted to pasting up text quickly and cheaply in a collage style that he called the 'blackmail punk' look.

The pink and yellow Day-Glo colours (pink and green for the US version) were influenced by a provocative series of Suburban Press stickers that Reid produced in 1972, declaring 'This Store Welcomes Shoplifters'. The leaflets were intended for flyposting on store windows.

It's something of an irony that two years earlier, Led Zeppelin - who, along with Pink Floyd, must have represented everything the Sex Pistols hated - had used ransom lettering on the inner sleeve of Physical Graffiti.

As to that title, there are two stories. Malcolm: "We were in a pub in Tottenham Court Road. We'd signed to Virgin and I was feeling very anxious as they were demanding an artwork for the album and we hadn't even come up with a title. Steve just said, 'Never mind all that b#llocks' and that was it." Jamie: "I was running through the (title) options with Steve Jones and John Varnom, marketing director of Virgin. Unimpressed by the suggestions Steve said, 'Never mind the b#llocks' ....

During the 1990s I remember seeing the album listed in the Warner Bros US trade catalogue as Never Mind the Bullocks. Hmm, and I thought it was just the Floyd who had cattle on their covers.

Source: Richard Evans - The Art of the Album Cover and How to Design Them
More: Sex Pistols CDs/Books page

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Image © Sex Pistols, Virgin.
Text © Richard Evans/Chartwell Books.
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