Sunday, October 8, 1995

Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here's the Bollocks

ANNOUNCER: At last, the band had a name. The Bollocks. What they lacked was an identity. Were they glam rockers, session men, unemployed? Who knew? It would take a serendipitous appearance at an East End club in early 1974 to find their identity -- and give birth to punk rock.

Nasty Chunderton, the seminal Bollock, recalls the events of that night.

NASTY: We hadn't eaten in four months. That cave was badly designed.


NASTY: The exits were not clearly marked. They didn't have those glowing red signs that say "Exit."

ANNOUNCER: Tell us about the club.

NASTY: Shiny place, very trendy. Not at all like a cave. We was behind this, like, vending apparatus, me and me brothers -- right at the back. Nigel and Rigel set about trying to tip the thing for the purpose of nicking a few of them flat marshmallow tasty cakes, whatever the fook you call 'em. Had a picture of the fooking moon on it.

ANNOUNCER: Moon pies?

NASTY: Nah, I don't think that's it. Anyway. So they're rattling, I'm watching the stage.

ANNOUNCER: The first act?

NASTY: Wouldn't call it an act, mate. Strictly amature night. This fooking sing-along contest. They had this, like, new machine from Japan.


NASTY: Nah, that ain't it. Point is, we're professional musicians. But we had to wait for the fooking amatures all done up with glitter on their faces. Lads mostly. Bit of a glam crowd.

ANNOUNCER: Quite an insult.

NASTY: Yeah, well. Into every life some shit must fall. Sometimes you dodge it. Sometimes you eat it.

ANNOUNCER: This was one of those times.

NASTY: Yeah. This was our big break, see. Management -- a balding gent resembling Mr. Toad -- had graciously agreed to put us on after the singalong if we promised not expose ourselves.

ANNOUNCER: That's what he told you?

NASTY: No! That's what he said! Anyway. There we were, behind all these David Bowie clones without the talent. When they shut up, we go on. So we wait. Picture it. Three starving punks -- before there was even a word for punks -- shoved as far to the back as Mr. Toad could shove us. If the universe had an arsehole, we were in it. Like a fooking boozwah singularity, know what I'm saying?

ANNOUNCER: Yes, of course.

NASTY: You do? Or are you just fooking saying that 'cause you're a fooking music critic and you want me to keep talking for your fooking documentary freak show?

ANNOUNCER: The former.

NASTY smashes a beer bottle on the table and holds out the jagged end.

NASTY: What was I saying?

ANNOUNCER: You were a suppository of authenticity in a black hole of social pretension.

NASTY: Yeah. (laughs - a symphony of bronchial damage) Just testing. (drops beer bottle) So, my brothers are shaking the trapezoidal box of insta-snacks, I'm watching the stage -- as much as I could see over the back of all these heads. I'm waiting me turn, waiting for the fooking singalong to end. Then, hello. The lad at the front starts doing that Mott the Hoople song. Y'know? The one Bowie wrote.

ANNOUNCER: "All the Young Dudes."

NASTY: No. that ain't the one. (sings) "Lalala. All the young dudes. Boogaloo tunes."

ANNOUNCER: Yes. "All the Young Dudes."

NASTY: Oh. Pardon me, sir. I thought I was telling the story.


NASTY: "Lalala." Rattle-rattle-rattle. On and on it went. Had to piss, y'know? Had like three pints in me saying, like, hello, you must return us to the stream of life to renew the cycle of beer. But I'm a right zen master I am. I showed my bladder who was boss. Where was I?

ANNOUNCER: You were describing the birth of punk.

NASTY: Funk?

ANNOUNCER: Punk. Punk rock.

NASTY: Right. Yeah. Anyway ...(thinks hard) So I'm watching the stage and waiting me turn like a fine young idiot. Then ...


NASTY: Yeah then. Not now. Then.


NASTY: Then, (thinks) Yeah. All of a sudden, I notice the robot singalong is going over its allotted time. My blood boils. I'm ready to crack skulls. But me mates are getting nervous. Apparently, they'd just crushed the Maitre D' under the vending machine. Even so, the fooking singalong won't end. On and on it went.

ANNOUNCER: How did that make you feel?

NASTY: I experienced the urge to kill. But in a creative sort of way.

ANNOUNCER: A creative urge to destroy.

NASTY: Not at all. No. The urge to destroy. Creatively. It's not the same thing. Then, out of nowhere, I hear a song in me head. Plain as day.

ANNOUNCER: Ah. And that's the moment you took the stage?

NASTY: No. That's the moment Mr. Toad bursts out of his back room where he's been counting his money. Starts screaming at us, totally hysterical. "You goddamn punks! You killed my Maitre D'!" etcetera. "Punks" he keeps calling us. Repeating himself. "Get out, you fooking punks! Get out of my fooking club -- fooking punks! We don't need your punk rock!" The glam lads agreed. We were beaten, choked and subjected to personal abuse -- and we'd never even played a bloody note! I gave as good as I got but they fooking outnumbered us.

ANNOUNCER: Then what happened?

NASTY: Out in the alley, Nigel looks at me. "Well, he says." "Guess we know who we are now." "Who are we then?" says I. "We're punk rockers," he says. Kinda laughs a bit. Then his eyes rolled back in his head. I set the bar on fire and we got on the bus.

ANNOUNCER: And went on to create your first punk recording.

NASTY: No. We left the UK. That fooking snack machine was badly designed -- but who gets blamed? The bloody engineer?

ANNOUNCER: The band.

NASTY: Exactly mate. Fooking manslaughter, eh? It's bad for your career.

ANNOUNCER: What did you do?

NASTY: What any band would do who'd crushed a restaurant employee beneath a vending machine and angered a crowd of glam rockers. We changed our names and went to New York City. The flight was terrible. We get off the plane at LaGuardia, and there's this thing you sign. Name, occupation. Know what I put down?

ANNOUNCER: Punk rocker.

NASTY: Spot on. Had a bit of a laugh about it. A month or so later we hit the clubs. Imagine our surprise when the term caught on. Some fooker at the airport must've seen what I wrote and blabbed about it. Now they were all fooking punk rockers.

ANNOUNCER: Punk rock was raw. No one had ever cooked it. Punk rock was a statement of rage. Rage and disrespect. And a sense of humor. Humor distinctly British. Clever, sarcastic, cynical, self-aware, bitter and looking over its shoulder for the truncheon that will, inevitably, hit. Rooted in the class system. As British as the Union Jack, the Lion and the Unicorn, or diarrhea.

Unfortunately, punk rock had been born in America.

Nigel remembers.


NIGEL: (still with bandages on his face) Well, there we were in New York. The city I mean, not the state. They're not the same thing, it's very confusing. (takes drag on cigarette) A week later, we were actually living in the factory.

ANNOUNCER: Andy Warhol's Factory?

NIGEL: No, just a factory. I think they made clamps or catheters or something.

ANNOUNCER: Before too long Andy Warhol, in fact, did notice the Bollocks. He filmed them -- the only surviving film from their New York period. An eight hour and 17 minute sequence.

Black and white footage. It's silent. The Bollocks sing. In the background, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and Ultra Violet watch. Lou Reed sneers and says something snotty to Andy Warhol, who snickers. Ralph Nasty leaps off stage and they fight.

ANNOUNCER: Sadly, it was an art film. No sound recording exists.

Rigel also remembers.


RIGEL: Impact. You want me to talk about impact? (he hits his head on the table) That's impact.

ANNOUNCER: I'll pay you ten pounds.


ANNOUNCER: New York City, 1975.

RIGEL: Yeah. I was sitting in CBGBs, that's this shitty bar in New York City with great music. Or perhaps the other way around. I dunno. That whole period is a blur in my mind. All I know is ... I had a three-day hangover and a case of the crabs. A woman with breasts like a pre-Raphaelite goddess had given me a bowl of blue pills. I'd been popping them for hours like candy. Turns out they was candy. Three hours later, I come down with a severe case of insulin shock, on account of I'm a diabetic. What was I saying?


RIGEL: Yeah, right. I'm sitting at this table. (thinks) Ralph starts putting his hand in the candle like J. Gordon Liddy. This band starts playing. The Morons or the Ramones or something. I'm thinking, hang on, the lyrics, if you translate 'em into coherent thought, that's the bleeding class system all over. In the name of everything holy, why are these bleeding Mexicans singing about the British class system? I mentioned this fact to Ralph. He started a sodding fight on the spot. Joey Ramone broke my ribs. But he lost three teeth in the process.

ANNOUNCER: Later, that night, the Ballocks returned to their hotel and collapsed. Nigel recalls the incident vividly.

NIGEL: Rigel was passed out on the floor. His head was lying in a pool of vomit. I moved it to a pool of urine. Then I spotted a notebook in the pool of excrement emerging from his trousers. I picked it up, washed it off and dried it with a hair drier. Then I noticed he'd written something.

ANNOUNCER: What had he written?

NIGEL: Lyrics, mate. The lyrics to a song. Bit redundant, I suppose. You say lyrics, by definition it's a song. You don't write the lyrics to a story, do you?

ANNOUNCER: What was the name of the song?

NIGEL: The name of the song?

NIGEL smiles, takes a drag on his cigarette.

NIGEL: "God Sod the Queen," mate.

ANNOUNCER: Yes, thanks to the toxic effects of high blood sugar and a severe head concussion, Rigel Chunderton had written the lyrics to "God Sod the Queen." After recovering from their injuries, the Bollocks returned to the UK. But not to a hero's welcome.

ANNOUNCER: Nigel knew the lyrics were groundbreaking, if incomprehensible. He showed them to his best friend, Johnny Rotten, along with a demo tape. His only copy. Nigel recalls the incident.


NIGEL: Tell me what you think, I asked him. Read it, Johnny. Play it. Sleep on it. If you like, show it to Sid Vicious. But no one else. Know what he said?


NIGEL: "Hey. You can trust me." That's what he said.

ANNOUNCER: Nigel did trust him. But it wasn't a good idea.

NIGEL: Johnny stabbed me in the fooking back. Stole my best material. Johnny was rotten, he was. I suppose that's where he got the name. (takes drag on cigarette) As may be ... I shoulda known better. The demise of the Bollocks is all my fault. Me brothers have never forgiven me for it.

RIGEL: Yeah, it's true.

NASTY: We do sodding hate him. Yeah.

RIGEL: He hands Mr. Rotten the tape. Next thing we know, that sodding "NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, WE'RE THE SEX PISTOLS" is up in every record store from one end of the UK to the other. We're a laughing stock. The fans turned against us, ripped down our posters, smashed our records. Radio stations banned us; the clubs won't touch us -- all afraid of McLaren's lawyers.

RALPH: All our best stuff was essentially illegal. We couldn't sing our own fooking songs! Except we did. Fook the law eh? "God Sod the Queen."

ANNOUNCER: And when was your first UK performance of God Sod the Queen?

NASTY: 1978, I think. With the Clash. It was part of that film he was making, Joe Strummer, you know. Outdoor concert thing. Some bits about a roadie. I forget the name of the film.


NASTY: Nah, that ain't it. They cut our scene before they even released the sodding film -- just cut the Bollocks right off! That movie went out with no Bollocks at all! Legal difficulties, eh? Malcolm McLaren sussed it out and put his lawyers on 'em. Sodding McLaren. It was our best performance ever, mate. We were touched by God.

ANNOUNCER: Now, tonight, you can judge for yourselves. For the first time on television, we will show this lost performance footage in its entirety. Be advised that this sequence does contain obscenities. Parents and sensitive viewers may wish to shield their ears from the fucking bad words.

Black and white footage with subtitles.

The Bollocks perform spastically --

"God Sod the Queen"

God sod the queen
She's older than Michael Caine's schween

God sod the queen, she ain't 18.
She watches "Monty Python" while England screams

I'll tell you what to do. Don't be told what to do.
Your only future is airplane glue.

God sod the queen. You know it would be keen.
Wrinkled figureheads of state. Make the Man upstairs cream.

No future for me. No future for you.
No future for the man.
Flashing monkeys in the zoo.
No future, no future, though possibly an eternal present.
But no future.
According to Einstein, the past might exist.
As a theoretical reference frame.
On a four-dimensional axis
But getting back to my original point.
No future, though that might change in the future.
God sod the queen.

ANNOUNCER: "God Sod the Queen." It could've been the rock anthem of a generation. It wasn't.

NIGEL: No future. Bit of a laugh. For us, that was true. (takes drag on cigarette) Knock-knock. Who's there? A summons.

NASTY: Yeah. They fined us and charged us for all our illegal performances of our own material. $20 million pounds! I didn't own a sodding toothbrush! McClaren, that fucker. He ruined our fooking lives.

RIGEL: Ralph tried to kill him.

RALPH: Allegedly. (smiles) McLaren, that sodding rip-off artist. "God Sod the Queen" weren't the only thing he stole. That bastard snuck a miniature tape recorder in the cave and captured our whole session. Hid the fooking device in a stuffed bear. Very much like this one.

He holds up an eviscerated PADDINGTON BEAR, stomach ripped open, stuffing spilling out.

ANNOUNCER: You never attacked Johnny Rotten?

NASTY: Nah. He's a little shit. But that's just the way he was.

ANNOUNCER: But -- to set the record straight -- you did try to murder Malcolm McClaren?

NASTY: Well. Trying ain't good enough, is it?

ANNOUNCER: Tragically, Ralph Nasty attacked Marshall McLuhan by mistake. The noted Canadian media critic survived. Ralph Nasty spent ten years in prison and was released. He immediately tried to kill Canadian stop-motion animator, Norman McClaren, and was sent to prison for another ten years. Paroled again in 1993, Nasty went on to write his best-selling memoir, "Bollocks to You," followed by "Swift Kick to the Bollocks" and "Cooking with the Bollocks."

RIGEL: Nigel and me got straight jobs. I pursued a career in particle physics. He became a dentist.

Nigel smiles toothlessly.

ANNOUNCER: Today, the Chunderton Brothers have moved on. But they remain bitter. In their hearts, they remain Bollocks. And the Bollocks are sore. They're angry Bollocks, filled with throbbing pain.

RIGEL: That whole period of our lives. The punk era. The movement we bloody created. Like a dream it was. Total sodding waste.

NIGEL: Nah, not a total waste. We did cut a record.

NIGEL holds it up.


ANNOUNCER: How many did you cut?

NIGEL: One. Like I said, we cut a record. This is it mate. The only copy. It's extremely valuable.

ANNOUNCER: No it isn't.

NASTY: Yeah, it is. And you're gonna sodding buy it, mate. (slams a stack of paperbacks on the table.) And me fooking books as well. Get out your sodding checkbook.

He does.

ANNOUNCER: This is Alastair Rathbone for the BBC.

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