The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle review by Sex Pistols

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  • Released: Feb 26, 1979
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 8.6 (5 votes)
Sex Pistols: The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle

Sound — 7
The Sex Pistols' de-facto second album can be roughly split up into 3 parts: rarities, new tracks and novelty pieces. After vocalist Johnny Rotten left the band in January 1978, band manager Malcolm McLaren took the rest of the band down to Brazil to record some new songs, which may or may not have been written prior to Johnny's departure.

Lyrics — 6
Things start off with Malcolm's tale of how the Sex Pistols were a scheme to swindle the whole rock and roll industry, peppered with numerous embellishments (which he may or may not have actually believed). The cover of "Rock and Roll Around the Clock" is fun if only for the loud girly shouts. Next up is the band's cover of Chuck Berry's classic "Johnny B. Goode," to which Johnny doesn't know the words. Eventually the song segues into a cover of the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" at Johnny's request. Funnily enough, he doesn't know the words to this one, either, resorting to having drummer Paul Cook shout out the lyrics to him. It's a funny novelty (with great recording quality for a live track), but it doesn't merit more than 2 or 3 listens. The song "Black Arabs" (done by the band of the same name) is a disco medley of several Pistols classics. A raw demo of "Anarchy in the UK" is present here. Johnny doesn't quite seem to have perfected his signature snarl at this point, but the guitar chaos near the end is a nice touch. The next decent track here is "Silly Thing," a new Pistols song. Though it sounds a bit derivative of past efforts (making me wonder if even a follow-up to Never Mind the Bollocks with Johnny would have been worthwhile), the track is decent enough, with a catchy group chorus. Sure, the singer lacks personality, but who could match Mr. Rotten? The cover of the Who's classic "Substitute" completely butchers the song to hilarious effect. "Don't Give Me No Lip, Child has a funky intro bass line, but the whole effort feels a little underdeveloped. The cover of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" is decent, though lacking in the ferocity of the definitive Minor Threat version that would come a few years later. "Lonely Boy" is a decent update on 50's rock and roll. It sounds more or less like a New York Dolls ripoff. "Something Else" is an Eddie Cochran cover sung by Sid Vicious here. He actually manages to inflect a bit of charisma into his performance here, improving an otherwise dull cover. "L'Anarchie Pour Le UK" is another completely pointless Malcolm novelty - a polka cover of "Anarchy in the UK." Malcolm's "funny" songs are hit or miss (with an emphasis on miss). Two covers of "Belsen Was a Gas," originally written by Sid for the Flowers of Romance make an appearance here. The first is a demo quality recording with Johnny taking lead. The second has the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs taking the mic. The song's basic riff is also slightly changed up. "No One is Innocent" is another decent new punk rocker, though hardly special. Really, it's the group choruses on these new tracks that make them stick out at all. Sid's classic cover of Frank Sinatra's syrupy "My Way" (originally featured on his sole solo effort, Sid Sings) is here. The song starts off with strings and gentle arpeggiated guitar chords before Sid's hilariously bad vocals come in. The song eventually transistions into a slightly altered version of Sid's punker "I Killed the Cat." It gets an 11/10 for the pure fun of it, though it drags a bit too long for my liking. "C'Mon Everybody" is another Eddie Cochran cover, again sang well by Sid. The band sounds a bit more energetic on this one, making it the superior cover. After the pointless classical arrangement of "EMI," we get the title track, arguably the best new song here. Though essentially a rewrite of "No One is Innocent," this one name-drops numerous rock stars and makes use of the Sex Pistols' trademark "offensive" lyrics (one of the few tracks here to do so, I might add). The song is fun, though a bit overlong. Malcolm's dull classic pop parody "You Need Hands" (complete with strings) fails to evoke even a chuckle from this reviewer. He would later issue the song as a single to start off his own musical career. Needless to say, it didn't do well. The Steve Jones-sung sea chanty "Friggin' in the Riggin" doesn't fare much better.

Overall Impression — 7
Originally released as a double-vinyl album, the nearly 80 minutes of The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle begins to wear down on even the most fanatic Pistols fan. Though the album cover says "Sex Pistols," think of it more as an effort by "Malcolm McLaren occasionally featuring member of the Sex Pistols." True to it's name, the album is a bit of a swindle, what with only a handful of actual Sex Pistols tracks present. The compilation Kiss This: The Best of the Sex Pistols collects the best tracks from this album in addition to Never Mind the Bollocks in it's entirety and a few other essential tracks. Pick that one up instead.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    good review totally agree that Kiss This is the album to go for but a copy of this on vinyl is worth it
    Good review, "Kiss This" is probably more listener friendly but a copy of this on vinyl is very worth it
    i did have acopy on vinyl i lost it though id say about 4 tracks are ok belsen was a gas was set to be released with johnny singing it prior to the split the rest of the stuff is not bad for comedy relief
    belsen was a gas with johnny on this album was from winterland.
    i bought this album over the summer and i actually like it. i especially like sid's songs. i tried watching the movie tho, and it wuzn't any good.