March 10, 1977: Sex Pistols Short-Lived Label Deal

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Sex Pistols “sign” their A&M Records contract in front of the Queen’s palace.

It was one of the shortest record deals in the history of the music business, lasting a mere six days. Yet it certainly served the rebellious seminal punk band well in terms of money and PR value.

EMI Records had already dropped the Sex Pistols from their roster after releasing one single, “Anarchy in the U.K.” The band appeared on the Thames Television program Today during which singer Johnny Rotten and guitarist Steve Jones had used obscenities during a live broadcast full of testy exchanges with host Bill Grundy. The national furor – including a famous Daily Mirror newspaper front page headline that blared, “The Filth and the Fury!” – prompted EMI to sever its deal with the group.

Independent label A&M then snatched the Pistols up. The actual contract had been signed the day before. But band manager Malcolm McLaren arranged to stage a “signing” on this day in front of Buckingham Palace to help promote the band’s new single “God Save The Queen,” a scathing slam of the monarchy coinciding with Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.

The stunt came off without a hitch. But the celebrations back at the record company’s office were a completely different matter. Bassist Sid Vicious smashed a toilet in a bathroom, in the process cutting himself, and trailed blood around the offices. Rotten had introduced himself to most of the staff by aggressively spewing obscenities, Jones had sex with a woman in another bathroom. Their barbaric behavior terrorized many A&M employees. The label’s Los Angeles home office and some of their top acts were outraged. So in less than a week, the Sex Pistols were now dropped from their second record label.

Related: See where the Sex Pistols rank on our list of 20 classic punk rock songs

The band got to keep their £75,000 advance (more than $125,000 U.S. at the time). The label had already pressed up 25,000 copies of the “God Save The Queen” single, and destroyed most all of them. But the few copies that survived have become some of the most valuable collector’s records ever, one of them selling for $25,000 in a Sotheby’s auction in 2014.

Related: Album Rewind: Never Mind the Bollocks

John Lydon was a guest on Conan on March 9, 2017 to promote his new book and shared a story about helping to increase British butter sales. You can’t make this stuff up.

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