The Sex Pistols two and a half minute interview with Bill Grundy is one of the most notorious band interviews of all time. Broadcast on the 1st of December 1976, the live interview ‘that shocked a nation’ became the unofficial launch of the UK punk scene.
The live TV interview was the moment the British public was introduced to the Sex Pistols’ and punk music. The profanity-ladened interview shook the establishment. Questions were raised in Parliament, and the tabloid press went into overdrive.
The media created an image that a new snarling youth sub-culture was filling the streets of London. Angry teenagers were on the prowl, and everyone should be frightened… very frightened.
The media backlash was instant. “The Filth And The Fury” screamed the front page of the Daily Mirror the morning after the TV show aired. It reported that the ‘Today’ switchboard of the Thames TV teatime family show was jammed with calls from angry viewers.
The Sex Pistols’ interview with Bill Grundy is the most iconic British television ‘moment’ in history. Grundy introduces The Sex Pistols and their entourage, which included members of ‘Bromley Contingent’ (Siouxsie Sioux, Steven Severin, Simon’ Boy’ Barker and Simone Thomas) by stating, “they are as drunk as I am” – a statement that Grundy denied the rest of his life. However, as a known heavy drinker, his denial was not widely accepted.
Rotten, Jones and Cook looked uninterested from the outset. The responses he got from Matlock were almost monosyllabic. Grundy asks the band: “I am told… that that group… have received £40,000 from the record company. Doesn’t that seem, uh, to be slightly opposed to your anti-materialistic view of life?”
To which Matlock responds swiftly: “No, the more, the merrier.”
Steve Jones butts in with a “We fuckin’ spent it ain’t we?” Grundy didn’t seem to notice Jones’ swear word and responded, “I don’t know, have you?”
Grundy then facetiously compares their music to classical composers such as Beethoven and Mozart, which coaxes Rotten to speak up.
Rotten responds in his typically sarcastic manner, “They’re all heroes of ours, ain’t they? Oh yes, they’re wonderful people. They really turn us on!” The Johnny Rotten disdain hangs off every single syllable.
Grundy’s next question throws the cat amongst the kittens. He asks Rotten, “What if they turn other people on?” to which Lydon says, “That’s just their tough shit!” That single word started the fire!
Asked to repeat himself by Grundy, who again acted like a teacher losing control of his class, Rotten defiantly says: “Nothing, rude word! Next question.”
Noticing that the entourage hasn’t yet said anything, Grundy turns to those standing behind the band. He asks Siouxsie Sioux and Thomas, “What about you girls, behind? Are you worried, or are you just enjoying yourself?” Siouxsie responds with “enjoying myself”.
Sioux then says, “I’ve always wanted to meet you”, to which Grundy, seemingly excited by the response from the young Siouxsie, responds, “Did you really? We’ll meet afterwards, shall we?”
The band saw this as sexual innuendo, and Jones calls him a “dirty sod” and a “dirty old man”. Knowing that the show was coming to a close, Grundy challenged Jones to “say something outrageous.” Jones happily obliged by calling Grundy a “dirty bastard” and “dirty fucker”.
When Grundy remarks, “what a clever boy!”, Jones appends with “what a fucking rotter!”, Grundy can be seen mouthing “oh shit” as the credits roll and the group start dancing to the theme tune.
As the credits rolled, the interview had become a national scandal. Grundy was suspended for two weeks for a “gross error of judgement” and “inexcusably sloppy journalism”. The television regulator, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, accepted the argument of Thames Television that Grundy could not have prevented the incident.
The show ‘Today‘ was cancelled only two months later. Grundy’s career was left in tatters, and the Sex Pistols became punk rock legends overnight!
Watch the clip below.
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