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Sex Pistols Artworks: The Artist's Impression

Posted on 8 December 2016

Head of Department John Schofield publishes more insight into the significance of Sex Pistols artworks

John Schofield examines Sex Pistols graffitti at Demark Street. Photo credit: Ian Martindale

John Schofield, Head of Archaeology at the University of York, with Paul Graves-Brown of University College London, has published more insight into the significance of Sex Pistols artworks from 6 Denmark Street, a building occupied by the band in 1975-6.

In a paper in the journal Antiquity ( the authors present new evidence for the significance attached to the artworks by the artist himself – John Lydon (previously Johnny Rotten). It had previously been assumed the recognition of these artworks as ‘heritage’ of equivalent cultural significance to historic artworks would be ridiculed by Lydon – that he would, according to Janet Street-Porter, howl with laughter at the news that, “the flophouse where they recorded the demos for ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ was being turned into a listed building by Historic England because of its cultural significance.”

In fact, as the authors have established from interviews the BBC recently made with John Lydon, and their own conversations with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, they like the recognition. John Lydon notes in this new publication that he is not one for the museums. “I don’t like my stuff ever to be viewed that way”. But he goes on to recognise how, “there is a historical perspective to it”, and that, “If somebody sees my artwork as valid that’s fantastic to me. I am never ever going to shout them down on that”.

Lydon appears therefore to recognise the cultural value of these artworks. He also loved the idea that any preservation order placed on the building (as it now has been by Historic England, at Grade II*) would render this “the most awkward building in England”. Glen Matlock seemed to approve of the listing too. In an interview with the authors, he said that: “the designation is cool. It was a punk place but it was lots of other things before then. It’s about the whole place, Denmark Street, not only this building. There is loads of history. It should be cherished”.


Read the Antiquity article at