Sex Pistols artwork on display at King's Manor

Posted on 9 January 2017

The artwork is available to view in the Common Room

In 1975-6 members of the Sex Pistols—Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock (soon to be replaced by Sid Vicious), Steve Cook and Paul Jones—lived in the upstairs room of an annex behind 6 Denmark ​Street in London​. The street—known as​ "Tin-pan Ally"—has deep musical roots—David Bowie reportedly lived in a camper van, the Rolling Stones recorded here, as did Elton John in the early days. The NME had its offices in the street. In 1975 the Sex Pistols were trail-blazers for a very British (even English) punk movement. They were anti-establishment, proclaimed that there was "no future in England’s dreaming", and had little regard for the musicians who preceded them. When asked by Janet Street-Porter for London Weekend Television who were his heroes, Johnny replied that he didn’t have any – ‘they are all useless’. It seems a strange contradiction therefore that they are now part of the Denmark Street story, and even stranger that the building in which they lived is a ​​Grade II* listed building.

​Downstairs in the annex was a recording and rehearsal space. Here songs that later comprised one of the best-known albums in British musical history were rehearsed and shaped. These rough cuts were later released on the Sex Pistols'​ Spunk album, capturing the Pistols at their most pared back, at their angriest, and arguably at their energetic best.

Upstairs four young men, overseen by svengali manager Malcolm McLaren, lived and played. And clues to their lives remain on the walls, having survived for many years under wallpaper. Many of the main characters from this time are depicted, along with words and slogans. Jah Wobble is here, John Tiberi (producer of Never Mind the Bollocks), Sid and Nancy, Malcolm and Johnny himself. ​The images displayed here represent a part of this collection of murals and graffiti, most if not all penned by Johnny himself.​

John Schofield and Paul-Graves-Brown visited Denmark Street to record the artworks in 2010, publishing their findings in the journal Antiquity in 2011. ​A follow-up article appeard in Antiquity in 2016—https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2016.217.​​

A selection of photographs of these artworks (by Ian Martindale) are now being exhibited in the Common Room in King's Manor, forty years after they were made. They represent a significant landmark in Britain's musical and cultural history.