On this date, 43 years ago, workers at EMI records went on strike, refusing to package the Sex Pistols single “Anarchy in the U.K.”.
Leslie Hill, EMI’s managing director, had signed the Sex Pistols in October 1976, landing the fiercest figures of England’s burgeoning punk movement. Reportedly, EMI and Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren agreed on a £40,000 signing bonus for the band and planned to release its debut single in the immediate future. The label was good to its word, putting out the brazen “Anarchy in the U.K.” in November. The relationship began to sour shortly afterwards.
The problems began as “Anarchy” was being manufactured. Certain employees at EMI pressing plants refused to handle the Sex Pistols’ single, due to the provocative name of the group, the language in the song’s lyrics and the band’s general sentiment.
That issue was compounded by the Pistols’ appearance on 2 December on Thames Television’s Today program, during which band members John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon and Steve Jones got into a row with host Bill Grundy and said a number of expletives on live television. Due to the media rage over the incident, the band became an overnight sensation.
“Because of the outrage in the press, there were ladies at the factory who said: ‘We aren’t going to handle the records’,” EMI’s Hill remembered in Sex Pistols: The Inside Story. “Now that was why the records weren’t available for some time … the shops didn’t have it.”
On 6 January 1977 EMI ended its contract. The quartet – Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Sid Vicious-had only served three months of the two-year contract and release one single, “Anarchy in the UK”.
The song “E.M.I.” mocks the label for wanting to cash in on the growing punk phenomenon and sign the band, only to drop them when the group’s antics damaged the label’s reputation.
Digital magazine Paste called the song “the group’s middle finger salute aimed at the record industry and label that fired them out of fear of their lyric content”.
Sources: Wikipedia, Diffused, BBC.
Featured image via BT.