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, EMIâs managing director, had signed the Sex Pistols in October 1976, landing the fiercest figures of Englandâs burgeoning punk movement. Reportedly, EMI and Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren agreed on a Â£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 âAnarchy in the U.K.â in November. The relationship began to sour shortly afterwards.
The problems began as âAnarchyâ was being manufactured. Certain employees at EMI pressing plants refused to handle the Sex Pistolsâ single, due to the provocative name of the group, the language in the songâs lyrics and the bandâs general sentiment.
That issue was compounded by the Pistolsâ appearance on 2 December on Thames Television’s Today program, during which band members John âJohnny Rottenâ 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.
âBecause of the outrage in the press, there were ladies at the factory who said: âWe arenât going to handle the recordsâ,â EMIâs Hill remembered in Sex Pistols: The Inside Story. âNow that was why the records werenât available for some time â¦ the shops didnât have it.â
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.