Album: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols
. . .
While “Pretty Vacant” was the third Sex Pistols single, it was actually written before either “Anarchy in the U.K.” or “God Save The Queen” And, at least according to his highly entertaining I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol, it was almost entirely written by Glen Matlock.
Apparently, the concept was inspired by Richard Hell’s “Blank Generation“, and the opening riff was inspired by ABBA’s “S.O.S.,” though as tarted up by Steve Jones, no one really made the connection at the time.
There’s no point in asking you’ll get no reply
Oh just remember I don’t decide
I got no reason it’s all too much
You’ll always find us out to lunch
It’s basically a take on the Sex Pistols being lazy sods, which was kind of ironic, given that it was written during a period where they were rehearsing nearly ever single day, but of course, it was more fun to come across like they were apathetic idiots, which some of them might have been.
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so pretty we’re vacant
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so pretty
And of course, because there had to be some kind of scandal, Rotten didn’t sing “a vayy-cannnt,” he very clearly sang “a vayyy-cunnnt,” which no amount of Steve Jones guitar distortion and Paul Cook drum rolling could hide. And later in the song, Rotten added a scabrous “and we don’t carrrrre” at the end of the chorus.
Don’t ask us to attend ’cause we’re not all there
Oh don’t pretend ’cause I don’t care
I don’t believe illusions, ’cause too much ain’t for real
Stop your cheap comments, ’cause we know what we feel
The lyrics were nearly all Matlock — which is at least partially why there aren’t as many of them as the other songs — except the immortal “stop your cheap comments, ’cause we know what we feel,” which was 100% Rotten.
Compared to the first two singles, “Pretty Vacant” is a relatively stripped-down song: there are soccer-chant backing vocals on the choruses, and naturally, there’s a great outro where they all — not Matlock, because he was gone by this time — chant “we’re pretty, pretty vacunt” a few times, but that’s about it. There’s not even a guitar solo. Still, the whole thing is the perfect Pistols combo of noise, melody and Rotten’s amazing vocals.
That said, “Pretty Vacant” followed “God Save The Queen” into the British top ten, maxing out at #6, and marked the Pistols as having one of the greatest pre-album run of singles ever.
“Pretty Vacant” live in Dallas, 1978
“Pretty Vacant” live on Late Show with David Letterman, 1996
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