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It’s no secret that the Sex Pistols wreaked havoc everywhere they went, but it affected frontman John Lydon’s vacation plans. When he and the punk band decided to take a break from recording music, they planned to go to the Channel Islands off the coast of England. Given the Sex Pistols’ illustrious shenanigans, officials barred them from entering. Lydon couldn’t believe it, so he wrote a song about it.

Sex Pistols and John Lydon performing the band's last show in San Francisco in 1978.
Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones | Chris Walter/WireImage

Recording Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ was chaos, according to John Lydon

Lydon looked back at Never Mind the Bollocks for its 40th anniversary in 2017. He told Rolling Stone, “Bollocks was such a solid piece of work, yet when we were recording it, it felt anything but.”

Sex Pistols worked with a producer Lydon called “deaf in one ear and tone-deaf in the other.” The punk band also had to work quickly in the short time they had the studio booked. So, it was a bit chaotic.

During the recording of the Sex Pistols’ only album, the band decided to take a vacation. However, things never went to plan for the Sex Pistols.

After officials barred the Sex Pistols from entering the Channel Islands, Lydon wrote ‘Holidays in the Sun’

Sometime during the recording of Never Mind the Bollocks, the Sex Pistols agreed to take a vacation in the Channel Islands.

On the band’s website, Lydon said being in London at the time “made us feel like we were trapped in a prison camp environment. There was hatred and constant threat of violence. The best thing we could do was to go set up in a prison camp somewhere else.”

However, officials immediately rejected the punk band and barred them from entering, knowing chaos followed them like a bad smell.

“As Sex Pistols, we found ourselves banned just about everywhere,” Lydon told Rolling Stone. “They wouldn’t let us stay at any hotel. We marched up and down the beaches looking for somewhere to stay and the whole thing became really pathetic. We bumped into the local gang and the top boy accommodated us for one evening and then we left.”

Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook went home, but Lydon and bassist Sid Vicious didn’t want to return home without a vacation. So, they went to Berlin, Germany of all places, “because it was the maddest place to go,” and were accepted entry.

“Me and Sid were thinking, ‘Bloody hell, if we can’t get into somewhere as soft as the Channel Islands, let’s go find out what the Berlin Wall is about.’ And that whole experience was thrilling for me,” Lydon said.

The whole experience inspired Lydon to write “Holidays in the Sun.”

“It was great fun,” he continued. “It was us, from our side, looking over the wall and [the Germans] are pointing guns at us. We couldn’t get into East Berlin. They just took one look at us and went, ‘No.'”

Lydon continued on the band’s website, “I loved Berlin. I loved the wall and the insanity of the place. The communists looked in on the circus atmosphere of West Berlin, which never went to sleep, and that would be their impression of the West. I loved it.”


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Vicious got into a bar fight with The Jam’s Paul Weller over the song

After recording “Holidays in the Sun,” the Sex Pistols and Lydon realized it sounded similar to The Jam’s “In the City.” According to the band’s original bassist, Glen Matlock, Vicious went down to a famous London nightclub to pick a fight with the band’s Paul Weller. He didn’t emerge victorious.

“‘Holidays’ is a good song they wrote after I left,” Matlock told Rolling Stone. “There was a song by the Jam called ‘In the City’ [that it sounded like] and I know that Sid went down to the Speakeasy Club, which was the rock-star after hours club, and wound up Paul Weller, who is a mate of mine, about them having a song that’s very similar to the Jam song – and Paul bottled him. I’m on Paul’s side.”

Everything that Sex Pistols did ended up in chaos. However, some of punk’s best music somehow emerged from it all.