Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook were regulars at a boutique owned by their manager, Malcolm McLaren; bassist Glen Matlock worked at the store. Vocalist John Lydon, who would later perform under the name Johnny Rotten, met the rest of the group at the shop and was asked to join the band. While the band played simple rock & roll loudly and abrasively, Rotten arrogantly sang of anarchy, abortion, violence, fascism, and apathy; without Rotten, the band wouldn't have been threatening to England's government -- he provided the band's conceptual direction, calculated to be as confrontational and threatening as possible. The publicity caused by their caustic first single "Anarchy in the U.K." caused the band to be dropped by their record label, EMI. Matlock was fired before their next single "God Save the Queen," which was released on Virgin; it was banned by the BBC. Matlock's replacement was Sid Vicious, a tough street kid who, unlike the rest of the band, couldn't play his instrument.
After releasing one album, Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols, in 1977, the band headed over to the U.S. for a tour in January of 1978; it lasted 14 days. Rotten left the band after their show at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom on January 14, heading back to New York; he would form Public Image Limited later that year. McLaren tried to continue the band but Cook and Jones soon turned against him. In the two decades following the Sex Pistols' implosion, an endless stream of outtakes, demos, repackagings, and live shows were released on a variety of labels, which only helped their cult grow.
In 1996, to celebrate their impending 20th anniversary, the Sex Pistols reunited, with original bassist Glen Matlock taking the place of the deceased Sid Vicious. The band embarked on an international tour in June of 1996, releasing the Filthy Lucre Live album the following month. Four years later, Julien Temple (who helmed the band's first movie, The Great Rock & Roll Swindle) directed the documentary film The Filth & the Fury. In 2016, the Sex Pistols' organization signed a deal with Universal Music to handle distribution of the group's catalog outside of North America. In what may have been a belated effort to ward off the extensive bootlegging of the band's live shows and demos, Universal's first Sex Pistols release was Live 1976, a four-disc box set documenting four shows the group played between June and September 1976, as recorded by their soundman Dave Goodman. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine