We Explore The Weird Forgotten Feud Between Queen and Sex Pistols
via Queen Official / Youtube
While punk drew inspiration from glam rock’s luminaries like Roxy Music, David Bowie, and T. Rex, the two genres stood at opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Sex Pistols, the torchbearers of punk, were known for their raw, straightforward compositions and rebellious ethos. In contrast, Queen epitomized glam rock with its flamboyant style, intricate compositions, and less overt political inclinations.
The clash between Queen and the Sex Pistols took center stage in December 1976, as glam rock made way for punk.
Queen was scheduled to appear on the talk show Today, but a last-minute dental emergency for Freddie Mercury forced the band to withdraw. The unexpected vacancy led to the Sex Pistols stepping in, marking their initial encounter with Queen.
John Lydon, the frontman for Sex Pistols, recalled a peculiar moment during this time in a 2017 Rolling Stone interview, “Next door, Queen was recording one of their albums, and Brian May asked me if I would do some backing vocals on their album. I don’t remember which song; it’s not the ‘Galileo’ one. But I went in, and it was amazing to hear the way that Freddie [Mercury] recorded every line separately – sometimes just a word – and then they’d edit them.”
Despite their musical differences, Queen and the Sex Pistols found themselves sharing studio space in London between March and August 1977.John Lydon expressed his awe at Queen’s meticulous recording process, highlighting Freddie Mercury’s precision.
Brian May, guitarist for Queen, revealed in a 2017 Classic Rock interview that the band was somewhat insulated from the punk movement. However, drummer Roger Taylor served as their punk liaison, embodying the punk attitude.
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While May had no personal issue with Lydon, he expressed disdain for Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, referring to him as a “moron” and “idiot.”
The animosity stemmed from an altercation between Vicious and Mercury, with Vicious mocking Mercury’s ballet aspirations.
In his book “Queen Unseen,” longtime Queen roadie Peter Hince recounted the incident, “Fred casually got up, walked over to him and quipped: ‘Aren’t you Stanley Ferocious or something?,’ took him by the collar and threw him out. So much for the mean edge of punk.”
Mercury, in a 1980s interview, reminisced about the spat,“I called him Simon Ferocious or something, and he didn’t like it at all. I said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ He was very well marked. I think we survived that test.”
Despite the tensions, the rift between Queen and the Sex Pistols gradually faded, especially after Vicious’s death in 1979. In a 2017 interview with Steve Jones on Jonesy’s Jukebox, Brian May acknowledged the impact of both bands on the music landscape, emphasizing the greatness of both “Never Mind The Bollocks” and Queen’s “News Of The World.”
The Queen-Pistols feud remains a peculiar footnote in rock history, a moment when the worlds of glam and punk collided before paving their distinct paths.