Sex Pistols turned down Olympics performance because organisers wanted to censor songs


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The Independent Culture

The Sex Pistols turned down an invitation to perform at the Olympics’ opening ceremony because the organisers wanted to censor one of their most famous songs, John Lydon has revealed.

The Pistols were asked to perform their 1977 single Pretty Vacant but Lydon, formerly Johnny Rotten, would not have been allowed to sing “vacant”, with his provocative emphasis on the final syllable.

“They tried to get us involved in the Olympics,” Lydon confirmed. “What they wanted was, they’re going to do this thing where celebrities go around the stadium on the back of flat-top lorries.

“So there will be Naomi Campbell in a Vivienne Westwood dress, followed by Madness doing ‘Baggy Trousers’, and then the Pistols doing ‘Pretty Vacant’. But without the ‘vay-cunt’, just ‘pretty’ and the word ‘censored’.

Lydon’s answer to the Locog organising committee was “‘no fucking way.’ Don’t need it, don’t want it,” he told the NME.

The punk star, 56, will play no part in the Summer’s festivities after this week saying that he wants no part in a web campaign to get a 35th anniversary re-release of The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen to number one during the week of the Diamond Jubilee.

The Closing Ceremony, called A Symphony Of British Music, would have followed the example of the 2006 Super Bowl half-time show, during which the NFL muted Sir Mick Jagger’s microphone to mask “suggestive lyrics” in the band’s songs Start Me Up and Rough Justice.

Although describing the censorship as “absolutely ridiculous and completely unnecessary”, the band complied.

The incident echoed the band's performance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, when the host demanded the Stones change the lyrics to Let’s Spend the Night Together. As ordered, Jagger sang “let's spend some time together,” but he rolled his eyes for effect.