Sunday, November 08, 2009

Never Mind the Bollocks

I started to write a blog a while ago - 'On this day in 1977, the 28th October, Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols was released.' But then I became distracted and didn't get round to it. But I'm still sort of thinking about the Sex Pistols anyway, because they were such a big influence on me.

I don't think I'd have ever got up the confidence to write novels if it hadn't been for the Sex Pistols. My school, a Glasgow comprehensive, was reasonably good at teaching grammar, spelling, sentence construction, and so on. Which is a good thing. If you want to write, it helps if you can put a sentence together properly. But my school was very bad at giving working class kids the confidence to do anything with it. I can safely say that I was never encouraged by anyone at school to be creative in any way. At the time, authors, like proper rock musicians, seemed like a different class of people.

It might not ever have occurred to me to try writing books myself, if the Sex Pistols hadn't come along. The punk rock spirit of do-it-yourself, and having confidence in your own abilities, which they brought with them, were very influential. Life-changing, in fact. I started writing immediately, and this spirit of punk rock lingered in Britain for a long time afterwards. Long enough for me to still be thinking about it in 1984, when I wrote Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation.

I bought Never Mind The Bollocks on the day it was released. I already had the four singles it contained, also bought when they were first released. I still have them, apart from my original copy of Anarchy in the UK, from November 1976, which was unfortunately stolen a long time ago, in one of the many squats I lived in in Brixton at the end of the 70s.

Another memory of Never Mind the Bollocks - when it was released, there was actually a court case. Some retailers in Nottingham were prosecuted for obscenity, for displaying the album cover, because it said 'bollocks' Even at the time, everyone knew this was ridiculous. Why the police and public prosecution service ever got involved in it remains a mystery to me. When the case was thrown out of court, as it inevitably was, they'd succeeded only in making themselves look stupid. Though they did give the Sex Pistols a huge amount of free publicity.

The word bollocks has never really been an obscenity, being only quite a minor expletive, though it does remain quite popular in the Millar household. It is, for instance, often uttered during the course of my many household accidents, like smashing plates, or kicking over the teapot which I've carelessly left on the floor. It was said repeatedly - with some harsher words thrown in - in the aftermath of the recent 'getting out of the bath' disaster, an incident too distressing for me to give a full account. (But how, after a life-time of carefully protecting my groin, can I suddenly whack myself in the balls? It defies belief.)

On these occasions, there is nothing to do but retire to the couch, and play on my PlayStation. I've been doing this a lot recently, having discovered that there were two sequels to Prince of Persia. Am currently swashbuckling my way through Warrior Within, though I've come to something of a standstill, due to repeatedly being slaughtered in single combat by the Empress of Time. But this is not really a fair fight. I mean, the Empress of Time looks like this -



And it's quite distracting. The Empress's underhand tactics of revealing huge cleavage are very off-putting. I'm sure this is the reason she keeps defeating me. I may be stuck on this level for some time. And when you consider that the Prince of Persia, earlier in the game, also has to fight Shahdee, who looks like this -



- then you can see that the whole thing is very difficult. But perhaps the Prince is going about things in the wrong way? Surely he should not be engaging in combat with these women? Were it me, I'd try and reach some sort of understanding, and would not be waving a sword at them.

9 comments:

  1. Years ago, when I was an innocent young colonial girl, I came to live in England for a while. Working behind a bar, I heard 'bollocks' quite a lot and I thought - "What a great almost swear word to use". Then I said it in front of someone and got into trouble for using a 'very offensive' word! I'm not sure if I had just chanced upon a particularly sensitive person or whether they thought it was worse coming from the mouth of an Australian (which was sometimes the case!) At any rate, I still say it all the time!

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  2. >>>It might not ever have occurred to me to try writing books myself, if the Sex Pistols hadn't come along.

    Lovely. Punk rock has been touted as something indie writers have brought up as a DIY example. Thank you for proving the example is not specious!

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  3. Sammi8:12 am

    Terribly unfair that you have to fight these women. Much better when the beautiful women are the lead characters. For example, I want to play "Wet", but it's only on the PS3. :o(

    http://kzme.gildia.pl/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Wet.jpg

    Stay away from the bath and look after your bollocks!

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  4. Anita, I think that must have been a very sensitive person! Most people wouldn't be offended these days. Unless I'm wrong about this, and am offending people all the time.

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  5. Sammi, I want to play Wet too! It looks good. But no PS3 here either.

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  6. I'd never quite looked at punk rock in that light, but hey, anything that inspire writing is excellent.
    To me "bollocks" is just another way to say "bullshit" but what do I know?

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  7. If memory serves, it was Virgin records in Nottingham that got prosecuted, and the defence got a linguistics scholar from the university along who attested that it was actually an archaic slang term for 'priests', suggesting that we say 'talking bollocks' as a reference to the nonsense talked by the clergy.

    And (again, I'm going by my dusty memory, but I'm pretty confident I'm right) the scholar in question was a lay-preacher himself so came along and gave evidence in his dog collar.

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  8. Merrick, that story is wonderful.(although I'm not entirely convinced about the origin of the word. I'm pretty sure it was a slang word for testicels, although may have got attached to priests (as it were) later on....)

    I don't think the average person would be offended by 'Bollocks'.

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  9. Marjorie, on the Wikipedia page for bollocks it says it's a testicle euphemism going waaay back, but that from the 17th-19th centuries it was also a term for priests.

    It cites our Nottingham chap - Professor James Kingsley - with showing this

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