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Five Songwriting Techniques I Learned from the Sex Pistols - GuitarPlayer.com

Five Songwriting Techniques I Learned from the Sex Pistols

A look at the songwriting prowess displayed on the Sex Pistols' only studio album.
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When Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols rudely elbowed itself into the cultural consciousness in late 1977, the mainstream media focused on pogoing, spitting, safety pins, and grimy teens with no manners. Few thought to celebrate the songwriting prowess displayed on the album, but I learned a lot about composing rock tunes from those punk revolutionaries, such as…

The main songwriters of Never Mind the Bollocks — (left to right) Paul Cook, Glen Matlock, John Lydon, and Steve Jones. Matlock’s replacement, Sid Vicious, only contributed to “Holiday in the Sun” and “Bodies.”

The main songwriters of Never Mind the Bollocks — (left to right) Paul Cook, Glen Matlock, John Lydon, and Steve Jones. Matlock’s replacement, Sid Vicious, only contributed to “Holiday in the Sun” and “Bodies.”

> Just Say It. Clever, Cole Porter-style word-smithing is wonderful, but it’s also okay to express what you mean in the most simple and austere language possible. Avoiding flowery language and metaphors—at least early in the writing process—can help ensure you’re being an authentic and sincere storyteller, rather than a glib one.

> Cool Intros Can Be Butt Simple. The guitar riffs on Never Mind the Bollocks are galaxies away from technically adventurous snippets of brilliant guitarcraft, but, who cares? They’re memorable, they groove, and they suck you right into the songs.

> Get Pissed. The songwriting classes I attended always stated that Moon/June love songs offered the best chances for potential hits. But rage and discontent are also emotional drivers, and addressing real-world problems musically—when done well—can be just as affecting as a classic Lionel Richie smooch fest.

> Soccer Cheers are Wildly Communal. Duh. Seductive, sing-along choruses are the foundations of pop music. But crank up that chorus into a stomping, shouting manifesto of revelry, passion, or rage, and you just might find a collective of like-minded peeps screaming it at the top of their lungs.

> Go for the Throat. What’s more exciting than an explosion of blistering guitar tones to get listeners riled up and crazy about your song? Nothing. That’s what.

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