Bodies (Sex Pistols song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Song by Sex Pistols
from the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
  • 28 October 1977 (1977-10-28)(UK)
  • 11 November 1977 (US)
GenrePunk rock
LabelVirgin (UK)
Warner Bros. Records (US)

"Bodies" is a song by the Sex Pistols, from their 1977 album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. The song tackles the subject of abortion with lyrics described as "some of the most uncompromising, gut-wrenching lyrics imaginable".[1]

Lyrical content[edit]

The lyrics contain very graphic imagery about a terminated foetus and feature a great deal of profanity for the time: the third and final verse begins with a couplet in which the word fuck is repeated five times in rapid succession.

The song is mostly about a fan named Pauline, who was (as the song states) from Birmingham.[2] She had been in a mental institution, where she apparently lived in a tree house in its garden.[3][4][2] This was where the line 'Her name was Pauline, she lived in a tree' comes from. The institution was also where she seems to have been raped by one of the male nurses.[5] When she was released, she travelled to London, where she became a punk rock fan. She had several abortions. According to John Lydon, she showed up once at his door wearing nothing but a clear plastic bag and holding an aborted foetus.[6] This was re-iterated in the 2002 Classic Albums documentary when discussing Bodies. In a 1977 interview, when asked about the backstory of the song, Lydon also claimed that she was arrested after entering a discotheque with the aborted foetus.[7]

According to Lydon's autobiography, she told Lydon about becoming pregnant and then having abortions and she described them in detail to him. This affected Lydon enough to write the song. Most of the band also had experiences with Pauline,[3] but have spoken less about it. Steve Jones claims he had sex with her: "I'm glad I found out the story afterwards, about the abortion".[8]


With its repeated mentions of "I'm not an animal," of "Mummy," and of a dying baby, the song has been interpreted as anti-abortion,[4] music critic Robert Christgau contemporarily calling it "effectively anti-abortion, anti-woman, and anti-sex."[9][6] In 2006, National Review magazine put the song at #8 on its list of the "50 Greatest Conservative Rock songs", due to its negative and unflinching description of abortion.[10] Lydon himself, in a 2007 interview with Spin Magazine, said "I don't think there's a clearer song about the pain of abortion. The juxtaposition of all those different psychic things in your head and all the confusion, the anger, the frustration, you have to capture in those words."[11] In the BBC documentary series Classic Albums (2007) about The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind The Bollocks" album Lydon further said: "That song was hated and loathed. It's not anti-abortion, it's not pro-abortion. It's: 'Think about it. Don't be callous about a human being, but don't be limited about a thing as 'morals' either. Because it's immoral to bring a kid in this world and not give a toss about it.'"[12]

Along with the later "Belsen Was a Gas," it is probably the most graphic and controversial Sex Pistols song in both its subject matter and style. A 2017 article in The Independent described the song as "a gurgling bloody depiction of an abortion replete with a volley of expletives from Rotten".[13] Musically, it is also the fastest and heaviest[14] song in the Sex Pistols canon — characterized by thudding drums, droning buzzsaw guitar, and shouted vocals.[6]


"Bodies" is one of two songs on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols which original Pistols bassist Glen Matlock did not co-write.[15] It is also one of only two songs on the album on which Sid Vicious recorded bass, although his part was later overdubbed by Steve Jones, after Matlock refused to return to play the part.[11][16] The song was, like all other Sex Pistols songs, credited to the entire band, though Vicious was in the hospital with hepatitis when the band finished it.[16][17]

Other versions[edit]

The Sex Pistols' album Filthy Lucre Live - recorded at Finsbury Park, London on 23 June 1996, and released on 29 July that year - includes a performance of "Bodies."[18] This same performance is a B-side on the "Pretty Vacant (live)" single, under the title "Buddies,"[19] and is a different mix from the track on the live album (the audience noise is mixed much higher, with John Lydon's vocal barely audible under the audience singing the first verse). "Buddies" is a bonus track on the Japanese edition of Filthy Lucre Live.[18]

In the film Sid and Nancy the title characters, played by Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb,[20] sing the song for the siblings of Nancy Spungen to their delight and to the horror of their parents.[citation needed]

In 2005, a "barnyard" arrangement by Steve Jones and Scott Weiland was performed on Jones' radio show, with the use of the word "fuck" changed to "pluck".[21]

The song has been covered by Liam Gallagher,[22] Veruca Salt,[23] Velvet Revolver,[23] Suede,[24] The Almighty,[25] Killing Joke,[26] Sepultura,[27] and Raimundos,[23] Peppermint Creeps,[28]


  1. ^ Ross, Graeme (10 January 2018). "Sex Pistols playlist: 10 broadsides that shook the world". The Independent. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (15 February 2018). "John Lydon: 'I didn't want to be a comfortable, Mick Jagger-type naughty pop star'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Never Mind the Bollocks - Track by Track (Bodies)". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b Grow, Kory (27 October 2017). "Sex Pistols Break Down 'Never Mind the Bollocks' Track by Track". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  5. ^ Perone, James E. (17 October 2012). The Album: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations. Praeger Publishing. ISBN 9780313379079.
  6. ^ a b c Faraci, Devin (29 March 2013). "Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock: The Sex Pistols - Bodies". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  7. ^ Tobler, John (12 November 1977), "Sex Pistols - Tobler Interview - 11/11/77", BBC Radio 1, retrieved 13 June 2019
  8. ^ "Backspin: Steve Jones on 'Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols'". YouTube. 9 February 2017.
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (1977). "Consumer Guide Review, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols". Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  10. ^ Miller, John (26 May 2006). "Rockin' the Right - The 50 greatest conservative rock songs". National Review. Archived from the original on 13 January 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  11. ^ a b Rabid, Jack (October 2007). "Tell us what you think, Johnny Rotten". Spin. p. 64. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  12. ^ Cox, Alex (May 1986). Sid and Nancy (Film). ASIN B00004ZBVO.
  13. ^ Worley, Matthew (25 October 2017). "No future: 40 years since Sex Pistols stuck two fingers up at the British establishment". The Independent. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  14. ^ Total Guitar Magazine (24 October 2017). "The guitar stories behind Never Mind The Bollocks, by Steve Jones". Louder Sound. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  15. ^ Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks at Discogs
  16. ^ a b Dyer, Jonathan (27 October 2017). "After 40 years, 'Never Mind the Bollocks'". Public Radio International. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  17. ^ Heylin, Clinton (1998). Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Schirmer Books. pp. 92, 131. ISBN 978-0028647265.
  18. ^ a b Ladano, Mike (5 September 2015). "Review: The Sex Pistols - Filthy Lucre Live (1996 Japanese Import)". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  19. ^ "Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant / Buddies" at Discogs
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (25 October 1986). "Review: Sid and Nancy". Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  21. ^ "Jonesy's Jukebox Indie 1031 Archives". October 2004 – April 2005. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  22. ^ "This Is The Band Liam Gallagher Wished He Was In..." Radio X. 6 June 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  23. ^ a b c "Bodies by Sex Pistols". WhoSampled. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  24. ^ Ebert, Simon Price (28 March 2010). "Suede, Royal Albert Hall, London". The Independent. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  25. ^ The Almighty – Soul Destruction at Discogs
  26. ^ Killing Joke – The Original Unperverted Pantomime at Discogs
  27. ^ Sepultura – Primitive Future 1990 at Discogs
  28. ^