Bodies (Sex Pistols song)
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|Song by Sex Pistols from the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols|
Warner Bros. Records (US)
|Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols track listing|
"Bodies" is a Sex Pistols song about the shock of abortion from the 1977 album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. The lyrics contain very graphic imagery about a terminated fetus 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. 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. Musically, it is also the fastest and heaviest song in the Sex Pistols canon — characterized by thudding drums, droning buzzsaw guitar, and shouted vocals. As such, it can be considered a significant antecedent to the genres of hardcore, thrash, and speed metal that was to emerge in the mid-to-late-1980s.
"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. It is also the only song on the album on which Sid Vicious actually plays bass, although his part was later overdubbed by Steve Jones, after Matlock refused to return to play the part. 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 wrote it. It is mostly about a fan named Pauline, who was (as the song states) from Birmingham. She had been in a mental institution, where she apparently lived in a tree house, in the garden of the institution. 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. When she was released, she travelled to London, where she became a punk rock fan. She had several abortions. According to legend, she showed up once at John Lydon's door wearing nothing but a clear plastic bag and holding an aborted fetus in a clear plastic bag.
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, but have spoken less about it.
With its repeated mentions of "I'm not an animal," of "Mummy," and of a dying baby, the song is widely interpreted as being anti-abortion. Lydon himself, in an 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." In 2006, National Review magazine put the song at #8 on its list of the "50 Greatest Conservative Rock songs", citing a pro-life message. So too, music critic Robert Christgau called it "effectively anti-abortion, anti-woman, and anti-sex." Yet in the BBC documentary series "Classic Albums" (2007) about The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind The Bollocks" album Lydon 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." Another possible interpretation is that the song is simply about the broken life of Pauline.
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." This same performance is a B-side on the "Pretty Vacant (live)" single, under the title "Buddies," 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.
- SPIN Magazine (October 2007), pg. 64
- "Consumer Guide Review, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols". 1977.
- Miller, John J. (2006-05-26) Rockin' the Right, National Review