The Sex Pistols Feuded With The Original Bad Boys Of Rock Music

Two of the biggest rock 'n' roll bands of all time, in their own genres particularly, are the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones. Both bands emerged in England, and both played rock (or rock-adjacent) music, but the similarities end there. The Stones were strongly influenced by American blues, according to Legacy, and even took their name from a Muddy Waters song. The Sex Pistols were none of that: They were more of a concept than a band, as former Forbes contributor David Alm describes them. What's more, their goals were not on the same page as the Stones', and in fact, the Sex Pistols and other punk bands were keen to dismantle the foundations of rock 'n' roll, not celebrate them, as Interview explains.

For a period of time, the Stones' and the Sex Pistols' careers overlapped, considering that their industries were basically the same. They were covered in the same magazines, often spoken of in the same paragraphs. And as such, when given opportunities to discuss the other band, both the Stones and the Sex Pistols had some things to say about each other, and they were rarely kind.

Different Cultures, Different Motivations

Here's a thought experiment: Think about what rock 'n' roll was intended to be, back in its earliest days when it first started emerging as an art form, and then compare it to what it had become by the late 1970s. Originally intended to break boundaries, push the envelope, and typify a counter-culture and rebellious lifestyle, within a couple of decades, many of them — like the Rolling Stones — were making millions and living comfortable lifestyles, as Far Out Magazine reports.

Punk stepped in to fill that void, partially as a reaction to the polished, commercially-driven juggernaut that rock had become, and also as a reaction to the emerging disco sound. It was in this context that established and successful bands like the Stones, and upstarts like the Sex Pistols, began throwing verbal jabs at each other, over supposed hypocrisy, over supposed copycatting, and over other petty squabbles.

The sparks fly

It's not clear when the Stones and the Sex Pistols started publicly beefing with one another, but Interview Magazine suggests it stemmed from a 1977 interview in which Sid Vicious summed up his opinion of established rockers rather tersely: "I absolutely despise those turds. The Stones should have quit in 1965," he said. Their manager, Malcolm McLaren added, in a hypothetical phone call he received telling him Elvis had died, "it's just too bad it couldn't have been Mick Jagger."

The Stones, for their part, engaged in some one-upmanship, saying that the Sex Pistols couldn't out-lewd the Stones if they tried, with Mick Jagger saying that his adversaries "can't be more disgusting than the Rolling Stones are in an orgy of biting," and Keith Richards saying that "they look great. And that's all that matters."

It doesn't appear as if there was any violence between the men, although Jagger suggested that Johnny Rotten was just itching to get his "rotten teeth kicked in," and Richards saying the men were asking for it, particularly since they took the bus home from their shows, adding that they lived with their moms.

The two groups appear to have buried that hatchet, somewhat. As The Daily Record reports, Jagger stepped in to pay Vicious' legal fees while he was awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) said afterward that he had "a good liking of Mick Jagger."