The Damned had released what is recognised as the first ever punk single a month earlier. “New Rose” may have been the first single by a punk band, but numerous groups had already built a sizeable following through chaotic live shows that arguably culminated in the Sex Pistols’ own performance at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4 June 1976.
The Sex Pistols were signed to the EMI record label on 8 October and soon entered the studio to record their debut single which they did less than two weeks later on 17 October. Chris Thomas, who had previously worked with such influential bands as The Beatles and Pink Floyd, agreed to produce the single, which sent shockwaves through the recording industry.
In sharp contrast to the traditional rock n roll lyrics of “New Rose”, “Anarchy in the UK” was rooted in the anger and nihilism of the early British punk movement from its opening line. It reached number 38 on the UK charts, but this fails to reflect the impact that the record had on the country.
Less than a week later the band appeared on the Today programme broadcast on Thames Television in London. The host, Bill Grundy, later claimed that he and the band were all drunk when he invited them to ‘say something outrageous’ in the closing seconds of the show. Guitarist Steve Jones responded by calling the host a range of names littered with profanities. The band’s appearance was splashed over the national newspapers the next day, bringing both the band and the punk movement to national attention. Within a few weeks EMI ended the band’s contract.