By People Staff
February 06, 1978 12:00 PM

You thought that we were all fakin’

That we were all just money makin’…

A Sex Pistols’ lyric

Success, according to the anarchistic philosophy of British punk rock, is failure. So its lead screamer, Johnny Rotten, 22, no sooner completed his group’s sellout maiden tour of the States than he announced: “I am sick of working with the Sex Pistols.” Rotten (né John Lydon and renamed for his scuzzy teeth) complained, “Everyone was trying to turn us into a great chic group, and I hated that.”

Well, hardly chic. Bassist Sid Vicious (born John Ritchie), 21, was punched in the face in Dallas, clipped in the lip in San Antonio (by a nonfan calling the Pistols “sewer rats with guitars”) and received a nasty gash in Memphis. Vicious professed to consider all that attention “a compliment,” but he had to be carted off unconscious from a London-bound TWA jet, apparently having OD’d momentarily on what a New York hospital official called “a mixture of pills and alcohol.” That left only two of the enfants terribles—Paul Cook, the drummer, and Steve Jones, the guitarist and public regurgitator—to rendezvous in Rio with Ronald Biggs, escaped ringleader of Britain’s Great Train Robbery of 1963. Snarled Rotten: “I refused to go to Brazil. It stank of a publicity stunt.”

The breakup may exude the same odor. Manager Malcolm McLaren proclaimed: “It’s all over. We had a long talk, and the other members of the band decided to kick out Johnny Rotten. He was too destructive and was dragging us all down.” Rotten differed: “We haven’t had any rows. We just agreed that we had gone as far as we could go.” Yet when Johnny hit Heathrow Airport his story flip-flopped again. “The Sex Pistols haven’t broke up,” he said, lunging at photographers. “It’s all a publicity gimmick. We still exist and I am enjoying myself.”

That left even Al Clark of the group’s label (Virgin Records) slightly crackers. The presumed voice of sanity, Clark—who, after all, had never pierced his cheeks with safety pins or called the Queen a moron in song—theorized “They’ve done all this because they were in danger of outliving their usefulness.” Usefulness? “To be a thorn,” he elucidated, “in the great heaving beast of authority.”