Anarchy in the U.K.

This article is about the Sex Pistols song. For anarchism in the UK, see Anarchism in the United Kingdom.
"Anarchy in the U.K."
Single by the Sex Pistols
from the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
B-side "I Wanna Be Me"
Released 26 November 1976
Format Vinyl
Recorded 17 October 1976
Genre Punk rock
Length 3:31
Label EMI
Writer(s) Paul Cook, Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock
Producer(s) Chris Thomas, Bill Price, Dave Goodman
the Sex Pistols singles chronology
"Anarchy in the U.K."
"God Save the Queen"

"Anarchy in the U.K." is a song by the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols. It was released as the band's debut single on 26 November 1976 and was later featured on their album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. "Anarchy in the U.K." is number 56 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[1] and is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[2]


Originally issued in a plain black sleeve, the single was the only Sex Pistols recording released by EMI, and reached number 38 on the UK Singles Chart before EMI dropped the group on 6 January 1977, a month after members of the band used profanity during a live television broadcast. (Although the EMI version was recorded on 17 October 1976, an earlier demo version was recorded between 10 and 12 October at Lansdowne/Wessex Studios, London. This version later surfaced on the Sex Pistols bootleg album Spunk.)

In the documentary The Filth and the Fury, John Lydon described the composition of the song's opening lyrics, explaining that the best rhyme he could devise for the first line, "I am an Antichrist", was the second line, "I am an anarchiste". (Lydon confirmed that he is not an anarchist in a 2012 interview.[3])

A limited edition 7" inch picture disc of the single was released on 21 April 2012 for that year's Record Store Day.[4][5]

"Anarchy in the U.K."
With its "inflammatory, venomous lyrics [and] crude energy", the Sex Pistols' debut single "established punk's modus operandi".[6] Producer Chris Thomas layered multiple tracks of Steve Jones's guitar to create a "searing wall of sound",[7] while Johnny Rotten spewed the vocals "as if his teeth had been ground down to points."[8]

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The abbreviations used in the lyrics are a selection of civil war references from 1970s headlines, a suggestion of what could happen in the United Kingdom. The IRA and the UDA were the largest paramilitary armies in the conflict in Northern Ireland: the heavily armed IRA (Irish Republican Army) were on the Republican (anti-British, pro-unification) side, while the thousands-strong UDA (Ulster Defence Association) were on the Loyalist (pro-British, anti-unification) side. The MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, or the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) were the political group that took control of Angola, formerly one of Portugal’s African colonies, in a 1975-76 civil war, and still run the country today. Another acronym: when Rotten sings, “I use the enemy,” it’s a deliberate homonym for “I use the NME,” or New Musical Express, the British weekly music newspaper. No civil war there, unless you count their rivalry with Melody Maker.[9][10]


The lyrics endorse a particularly sensational, violent concept of anarchy that reflected the pervasive sense of embittered anger, confusion, restlessness, economic frustration and social alienation which was being felt by a generation of disenfranchised youth amidst the declining economic situation and bland music scene of the mid-1970s. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren considered the song "a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them. It's a statement of self rule, of ultimate independence."[11] In 2007, the surviving members (not including original Pistols bassist Glen Matlock) re-recorded "Anarchy in the U.K." for the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock because the multi-track master could not be found.[12] The Guitar Hero version also appears in the film adaption of the A-Team. The song was also featured in the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 as part of the soundtrack.[13]

Track listing

  1. "Anarchy in the UK" – 3:31
  2. "I Wanna Be Me" – 3:12


Chart (1976) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[14] 38


Megadeth cover

"Anarchy in the U.K."

German release cover
Single by Megadeth
from the album So Far, So Good... So What!
Released 1988
Recorded 1987
Genre Thrash metal
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Paul Cook, Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock
Megadeth singles chronology
"Peace Sells"
"Anarchy in the U.K."
"Mary Jane"
So Far, So Good... So What! track listing
"Set the World Afire"
"Anarchy in the U.K."
"Mary Jane"

"Anarchy in the U.K." was covered by American thrash metal band Megadeth for their third album So Far, So Good... So What!, released in 1988.

Megadeth's version has incorrect lyrics. Dave Mustaine explained that he could not understand Johnny Rotten's singing, so he made up the parts he could not understand (in addition, the country is changed to "USA", though the title is kept unchanged). The song's music video is a montage of live footage of the band, cartoon political figures, various scenes of violence, and of a man being forced to watch (much like Alex's therapy in A Clockwork Orange). Steve Jones played the second solo.

Track listing versions

United States 7"
  1. "Anarchy in the U.K."
  2. "Liar"
United Kingdom 12"
  1. "Anarchy in the U.K."
  2. "Liar"
  3. "502"
Germany 12"
  1. "Anarchy in the U.K."
  2. "Good Mourning/Black Friday" (live)
  3. "Devil's Island" (live)

Megadeth's chart potisitons

Chart (1988) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[15] 13
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[16] 45

Green Jellÿ cover

"Anarchy in Bedrock"
Single by Green Jellÿ
from the album Cereal Killer Soundtrack
Released 1993
Genre Comedy rock, Parody music
Label Zoo Entertainment
Writer(s) Paul Cook, Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock
Green Jellÿ singles chronology
"Three Little Pigs"
"Anarchy in Bedrock"
"Electric Harley House (Of Love)"

Green Jellÿ's version of "Anarchy in the U.K." is a parody cover of the original. This version takes the original song and combines it with Flintstones references. Although the version's proper title is "Anarchy in the U.K.", it was originally titled "Anarchy in Bedrock" on Green Jellÿ's (then Green Jellö's) Triple Live Möther Gööse at Budokan album.

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera took offence to this version and to Green Jellÿ mocking The Flintstones, but later relented, as this version was featured on the soundtrack to the Flintstones film that was released in 1994.

Track listing

  1. "Anarchy in the U.K." - 3:29
  2. "Green Jellÿ Theme Song" - 2:15
  3. "Three Little Pigs (Blowin Down the House Mix)" - 6:34


Mötley Crüe cover

"Anarchy In the UK"
Single by Mötley Crüe
from the album Decade of Decadence
Recorded 1991
Genre Heavy metal
Length 3:22
Writer(s) Paul Cook, Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock
Producer(s) Bob Rock
Mötley Crüe singles chronology
"Home Sweet Home '91"
"Anarchy in The UK"
"Hooligan's Holiday"

American heavy metal band Mötley Crüe also covered the song on their 1991 compilation album Decade of Decadence, substituting USA analogies and organizations in the lyrics for UK ones.

Notable covers


  1. "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: 'Anarchy in the U.K.'". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 3 May 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  2. "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  3. Edwards, Rhiannon (2012-08-02). "John Lydon: 'An anarchist? I never was. Whoever told you that?'". Ham & High. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  4. "Sex Pistols announce plans to re-release 'God Save the Queen'". New Musical Express. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  5. "Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK, cat. no. SEXPISS1976(1)". Retrieved 2016-09-21.
  6. Unterberger (2002), p. 1337.
  7. Gimarc (2005), p. 41.
  8. Marcus (1989), p. 8.
  9. Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.
  10. Edwards, Garvin. "What are all those initials in the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK"? MPLA? UDA? WTF?".
  11. "The Wisdom of Malcolm McLaren". NME.
  12. "Sex Pistols Re-Record 'Anarchy' for Guitar Hero; Grohl at Zeppelin's 'Beck and Call'". Spin Magazine. 26 September 2007. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  13. "T0ny Hawk's Pro Skater 4 Soundtrack".
  14. "Sex Pistols: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company.
  15. " – Megadeth – Anarchy in the U.K.". Top 40 Singles.
  16. "Megadeth: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company.

External links

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