A thoroughly entertaining snippet in the Gruaniad this morning (nicked from the Irish Times) on the reception of Punk and the Sex Pistols by the Irish authorities and how Anglo Saxon ribaldry upset their Celtic delicates. Recently released Irish government papers reveals what in 1977, the Garda Síochána thought about that Situationista masterpiece: “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.”
With shades of Flann O’Brien one Garda Sgt wrote that although he hadn’t actually heard the album:
The title on the sleeve . . . would indicate that the contents of the record is obscene…
Although the Sgt’s missive reached the deputy assistant chief state solicitor, it was decided that murky legal waters were ahead and that in any event the maximum fine would be £2…
In the UK, plod was not so wise and a Nottingham policewoman on seeing a giant poster for the album in the Virgin record store, drew its attention to her superiors. The resultant court case was defended by John Mortimer QC who brought in a lecturer from the University of Nottingham (known as ‘Beeston tech’ by their colleagues over at Trent), one Reverend James Kingsley, professor of English studies.
Having personally studied Heretical Studies Critical Theory at said university, I can vouch that this might have been an unwise move, but the old duffer renowned expert in middle ages literature, proved sound value for money. Kingsley explained that the word ‘bollocks’ had been in use since the year 1000 and:
The word has been used as a nickname for clergymen. Clergymen are known to talk a good deal of rubbish and so the word later developed the meaning of nonsense. They became known for talking a great deal of bollocks, just as old balls or baloney also come to mean testicles, so it has twin uses in the dictionary…
Mortimer’s summing up for the defense is also worth quoting at length, where he asks:
what sort of country are we living in if a politician comes to Nottingham and speaks here to a group of people in the city centre and during his speech a heckler replies ‘bollocks’, are we to expect this person to be incarcerated, or do we live in a country where we are proud of our Anglo Saxon language? Do we wish our language to be virile and strong or watered down and weak?
Bravo Mr QC, those were the days. I can feel a trip to Discogs coming on, the nostalgia has gotten the better of me.