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The end of the Sex Pistols: how punk died 40 years ago today, and John Lydon rose from its ashes

Johnny Rotten was abandoned by his bandmates in California after quitting the Sex Pistols

When Johnny Rotten walked out on the Sex Pistols after a disastrous American tour forty years ago today, punk rock was officially over. In just 26 months together as a band, Rotten’s crew had revolutionized the landscape of popular music, bringing urgency, controversy and anti-establishment fury to a mid-Seventies rock scene which had become tepid and pretentious.

Four decades later, their ferocious broadsides, Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen, still rank as the most iconoclastic in pop history, but, back then, after all the outrage they’d generated around Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in the summer of 1977, the Pistols were falling apart.

Sid Vicious – an old college friend of Rotten’s, whom the singer had drafted in on bass as moral support in his increasingly fractious dealings with the other half of the band – had overnight turned into an attention-seeking junkie, only further...

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