Billie Joe Armstrong Reveals One Important Thing He Learned from Sex Pistols, Says Punk ‘Was Not Meant for the Masses’

It’s been a while since punk made its huge initial impact on modern music. Although these days you’ll still have discussions among fans explaining whether punk is “dead” or not, we could at least agree that it lives through many other forms of music.

Of course, Green Day are one of the bands still carrying the genre’s legacy. And sure, their specific pop punk approach might further complicate the very definition of “punk,” if there ever was one in the first place. And even they own everything to the Sex Pistols, one of the most (if not THE most) important punk pioneers.

During a recent chat with Rolling Stone, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong discussed how the Sex Pistols influenced him as a musician, in honor of the upcoming 6-part mini-series “Pistols.” Recalling his first reaction to the band, Billie said:

“‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ was one of the first punk records I ever heard. I had to have been about 16, and a friend of mine — her name was Anna — she [loaned] me the album. The first thing that popped into my mind when I heard ‘Holidays in the Sun’ is how those guitars sounded so gigantic and real; and hearing Lydon’s vocals, how he was just sort of this anti-singer [laughs]. For me, it just had a huge impact. Everything about it, from the lyrics to the guitar sounds to the songs, I thought was just perfect.”

Sex Pistols - Holidays In The Sun

As he explained, what he considered to be the most important thing about the Pistols was the overall message. He explains:

“The Sex Pistols’ music wasn’t fast, but it was more impactful with the message that was coming across. You read those fuckin’ lyrics, man, and to this day they’re still just badass. And it still matters. It’s still the sort of that band that teenage kids in high school will crank because they’re looking for trouble [laughs]. It still pisses people off, and it’s by design — I mean, John’s voice still gets under my skin!”

Further in the interview, he also adds one very important thing he learned from the Sex Pistols. And this goes beyond the music. Billie said:

“One thing I learned from the Sex Pistols is to never let a manager dictate your future. But some things are just built not to last. Winterland was the last Sex Pistols show, at least of the Seventies, and I always say punk came to die in San Francisco, and the kids had to sort of pick up the pieces after that.”

Sex pistols "God save the queen" HQ (live 2007)

“The Sex Pistols killed punk before it had the opportunity to go mainstream back then. What they had proved is that punk rock was not meant for the masses.”

“If you’re picking up the guitar to play punk rock music, it’s not for fame. You do this because it’s something that matters to you and it’s something that’s underground, and that was my early experience of being in a punk band with Green Day. And obviously with Green Day it was a different trajectory altogether, but I gotta say I didn’t predict that for us [laughs].”

Photo: kimm613 (Billie Joe Armstrong Hartford (17)), Koen Suyk (Sex Pistols in Paradiso)