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Sex Pistols CD Offers Funny, if Ragged, Moments

TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

“The Sex Pistols Live at Chelmsford Top Security Prison” may be the unlikeliest compact-disc release of the year. If we weren’t closing in on July 1, you’d swear the whole thing was an April Fool’s joke.

First, who could imagine prison officials in 1976 approving a concert by the leaders of Britain’s punk-shock brigade--a band that thrived on controversy and confrontation?

Equally unlikely is that anyone would release a low-quality tape of the affair 14 years later in a configuration--compact disc--whose main selling point is tied to sound quality.

But the Sex Pistols were indeed allowed to perform at the prison on Feb. 17, 1976, and Restless Records has released a 54-minute album taken from a tape made at the time by Dave Goodman, the Pistols’ sound man.

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Chris Kamatani, national publicist for Restless Records, said that the live album is the fourth Pistols collection released by the label in association with Goodman. The earlier packages: “Better Live Than Dead,” “The Swindle Continues” and “The Mini-Album.”

“We didn’t know what kind of response there would be (to the earlier albums) because the tape quality wasn’t what you expect from CDs, but it turned out there are a lot of Sex Pistols collectors who are eager for anything involving the band,” Kamatani said. “So, we decided to release the new prison album when Goodman brought those tapes to us.”

Though the sound quality sabotages most of the music, Johnny Rotten’s comments between songs are often audible--and they are predictably colorful. Rotten was one of rock’s most provocative, and often funniest, front men with the Pistols and he was in great form at the Chelmsford concert.

At one point, Rotten, apparently staring at the orderly gathering of convicts, taunts them by saying, "(This is) like being in school. . . . You’re all stupid. . . . You got caught.”

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At another point, you can hear Rotten yelling to the crowd, “Let’s have a riot!”

In his liner notes, Goodman said some prisoners were so put off by the band’s ragged approach that they booed and a few even asked to go back to their cells rather than sit through any more of it. The set list ranged from “Anarchy in the UK,” retitled “Anarchy in Prison,” to “No Fun.”

IN THE STORES: Reprise Records has just released four of the Kinks’ most prized albums in budget packages. They are “The Live Kinks,” “Something Else,” “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur.” . . . Other recent releases--either available for the first time in CD or re-introduced in a budget line--include Leonard Cohen’s “Songs From a Room” (Columbia), Bing Crosby’s “Swinging on a Star” (MCA, songs from Crosby movies, including the Bob Hope duet from “Road to Morocco”), Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” and “Sings for You” (MCA), Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’ and Other Hits” and “The Point” (both RCA), Graham Parker’s “Heat Treatment” and “Stick to Me” (Polydor), Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” (Virgin), and Stevie Wonder’s “Where I’m Coming From” (Motown).


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