Oi! Wanna buy Johnny Rotten's handwritten lyrics to Sex Pistols' Holidays In The Sun? Now's your chance

Johnny's Rotten's hand-written lyrics
(Image credit: Johnny Rotten - Richard E. Aaron/Redferns / H.I.T.S. lyrics - Sothebys)

John Lydon's hand-written lyrics to Sex Pistols' anthems Holidays In The Sun and Submission are among the punk rock memorabilia currently up for auction online via Sotheby's.

Bidding on items listened in The Sex Pistols: The Stolper-Wilson Collection will close at 2pm UK time time on October 21. 

The legendary auction house's website states: "The Sex Pistols ignited the UK Punk movement with a unique mixture of caustic lyrics, urgent riffs, provocative visual imagery, youthful swagger, and amazing clothes. This autumn Sotheby’s will offer for sale a uniquely authoritative collection of original artwork, posters, manuscript lyrics, and ephemera, which together tell the remarkable story of Britain’s most notorious band." 

Lot 26 of the collection is listed as 'Johnny Rotten | Holidays in the Sun; Submission, handwritten lyrics, 1977'.

The accompanying text on the site reads:

"'Holidays in the Sun' and 'Submission', autograph manuscript lyrics to two songs here entitled "Holiday in the sun", 31 lines written in black ballpoint with revisions to three lines, the opening line ("A cheap holiday in other people's misery") added in pencil possibly in another hand, entirely written in block capitals, an early version of the song with substantial differences to the final text; with, on the verso, untitled lyrics to Submission, 10 lines written in green ballpoint, comprising the first two verses and refrain, entirely written in block capitals; two pages on a single leaf of foolscap folio plain writing paper (watermarked "Polygraph British made", 330 x 203mm), probably April-June 1977, neat repairs to edges, some folds

ORIGINAL WORKING LYRICS TO TWO SEX PISTOLS SONGS. The use of capitals suggests that these lyrics were written by Rotten for easy legibility in rehearsal, probably during the period of recording at Wessex Sound Studios for Never Mind the Bollocks. 'Holidays in the Sun' was not written until after March 1977. It was recorded on 18 June, first featured in live sets during the Scandinavian tour the following month, and was released as a single on 14 October. The substantial divergence in lyrical content between the current text and the recorded song means that this manuscript almost certainly dates from before the song was recorded on 18 June. 

'Holidays in the Sun', the first significant song written after Matlock's departure, was Rotten's response to the band's trip out of the UK in March 1977 to escape the media furore that followed the A&M debacle. They attempted a "holiday in the sun" in Jersey, but were expelled from the island after 24 hours, and travelled on to Berlin, which was of course then divided into two ideologically opposed cities by the Berlin Wall. Rotten has recalled his response to the city: "I loved the wall and the insanity of the place. Twenty-four hours of chaotic fun It was a fairground with only one airport and one motorway leading into it - surrounded by downtrodden, dull, grey, military-minded bastards who lived thoroughly miserable lives. They looked in on the circus atmosphere of West Berlin - which never went to sleep - and that would be their impression of the West. I loved it. I had this feeling of Berlin being this wall all around me. It was a ridiculously small wall, and the whole thing seemed absolutely absurd." (quoted in No Future, p.101)

If 'Holidays in the Sun' shows Rotten at his most politically sensitive, 'Submission' was a joke at the expense of the band's manager, who had been angling for a song that would help sales of Westwood's bondage clothing. It is a slightly earlier song, co-written by Rotten and Matlock in a Camden Town pub in a moment of rare amiability: ‘Malcolm gave us his list of words and ideas. It was so funny. One of the words was “submissive”. We turned it into “Submission” – a submarine mission. Glen and I enjoyed the humour of it all. I don’t think Malcolm did.’ [Rotten p.238.]

WORKING LYRICS TO SEX PISTOLS SONGS ARE EXTREMELY RARE ON THE MARKET. Most of the small number of autograph manuscripts to have appeared at auction are fair copies on Glitterbest headed stationery written in early 1977 for copyright purposes."

The current bid on the lyric sheet is £15,000 and the lot is expected to see for £15-£20K. 

Place your bid here.

Other items in the collection include a hand-written note from Pistols' manager Malcolm MacLaren which begins "The Sex Pistols are like some contagious disease - UNTOUCHABLE!", hand-written lyrics from Sid Vicious and Jamie Read posters and handbills.

H.I.T.S. lyrics

(Image credit: Sotheby's)
Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.