"Anarchy in the U.K." is a song by the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols. It was released as the band's debut single on 26 November 1976 and was later featured on their album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. "Anarchy in the U.K." is number 56 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Originally issued in a plain black sleeve, the single was the only Sex Pistols recording released by EMI, and reached number 38 on the UK Singles Chart before EMI dropped the group on 6 January 1977, a month after members of the band used profanity during a live television broadcast. (Although the EMI version was recorded on 17 October 1976, an earlier demo version was recorded between 10 and 12 October at Lansdowne/Wessex Studios, London. This version later surfaced on the Sex Pistols bootleg album Spunk.)
In the documentary The Filth and the Fury, John Lydon described the composition of the song's opening lyrics, explaining that the best rhyme he could devise for the first line, "I am an Antichrist", was the second line, "I am an anarchiste". (Lydon confirmed that he is not an anarchist in a 2012 interview.)
A limited edition 7" inch picture disc of the single was released on 21 April 2012 for that year's Record Store Day.
The abbreviations used in the lyrics are a selection of civil war references from 1970s headlines, a suggestion of what could happen in the United Kingdom. The IRA and the UDA were the largest paramilitary armies in the conflict in Northern Ireland: the heavily armed IRA (Irish Republican Army) were on the Republican (anti-British, pro-unification) side, while the thousands-strong UDA (Ulster Defence Association) were on the Loyalist (pro-British, anti-unification) side. The MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, or the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) were the political group that took control of Angola, formerly one of Portugal's African colonies, in a 1975-76 civil war, and still run the country today. When Rotten sings, “I use the enemy,” it’s a deliberate homonym for “I use the NME,” or New Musical Express, the British weekly music newspaper.
The lyrics endorse a particularly sensational, violent concept of anarchy that reflected the pervasive sense of embittered anger, confusion, restlessness, economic frustration and social alienation which was being felt by a generation of disenfranchised youth amidst the declining economic situation and bland music scene of the mid-1970s. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren considered the song "a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them. It's a statement of self rule, of ultimate independence." In 2007, the surviving members (not including original Pistols bassist Glen Matlock) re-recorded "Anarchy in the U.K." for the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock because the multi-track master could not be found. The Guitar Hero version also appears in the film adaption of the A-Team. The song was also featured in the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 as part of the soundtrack. The song also appears in the Constantine TV series during the episode "The Devil's Vinyl".
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