October 2022 | Alex Johnson

Sex Pistols Handwritten Song Lyrics Sold For $57,000


The interest in handwritten song lyrics continues to rise, with two song lyrics by John Lydon/Johnny Rotten for the Sex Pistols selling at Sotheby’s for £50,400 ($57,100).

The working lyrics for Holidays in the Sun and Submission from 1977 were part of a sale of memorabilia from the UK punk band which also included posters, artwork, handbills, and press kits from the Sex Pistols’ heyday. Among these was the band’s first press release in 1976 in which they stated “We hate everything”; a God Save the Queen poster, designed by Jamie Ried and owned by the late Sid Vicious; and a handwritten statement from band manager Malcolm McLaren which reads “When I’m older and people ask me what I used to do for a living I shall have to say: I WENT IN AND OUT OF OFFICES GETTING PAID FOR IT! IT’S CRAZY!!!”

Recent results for handwritten lyrics at auction include Bob Dylan’s for his song All Along the Watchtower which made $60,500 at RR Auction earlier this year, and Elton John’s for Your Song by Bernie Taupin which sold at Bonhams in 2019 for $237,575. Further back in history Robbie Burns’s autograph manuscript of his song Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon (1792), were sold at Bonhams for £35,000 (US$ 38,818) in 2014.

The Sex Pistols collection at Sotheby’s was put together during the 1990s by contemporary art dealer Paul Stolper and the critic Andrew Wilson, former senior curator of modern British art at the Tate. “Among our personal highlights are the unique working lyrics for Holidays in the Sun,” they said. “This captures the song as it is being formed, equating the holiday of everyday life with a prison to be escaped from.” The total sale came to £354,567.