29th November 2012

The 120 page hardback “Bollock Diaries 1977” book – which accompanies the super-deluxe ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ box set – includes a famous picture of a girl in a bedroom surrounded by Sex Pistols memorabilia (circa 1976-77). Mystery has always surrounded who the girl was and how the pictures came about. Phil Strongman the photographer who took the picture explains the story behind the picture…


I first saw the Pistols back in May 1976 – mainly because Don Hughes, a record dealer who’s now a mod author, told me that ‘they are the future’. So me and my brother Jay went to the 100 Club and, with about 30 others, had our teenage minds blown. Soon I became friends with Malcolm McLaren and Sophie Richmond, the Glitterbest secretary, then later got to know Glen, Paul, photographer Ray Stevenson, his brother Nils and the Pistols’ ‘sound wizard’ Dave Goodman. Which meant I was in an ideal position to get posters, flyers, stickers and t-shirts. And the gang were all generous, especially Sophie who liked the fact I’d spread the word about gigs and bring two or three people along (numbers counted in the early days…).

By 1979 the group were infamous, worldwide, and had split but I already knew the legend could only grow. After all, with the single exception of the Beatles, the Pistols were the most important rock’n’roll band ever. And I still had all this ‘stuff’, even though me and my girlfriend Liz Hall lived in a tiny room at 76 St Peters Street, Islington (Liz was actually a soul girl but she liked the Pistols too). I was also then learning photography from a couple of friends, Peter Moore and Martin Mann, both great photographers in their own right (the latter has won awards while Pete frequented SEX and the 100 Club). So one day Liz and I sneaked into the master bedroom next door and plastered the walls, bed and ceiling with posters. The idea was to re-create a Martin Brading shot of Jeannette Lee – which had her as a Beatles fan surrounded by Fab Four memorabilia – with Liz swamped by all my Pistols stuff. Pete helped with the lighting while I snapped away inexpertly using 35mm colour slides. Pete operated the camera himself to take a few black & white shots of Liz with guitar, which looked great though God knows where they are now…

I never made much dosh from them but a couple of the images have appeared on many record, tape and CD sleeves – some illegal – as well as dozens of gig posters and fanzine covers (and thousands of desktops). Jamie Reid used one in his book ‘Up They Rise’ and at his exhibitions and some have been featured on various websites (one is on page 92 of the book which comes with the new super-NMTB deluxe box set). Because they were often used uncredited, people wondered who took the pictures and who the girl actually was (some have even claimed the latter was Sophie). For quite a few collectors it became a real mystery.

By now those pictures have been seen by a few million people on several continents which is strange when I think how I nearly threw the slides away a couple of times. I’m also told that, if you count the clothes on the bed – some worn by Cookie on the US Tour and some by Steve in the ‘Swindle’ – it would cost 200K to re-create that room now. Except that it’s probably impossible: could anyone find any unworn Wemblex shirts? Or a handful of those Marx patches that China stopped making in 1988? Or so many mint Pistols’ posters?

When I look at those shots now I think about how ground-breaking that whole scene was…and how good Liz looked…and how bloody great the Pistols were.

Phil Strongman

Text: Copyright Phil Strongman © 2012 / Photo Copyright Phil Strongman © 1979 / 2008