“Pretty Vacant” is a song by the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols. It was released on 2 July 1977 as the band’s third single and was later featured on their only album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, released during that same year. It is the first song written by the band.
According to bassist Glen Matlock, the song’s main riff was inspired by hearing “SOS” by ABBA. The B-side of the single was a cover of the Stooges‘ “No Fun”, which the band played on the spot without a proper rehearsal. It was taken from demo sessions recorded by producer Dave Goodman. In an interview for the June 2022 issue of Uncut, Matlock said that ”Pretty Vacant, which is my song and my lyrics, I took inspiration from Richard Hell’s Blank Generation. But I kind of misunderstood what his song was all about. You gotta put the songs in the context of what was going on for a bloke like me in mid-70s London, with the three-day week and the IRA bombings and power cuts, against the fact I was a young man who met some interesting people who was trying to form a rock’n’roll band. Pretty Vacant is a primal scream kind of thing: we don’t know what we’re gonna do, but we’re gonna do it anyway.”
The band made a video for “Pretty Vacant” (as well as one for “God Save the Queen“) on 11 and 12 July 1977 at the studios of ITN in Wells Street, London. They were thrown out after throwing cans of lager at the cameramen on the 11th, but came back on the 12th to finish the recording.
The song reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart and marked the band’s first appearance on the British chart music TV programme Top of the Pops. The song gained attention for vocalist John Lydon‘s phrasing of the word “vacant”, emphasising the last syllable to sound like the vulgar word cunt.