The earliest-known live recording of the Pistols, the bulk (the first 12 tracks) of Savage Young Pistols was taped at the Nashville in April 1976, just five months into the band's live career -- and it stands as a damning indictment of the 18 months that would follow. Already the bulk of the band's repertoire is firmly in place; already the incendiary assault that would characterize their career has been perfected. Only the absence of the unwritten "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" prevents one from writing off the rest of their life as a sheer waste of time. Of course, the media circus that would soon attach itself to the band was scarcely conducive to creativity but, while the Pistols' own insistence on playing up to their image, rather than getting on with the music, might be understandable, it's still infuriating. Comparable to a great tape of the unsigned Stones or Beatles (hence the title, a play off the Hamburg-era Savage Young Beatles collection), Savage Young Pistols showcases a classic and classically inventive rock band in the making, tearing up the rule book as Rotten's anti-voice yelping rises above the thrashing maelstrom to signpost rock's next direction. If they hadn't been derailed, who knows what could have happened? Isolated cuts from further Nashville shows that same month and a Birmingham gig six months later maintain the momentum, while three demos recorded with guitar legend Chris Spedding ("Problems," "No Feelings," and "Pretty Vacant") prove that the Pistols' strengths remain undiluted by time and fashion; indeed, the often below-par sound quality actually contributes to their impact. As you struggle to make sense of what's going on, you remember that's what made it worth deciphering in the first place.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson