‘Pistol’ follows the formation and turbulent but brief existence of the iconic British punk band Sex Pistols in the 1970s. Based on founder and guitarist Steve Jones’ memoir, the six-part mini-series takes viewers down a chaotic rabbit hole of circumstances and anti-establishment philosophies that led to the broader English punk movement.
As expected, the narrative folds in an astounding plethora of eccentric characters that sometimes seem too strange to be true. Most of the Sex Pistols’ story is equally surreal, but much of what the series dramatizes actually happened in real life. Let’s take a look at one of the show’s strangest characters, Pauline, who seemingly inspired the Sex Pistols heavy-hitting track “Bodies.”
Is Pauline from “Bodies” by Sex Pistols a Real Person?
Yes, as it turns out, Pauline is based on a real woman from Birmingham who inspired lead singer John Lydon (pictured below) to write the song “Bodies.” The song revolves around a woman with schizophrenia who “had an abortion,” “was a case of insanity,” and “lived in a tree.” The real Pauline was actually admitted to a mental health institution where she would often spend long periods in a treehouse. Once, she actually stayed up there for days after nurses were unsuccessful in bringing her down.
Pauline was allegedly raped by a male nurse during her stay and fled to London after leaving the mental health facility. In London, Pauline delved into the unfiltered English punk scene and was described by Lydon as being very promiscuous. In his autobiography, Lydon mentions how Pauline showed up at his door once wearing a see-through plastic bag. She described her multiple pregnancies and abortions in detail to the lead singer, inspiring, or, perhaps more accurately, affecting, Lydon to write a song about her.
“Bodies,” which was recorded in 1977 and was part of the Sex Pistols’ only studio album ‘Never Mind the Bollocks,’ also touches on the broader subject of abortion. It draws from Lydon’s personal experiences, and in a 2017 interview with Mojo, he said: “I didn’t write it to cause a commotion. It was realism. My mum had a lot of miscarriages when she was young, and as the oldest child I had to carry the bucket and flush it down the outside toilets. Sometimes it took several flushes, and sometimes there’d be recognizable body parts.”
Did Pauline Really Carry Fetus in Her Bag?
As per Lydon, when Pauline showed up at his door wearing a clear plastic bag, she was also carrying a fetus in another bag. As stated earlier, Pauline apparently had a number of abortions after moving to London. Not much is known about Pauline or what happened to her. However, she affected Lydon enough for him to pen “Bodies.” On one occasion, the singer said: “The fetus thing is what got me. She’d tell me about getting pregnant by the male nurses at the asylum or whatever.” Other members of the band also seemingly had interactions with Pauline but have not been as vocal about the instances.