God Save The Queen. God Save Us All.

SOMETHING WARM AND GOOEY IS IN the air at the Sex Pistols reunion, and we don't just mean saliva. No, this substance is much more bizarre and unexpected: brotherly love. The four original members-John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock-are sitting around a patio at L.A.'s seedy-chic Chateau Marmont. They're trying to explain why they've reunited for a world tour and new live album after 18 long years apart. But they get caught up reminiscing about their formative period, when they wrote the songs that would end up on their seminal, establishment-busting 1977 album, "Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols." As they recall how they used to squabble, bicker, fight, curse and provoke each other, these four overgrown punkers get a bit misty about the good old days.

"We used to have this rehearsal room in London, a real tiny, scuzzo place," says Jones, 40. "Everybody was on top of each other. John could never hear himself."

"Those kind of songs aren't easily written, they're not easily thought out," says Lydon, also 40. "They're not crap. And because of the amount of work we put into them originally, you can't ever forget them."

"All of them were born out of a lot of arguing and intensity," says Jones. ""If you put this bit there I can't sing that.' And that would turn into you're an idiot."

"Great arguments," sighs Lydon. "Really, really good rows."

These are your parents' Sex Pistols. Once the most notorious band in the world, famous for spitting on their audience, vomiting in airports, slandering the queen and cursing on the BBC, the Pistols' pistols have mellowed into something more like pop guns. They're barely scandalous, aside from a belch, fart or loogie every now and then. They're hardly tasteless, except for the occasional off-color joke. (These usually originate from Jones, the most sex-obsessed Pistol. What does he want to do with the money he earns on tour? "Buy an island," he says. "And fill it full of birds.") They even look kind of cuddly. Matlock and Cook, both 39, have robust complexions and friendly eyes. Jones is tanned and selfconsciously suave in a neat blue suit with his hair slicked back. Lydon has shown up for press day with a brand new punk 'do: his short red spikes stand straight up, saIon-fresh. His eyes bulge out when he rants, but the effect is more reassuring than threatening. Even when he spits, you get a little thrill of nostalgia.

The title of the new world tour, which opens June 21 in Finland and arrives in the United States for the month of August, is typically snide: "Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here's the Filthy Lucre." "That was basically for the English press," says Jones. Lydon adds, "That was their major weapon against us: 'Oh, you're only doing it for the money.' Then 'You're fat and 40' came very quickly afterwards. Yes! And proud of it." But behind the cynicism, the band is taking the tour pretty seriously. For one thing, they've been practicing, sweating away in a sleek L.A. studio with British flags draped over the monitors. The myth always eclipsed the music, but these days the songs sound better than ever. Jones's guitar is muscular and blunt on classic two- and three-chord anthems like "Holidays in the Sun" and "EMI"; Lydon's nasty whine is unsoftened by time. The Pistols didn't singlehandedly invent punk rock, but they are the blueprint on which hundreds of alternative bands, from Green Day to Rancid, are based. "There's endless new-generation punks out there, and I say, "Get a life'," sneers Lydon. "Stop trying to copy our lifestyle. Be yourself, for God's sake. They don't like us for doing this. It challenges their preconceptions. They got it wrong! They're wallowing in drug culture and nonsense."

There's another reason Lydon and the Pistols are back on tour: to recapture their identity from the specter of Sid Vicious. The ultimate rock-and-roll casualty, Vicious replaced Matlock in 1977, barely a year into the band's brief two-and-a-half year life span. (Legend says they booted Matlock for liking the Beatles.) In 1978 the Pistols arrived in America for a catastrophic 12-day tour booked by the then manager Malcolm McLaren. Cops disrupted gigs, drunks started fights, morals were grievously offended; Vicious became the band's out-of-control poster boy, cutting himself up onstage and whaling audience members with his bass. When the tour ended, the band disintegrated. Vicious died a year later of a heroin overdose, after allegedly stabbing girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death. Now the Pistols want to distance themselves from "the Sid end of things." "Looking back, maybe I should have done something," says Lydon. "But I thought people would understand that was just stupid and pathetic. But they didn't get it. Never underestimate your audience's stupidity."

Those who think Sid Vicious was the Sex Pistols won't want to see a reunion show. But Lydon doesn't mind. "If you come to have fun, well, good," he says. "If you come to have a bad time, you're in the wrong place. We don't need those lousy, self-pitying whingers." Lydon sounds suspiciously like a parent, or at least a grown-up. But that's OK. Even when your band's the Sex Pistols, peace and love sell.