BY ANDREW MOODY
There was a genuine and cunning intelligence behind Punk’s explosion in the mid 1970s and in particular Malcolm McLaren’s brainchild The Sex Pistols.
“(He) wanted to provoke the state,” wrote Punk journalist Jon Savage, “in the way the Yippies or the Baeder/Meinhof gang had done.”
Guitarist Steve Jones commented years after the fact:
“I was a miserable sod deep inside…. It came from a lack of musical ability. It was like ‘oh, this is what gets you headlines.’”
“Johnny Rotten was just an arrogant little shit who thought he knew everything.”
In the grimy, porn obsessed, grim London McLaren flirted with in the late 60’s and early 70’s, he was very much searching for an idea. Very much a man whose substance was less than his status, he admired the iconography of Stalinism and Nazism.
John Lydon was a drunken, self-loathing no-hoper in a delinquent gang of boys all called John. One of the John’s, a sometime male prostitute, became the notorious Sid Vicious. Lydon hated his own appearance, had no experience with women, and wanted to destroy the Tories and the Monarchy.
McLaren and his partner/dominatrix Vivienne Westwood had a BDSM fashion shop on the King’s Road that went through many names then finally settled on SEX. At the time they sold T-shirts with transgender and illegal paedophilic imagery and focused on the darker side of fetish. It was here that Johnny Rotten was first introduced to what were now known as The Sex Pistols, who immediately fired bassist Glen Matlock (the only member of the band who could play) and hired Sid Vicious, who was paid in heroin and wound up murdering his prostitute girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
At the height of their notoriety, Rotten was slashed with a machete blade resulting in a permanent gimp leg. The unknown assailant muttered the iconic words before striking:
“God save the Queen, eh John?”
Punk was a revulsion for the past, a fear of the future, and a Nazi like obsession with the moment. The moment, thankfully, has passed. Yet psychiatric wards in the early 00’s which were filled to the brim with old punks, the detritus of a social movement that only cared about vomit, piss, gob and waste, was legitimately scarring. These were no longer people but brain dead zombies, wasted from the street drugs that always went with the scene, and were left with nothing when the rich punks became free market capitalists (See Rotten’s butter ad, and note how much less angry he is with his teeth fixed, which none of the psych ward punks could ever afford).
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