Listen to this track by British punk outliers and anti-boyband upstarts The Sex Pistols. It’s “Anarchy In The U.K”, a late 1976 single that would appear on the band’s sole studio album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. That album was released in the fall of 1977, which was a banner year for British punk. This song would mark the time when music and the culture out of which it came in Britain would change forever, with new costuming, and a new banner under which to rally.
A lot of the classic elements of rock music are found in the music of The Sex Pistols. On that level, it’s not really all that revolutionary. But, as with the first generation of rock n’ roll that appeared twenty years previously, musical innovation wasn’t really the point. What was the point was the visuals, the presentation, the personalities involved, and a fundamental perception shift from the audience’s point of view. By the mid-to-late 1970s, something was needed to inject new life into the rock millieu. By then, rock music had grown dangerously close to respectability. The Sex Pistols would certainly prove to be a tide in the opposite direction on that score.
What made this song, and this band so compelling within that? Well, I think the reason was this: they lived the lyrics of the song outright when it came to the gap between their generation and mainstream culture. Read more
Recently, I was exposed to some very odd television; gobby frontman for The Sex Pistols and ex-Public Image Ltd. John Lydon, AKA Johnny Rotten on Judge Judy thanks to a disgruntled sideman on one of his solo tours. Here’s the clip.
Hilarious, and strange. A former drummer takes Lydon to small claims court due to what he considers to be wrongful dismisal, and even more oddly – assault. Maybe the most entertaining aspect of this is watching Lydon attempt to control his mouth – something he’s not been very good at, historically.
Luckily, he shows more restraint with Judge Judy (and her hard-as-nails schtick…) then in the more infamous Sex Pistols TV appearance on the Bill Grundy hosted Today Show in December 1976, when “rude words” were used on live TV by Lydon and Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, goaded by Grundy (who also hit on a disgusted Siouxsie Sioux who was also present, live on camera). Grundy was fired, and the Sex Pistols rose in stature as a group who was capable of anything at any moment.
In this TV appearance from 1997, Lydon is the picture of restraint, although also the picture of barely contained ire and contempt for his would-be legal assailant. And we get the appropriately rendered and trademarked baleful stare from Lydon, who knows the value of showbiz even on daytime TV. And his vindication speech at the end is priceless.
For more Lydon TV appearances , check out the John Lydon official website.
And keep your ear to the ground for the rumours of a new Sex Pistols album, kids!