Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Deglamorization of The Sex Pistols

Punk Rock.  It rises from the depths of the poor wearing tattered clothes with no musical ability.  This describes a lot of bands I know.  But not The Sex Pistols

Many Consider The Sex Pistols the fathers of Punk Rock. Johnny Rotten will be the first one to tell you who is punk and who isn't punk.  I am a firm believer that The Sex Pistols are not as punk as you think.  Before you start arguing just hear me out.  I give you my five reasons that deglamorize The Sex Pistols.

They were a manufactured band. The Sex Pistols were the brain child of Malcolm McLaren, or so history would lead you to believe.  McLaren was a visual artist and clothing designer.  While in NYC purchasing clothes to sell in his boutique, 'SEX', back in England he started managing the New York Dolls and became well aware of the musical scene being created there. He realized that England was ready for a similar scene.  One filled with protest.  He saw this as an opportunity where he could monopolize.  Malcolm was already managing The Strand which included Jones, Matlock, and Cook. He just needed a singer.  After Richard Hell declined he plucked Johnny Rotten from the kids hanging around his boutique.  The rest was history.  Malcolm controlled their direction and shock tactics all the way through their tour of the US.  He even selected the southern cities they played knowing they would react poorly to their live show creating press.  I am not saying that the attitude didn't belong to The Sex Pistols.  They were young though and easily manipulated although Rotten was smart enough to realize it and start rebelling near the end.  McLaren had been around the block and knew how to play the game. Without him this scene may not have been the same. I still try not to be too judgmental. Even the Ramones were put toghether.  That is another story for another time.

They were walking mannequins.  Do you think that they had these clothes in their closets?  Hell no.  They were dressed up by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood with clothes they had designed. These same clothe could be bought in their 'SEX' boutique.  McLaren and Westwood designed their look thus creating a scene that benefited them.  If you think about it they were marketing geniuses. I will exclude Rotten from this partially.  What initially drew McLaren to him was his green hair and his Pink Floyd T-Shirt that had "I Hate" written above the name and was ripped and held together by safety pins.  That is pretty fucking punk.

They could play their instruments. Jones and Cook had been playing in a band together since '72.  Matlock, who had been been working in McLaren's boutique, joined them in '74.  These guys knew how to play.  It wasn't until Johnny Rotten convinced the band to kick out Matlock and replace him with Sid Vicious that the band had someone that couldn't play their instrument.  Vicious gave them punk credibility but wrecked them musically. Sid was also very naive and easily manipulated.  That was something else that McLaren liked.

They were on a major record label. We are talking Virgin records.  They had marketing and a sales team behind them.  It's not like they were pressing records at their shop and distributing it themselves at their shows like Black Flag.  They started off corporate from day one with their initial signings with EMI and A&M.  It just doesn't hold the same credibility as it was lacking the whole DIY punk ethos.  They may have started off stealing gear but all that had changed by the time they hooked up with McLaren

They actually received press.  Many punks bands had to travel the country and play your town for you to hear about them.  The Sex Pistols were in the paper and on the TV.  Granted, it was because of their atrocious behavior and controversial lyrics.  Then again, put money and a marketing team behind anything and it is bound to get people protesting or bodies buying records and tickets.  To quote the words of Johnny Rotten at the end of their last performance on their US tour, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?".

All this aside, they were politically poignant, socially irreverent, and wrote a damn good song.  Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's The Sex Pistols is still one of my favorites albums.  In fact, I recently purchased it again on vinyl.  But it is what it is, a damn fine Rock & Roll album.  They paved the way for many a band wanting to do the same thing but lacked the resources.  If you put it in that context, they are the fathers of Punk Rock.

See you when the needle drops!


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  1. Will you ever be expanding on the comment that The Ramones were put together? I am interested to see your take on this.

    1. I'm going by accounts in "On The Road with the Ramones" by their tour manager Monte A. Melnick. Paraphrasing, of course, that Tommy was the brain child of the band and wasn't even supposed to be their drummer at first. Johnny refuted this on multiple occasions but I would imagine there is some truth to it.

    2. Probably one of the few books I haven't read. I just never heard that before. Now I will need to read that book as well. THANKS!

    3. It's a great first hand account. I think you will like this one.


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