Sex Pistols – A&M Records – 1977

God Save The Queen

No Feelings

A record that was manufactured and ready for release that was then very quickly withdrawn by A&M Records and most copies destroyed in March 1977 due to the general ill manners of the band, and especially Sid Vicious who decided to chin some hippie down The Speakeasy. This specific hippie carried a lot of weight due to him being the presenter of a half decent late night music programme (which got even better, as a young Penguin was coming of age musically). The band and management was payed off due to the terms of the contract being cancelled by A&M Records.

Thumpingly great record. As it happens being thrown off A&M Records was the best thing that happened to this band, due to this record being delayed and coming out the week of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee via Richard Branson’s Virgin Record label and possibly hitting the top of the charts for that week. Another record deal, another advance, another story.

This post is uploaded tonight after hearing the sad news of the death of Malcolm McClaren from cancer earlier today. Text ripped off from telegraphonline.

Malcolm McLaren, who has died aged 64, came to public attention in 1976 as the manager of the Sex Pistols, the punk band which he steered to fame and notoriety before their implosion barely two years later.

Presenting himself as svengali and arch media manipulator, McLaren went on to create and promote other bands such as Bow Wow Wow, wrote an opera, appeared on television as a pundit on the phenomenon of punk, and considered running, in 2000, as a candidate for mayor of London.

He once said: “I am a product of the Sixties. All I have ever felt is disruptive — I don’t know any other way.”

The son of a Scottish engineer, Malcolm McLaren was born on January 22 1946 in Stoke Newington, London. He was brought up by his maternal grandmother, Rose, who encouraged in him a subversive spirit. At school he developed a talent for manipulating his class-mates, on one occasion luring them to a rubbish tip and making them get into a large cardboard box he had saved in order that they could be his “Box Gang”.

At 18 he went to Harrow Art School, where he lost his virginity to a talented designer five years his senior called Vivienne Westwood. He also met Jamie Reid, who would later create the Sex Pistols’ provocative and influential graphics.

In the late Sixties, McLaren drifted through several art colleges, immersing himself in the writings of the Situationist International (SI), the French provocateurs whose new media practices included manifestos, broadsheets, pranks and disinformation; and he loitered on the fringes of King Mob, an SI splinter group.

For an unfinished film made while still at art college, he wrote a manifesto which would sum up the underpinnings of punk: “Be childish. Be irresponsible. Be disrespectful. Be everything this society hates.”

In 1971, with Vivienne Westwood (who by now had had a child by him), McLaren opened a boutique at 430 King’s Road in Chelsea. At first called Let It Rock, and then Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die, the shop sold then-unfashionable 1950s Teddy Boy drapes and crêpe-soled shoes to a new generation.

By 1974 the shop, now renamed Sex, and later Seditionaries, was selling Vivienne Westwood’s proto-punk bondage gear and t-shirts printed with lettrist-inspired slogans. Run with the help of Jordan, a girl from the suburbs who favoured S&M gear, the shop was a hangout for a cast of young, bored and frustrated misfits, among them Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock.

In 1975 McLaren went to New York, where he became obsessed by the New York Dolls, a glam-metal male band who performed live in high heels, Lurex tights and make-up, though in an aggressive style which would make them influential to punks. Led by the singer David JoHansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders, the Dolls were the toast of the city’s underground scene, having just signed a record deal.

McLaren soon talked his way into becoming the band’s manager. His first move, the better to shock bourgeois Americans, was to put the Dolls into Maoist Red Guard outfits and have them play in front of a hammer and sickle flag; but New York was unimpressed by the band’s new image and, disillusioned by the sudden downturn in their fortunes, Thunders and the drummer, Jerry Nolan, quit soon afterwards.

Undeterred, McLaren returned to London, intent on creating a band in the way that the Fifties manager Larry Parnes had moulded such stars as Billy Fury and Marty Wilde. When Steve Jones pestered him to find a rehearsal room for his band, McLaren did so; and with the addition as lead singer of John Lydon, another denizen of Sex, rechristened Johnny Rotten for the state of his teeth, the Sex Pistols were born.

Controversy was always high on the band’s agenda, and it was McLaren, primarily, who ensured they achieved it. In May 1977, during the week of the Queen’s silver jubilee, McLaren booked a boat trip down the Thames where the band were to perform their single “God Save The Queen” outside the Houses of Parliament. The boat was raided by police. McLaren was arrested.

Whatever resentment the establishment had for him after this, it was soon to be magnified by the band themselves. The following year The Sex Pistols embarked on a tour of the US. They would return on separate flights. The band split up after a series of arguments, with members accusing McLaren of mismanaging them and withholding money.

After the demise of the Sex Pistols, McLaren continued to put out unreleased material by the band, until the aptly-named Flogging A Dead Horse album of 1979. The band sued McLaren in 1986 for royalties, eventually receiving £1 million in an out of court settlement.

In 1979, McLaren was invited to provide a new image for the band Adam and the Ants. For a consultancy fee of £1,000, he came up with a combination of American Indian and pirate garb, before suggesting to the band’s guitarist and rhythm section that they abandon their singer, Adam Ant, and join a new group McLaren was forming called Bow Wow Wow.

With 14-year old Annabella Lwin on vocals, Bow Wow Wow released the single C30, C60, C90, Go (1980), a driving, Burundi-influenced paean to home taping composed by McLaren. This was followed by the cassette-only EP, Your Cassette Pet.

Bow Wow Wow’s powerful and innovative sound was eventually rewarded by Top 10 hits with Go Wild in the Country and I Want Candy; but after a number of publicity stunts, including a photograph of Annabella Lwin semi-nude with the band in an album-sleeve pastiche of Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, the band folded in 1983.

That year, McLaren made his own recording debut, Duck Rock, a collection of songs based on “field recordings” made in Africa and incorporating New York’s fast-growing hip-hop style, exemplified by rappers The World’s Famous Supreme Team.

Although he was accused of plagiarism at the time, McLaren’s appropriation of musical styles from around the world would soon be much imitated. The album included the Top 10 hits Buffalo Gals (the first British record to feature scratching) and the quirky Double Dutch.

After releasing Would Ya Like More Scratchin’ (1984), McLaren then turned his attention to opera, producing the hit single Madame Butterfly and the album Fans (1985). Other albums mixing hip-hop and ethnic rhythms followed.

In the Nineties McLaren moved into television, producing commercials and, in 1991, a poorly received Christmas show, The Ghosts of Oxford Street, which featured The Pogues, Tom Jones and the Happy Mondays.

He returned to recording in 1993, signing to the French label Vogue and releasing an album, Paris, which gained poor reviews. In 1998 he attempted unsuccessfully to launch a group named Jungk, consisting of five beautiful Chinese girls.

McLaren co-produced for the film adaptation of Fast Food Nation, shown in 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival, and in the same year presented the documentary series Malcolm McLaren’s Musical Map of London for BBC Radio 2. This was followed in 2007 by Malcolm McLaren’s Life and Times in LA.

Also in 2007, he was due to appear in a reality television show for ITV, The Baron, which had to be postponed owing to the death of his fellow contestant Mike Reid. He was later due to appear in a series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, set in the Australian outback, but pulled out at the last moment.

Malcolm McLaren’s son by Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corré, became proprietor of the successful lingerie shop Agent Provocateur.

  1. alistairliv
    April 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Pinki used to have a copy of this, along with a white label of Death Disco given to her by Mr.Lydon himself. But someone knicked them when she lived at Derby Lodge. The story, which as with other of her weird tales may or may not be true, is that she had a girl friend who was an albino girl from Lapland and John Lydon fancied the same girl and used to invite her to Gunter Grove where he lived. Pinki would go along too and they would all eat fishfingers together. If Pinki really did get an early copy of Death Disco was this would have happened in 1979. RIP Malcolm.

  2. alistairliv
    April 9, 2010 at 7:57 am

    On BBC news about Mr M., they had a quote of him saying “Punk was an idea”.

    That is why punk was and is so interesting. We Brits don’t do Ideas. We had an Idea once but it started a civil war and chopped a king’s (Charles I) head off. When the French had a go and chopped their king’s head off that proved it. Ideas are bad and dangerous. So no more Ideas for the Brits.

    Damn foreigners kept having them though. The Germans (well Georg Hegel and Karl Marx) kept having Ideas and the French would then knick them and come up with more damn Ideas. Like the Society of the Spectacle. And calling themselves pretentious names like the Situationiste Internationale…

    The Situationists did do a nice journal though, with shiny metallic covers and Malcolm used to pick them up in Compendium in Camden (so he said once) and look at the pictures. Dangerous things pictures. Wrong kind of picture can give you Ideas.

    So somewhere between Camden and the Kings Road, maybe around Oxford Street, Malcolm got an Idea. He shared it with Vivienne and they called it punk. The rest was history. (It has mostly been forgotten now.)

    Goodbye Malcolm. Thanks for the Idea.

    AL Puppy

  3. Palmer
    April 9, 2010 at 8:17 am

    ..without Malcolm where we wouLd be, wearing Farrah kecks, sporting “bubble” perms and working for Trendsetters!! God bless you Malcy…say hello to Joe!

  4. denzil
    April 9, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Cheers Malcom

  5. Richard Cabut
    Richard Cabut
    April 9, 2010 at 10:33 am

    “History is for pissing on.” (MM)

  6. Sam
    April 9, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    My favourite Malc quote was a genuine historical insight I think. Talking of the notorious Pistols (and entourage) trip to Paris in 76 he said; “Siouxie Sioux, barebreasted was like Liberty leading the people”. I love that.

  7. Andus
    April 9, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    ‘There are two rules I’ve always tried to live by: turn left, if you’re supposed to turn right; go through any door that you’re not supposed to enter. It’s the only way to fight your way through to any kind of authentic feeling in a world beset by fakery. Tony Blair exalted the fake – he ushered in a karaoke culture. Never mind Iraq – that’s his real legacy.’

    Malcolm McLaren, RIP April 2010

  8. Sam
    April 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Good quote Andus. I think he was the contrarian’s contrarian. Everyone in NYC wants to see the Pistols – let’s play Texas instead sums it up. Something most of us probably picked up on.

  9. DavidM
    April 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Does he deserve credit regarding the creation of punk? He played a vital part for sure, but always found his stories somewhat fanciful as though he were some great puppet master. He was a creative genius, of that there’s no question, but it’s clear through a series of events that he didn’t always have the best interests of the band at heart. Here’s to the man. RIP Malcolm.

  10. Sam
    April 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I think the problem with McClaren is that he did play this Situationist game with the media as his tool. I’ve heard enough reports of him shitting himself in the studio after Bill Grundy to believe it, and the TV interviews on the Anarchy Tour show him as trying to remain in control in the centre of a very unpredictable whirlwind. ‘The Swindle’ was a good Situationist joke afterwards, but unfortunately many people, including most of America failed to ever see the irony in it which is why America likes to look on The Pistols as a boy band these days. Those of us around at the time saw it as the most real thing imaginable. I saw the movie with this girl, who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed it has to be said, who came out a bit stunned. “So it was all a big con then?”
    As the context has been lost with time (punk did feel very dead by the time the movie was released) The Swindle and its consciously cartoony view of punk can be viewed as somehow concurrent with the real thing. I get the feeling he was trying to spoil it for everyone, most of all history. In the end you have to go forward, which may have been his point.
    Someone mentioned Pop Art – like Warhol he was reborn into his media incarnation and played the part to the hilt, as did Lydon once he realised his media reflection (and subsequently became a parody of himself).

    I do think (knowingly or not) McClaren invented modern marketing. You have to hand it to him – not too many managers become as famous as the bands they manage, especially those with as dysfunctional relationships as The Pistols and McClaren. He secured a celebrity status for himself for the next 30 years, whilst doing very little creatively.

  11. Chris Low
    Chris Low
    April 10, 2010 at 1:56 am

    hmmm…must dispute your concluding assertion.

    Whatever one may think of his magpie-like cultural ‘appropriations’ he WAS undeniably one of the first to homogenise hip hop/b-boy culture and also released his ‘Vogue’ record (inspired by the gay drag ball phenomena – see Paris is Burning) a good year or two before Madonna released hers. I think he always liked to think of himself as being right on the zeitgeist, but latterly decided, rightly, it simply isn’t very ‘dignified’ for someone of his years.

    Also, from Colonel Tom Parker to Brian Epstein to Allan McGee, there have always been astute and media savvy music impresarios who are as much driven by their own egos to take centre stage as they are to successfully manage their charges. Jonathan King, anyone?

    I do agree, tho, about what you say regarding the ‘climate’ within which The Swindle came out. If I recall correctly, that was around the time the mod revival and 2-Tone were in full swing . I’m pretty sure the Swindle came to my local cinema a couple of months AFTER Breaking Glass, the two films compounding a disappointing realisation that ‘punk’ was like the deserted frontier town in a Spaghetti Western, still standing but to all intents abandoned since the gold rush had passed (though, conversely, the era of the best music to emerge from punk – Joy Division, first Killing Joke LP, PIL ‘Metal Box’, Banshees ‘Join hands’ etc)

    Also, i’ve always thought that as soon as anything becomes a ‘cartoon’ it is effectively emasculated and any potential threat/rebellion nullified. Obviously there’s a long tradition of this in politics, but never more evident within music than the cartoon portrayal of the Pistols in the Swindle.

  12. alistairliv
    April 10, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Interesting angle from Jon Savage in Guardian. But was it punk rather than the Pistols that ‘was the last gasp of late 1960s radicalism’?

    “The Sex Pistols were the last gasp of late 1960s radicalism. As an art student, McLaren immersed himself in those undercurrents and, in the early 1970s, tried several ways to communicate them within an often moribund popular culture. His radicalism came into focus during 1974, when he and Westwood began designing and selling fetish clothes in Sex at 430 Kings Road, west London.

    … in 1976 and 1977 he was inspiring. The Sex Pistols grew and grew, from a hopeless bunch of chancers to performers who changed people’s lives, and the furore that they unleashed was way beyond his wildest dreams. McLaren was shocked by the swearing on the Grundy show, and it wasn’t until the next day that he recalibrated and made out that he had planned the whole thing from the start.

    Throughout 1977, McLaren reacted with lightning speed to a constant round of scandal, business upsets, and personal crises. The whole project peaked in June 1977, when the Sex Pistols released God Save The Queen – the only focus for anyone who wished to protest that the monarch’s silver jubilee was a rotten lie if not worse: a deliberate attempt to turn back the clock to a 1950s’ nether-world.”

  13. shammy leather
    shammy leather
    April 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Once in a few decades a unique creative individual comes along who turns everything on its head and gives creativity with spontaniety and energy and CHAOS. Thanks Malcolm for all that, it was brilliant!

  14. DavidM
    April 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Had the Pistols not produced choice cuts like Anarchy and God Save The Queen, had not been the supreme musical force they became, then no amount of Malcom’s managerial skills and media manipulation would have accounted for a jot. He (and Jamie’s art and Vivienne’s design skills) definitely made them special, but without said killer tunes and more, they would have got nowhere, controversial or not, and for that Jones, Cook, Matlock, and Rotten deserve credit… so to refer to them as nothing more than “a bunch of hopeless chancers” is I think unfair.

  15. Andus
    April 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    That’s the Middle-class Guardian for you mate. For the Guardian the credit must go to McLaren, after all, working class people couldn’t possibly be intelligent enough to be anything other than just chancers.

  16. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Think you should read the sentance in context Dave.

    “The Sex Pistols grew and grew, from a hopeless bunch of chancers to performers who changed people’s lives, and the furore that they unleashed was way beyond his wildest dreams”.

    I do not know of any band that started off from basics not being a bunch of chancers, due to any new bands inability to perform or play instruments properly, get decent gigs etc etc. Only when a band matures slightly will that previous tag become null and void.

    Andus, that text was written by Jon Savage who knew Sex Pistols at the time and no doubt still knows the members of the band and until recently the management. Nowt to do with any class systems, and nowt to do with the Guardian editors I should think.

  17. Andus
    April 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    First of all I think the word ‘chancer’ inappropriate, as it means a reckless, improvident, often somewhat unscrupulous opportunist, I think a better term would be ‘all bands start off as learners.
    Its absolutely nothing to do with the editors I agree, but my remarks above were partially tongue in cheek.
    As for Savage’s book. Lydon didn’t like it, this is what he says about it.

    Q)-Do you consider literary works such as Greil Marcus’ book “Lipstick Traces” and “England’s Dreaming” by Jon Savage, which contain lengthy depictions of your work and music with the Sex Pistols, to be a lot of nonsense written for the authors benefit?
    John Lydon-Well, certainly for their own benefit. You see, my point about those two books in particular and indeed all of them really, is that they come with an agenda and they just fit everything around that preposition and the result is no relation at all whatsoever to the truth. It’s just fantasy or just historical inaccuracy.

  18. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 10, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I wouldn’t take a lot of what Lydon has stated apres 1980 as gospel if my life depended on it!
    And furthermore the way the question is written is heavily loaded in a certain direction to make Lydon react with an answer in a certain way.
    The way Lydon obviously did.
    I thought Englands Dreaming is just about the pinnacle of the books written about the early UK punk scene in the last 10-15 years.
    But we have not read Tony D’s effort yet!
    Welcome back Andus btw…x

  19. alistairliv
    April 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Malcolm and Vivienne knew their art history. From futurism and dada to surrealism. lettrism and the (early) situationists, they knew the beautifully explosive power released when contradictions are brought together. The surrealists used a quote from Lautréamont: ‘as beautiful as the chance encounter between a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.’ to ‘explain’ surrealism. The surrealists also (briefly) tried but failed to place their art at the service of the (communist) revolution.

    In England/UK, apart from ‘mad’ William Blake, such notions of explosive/ revolutionary art were absent. Even more so, in popular culture and despite the myths of the sixties counterculture , such dangerous ideas were still absent- at least until the extreme heat of the summer of 1976 created the chaos of explosive contradictions that was punk…

    Whatever Mr. Lydon may have said (see Andus ‘ comment above), if the Sex Pistols had not been constructed (stitched together- see below) from a revolutionary art history inspired set of semiotic/political contradictions and oppositions , there would have been no explosion. If there had been no explosion, there would have been no punk. If there had been no punk, there would have been no Ripped and Torn and hence no KYPP and you, dear reader, would be now staring at a blank computer screen.

    So instead of staring at a blank screen, read this about the ’Anarchy’ shirt from England’s Dreaming/ Jon Savage/1991/ p. 188 –

    There was a lot of discussion about anarchy that summer [1976]: Lydon was working up a set of lyrics to one of Glen’s tunes. Vivienne set about making a parallel item of clothing. The resulting ‘Anarchy’ shirt was a master [mistress?] piece. Talking a second hand sixties shirt , Westwood would dye it in stripes of, black, red, or brown, before stencilling on a slogan such as ‘Only Anarchists Are Pretty’. The next stage was to stitch on more slogans: hand painted on rectangles of silk or muslin. These made more explicit references to Anarchist heroes and the events of 1968: ‘Prenez vos desires pour la realite‘; ‘A Bas le Coca Cola’. The final touches were the most controversial. Small rectangular portraits of Karl Marx (from Chinatown) were placed on the side of the chest, and on the other, above the pocket or collar was placed an (often inverted ) flying swastika from the Second World War. To ensure that the message was received, the whole shirt was finished off by an armband which simply read ‘Chaos. The intention was the group should not be politically explicit, but instead should be an explosion of contradictory, highly charged signs.

    As in the ‘Which side of the bed’ t-shirt, in this one garment are contained the ambiguities and density of references that would take several years to unravel. The ‘Anarchy’ shirt created a chaos of meaning but managed nevertheless to make a coherent statement. The intention was clearly to deliver a political manifesto that avoided simplistic solutions. In the context, the use of Anarchist and Situationist slogans indicated the desire not to be easily labelled and a wish for change, of an intensity not usually associated with a pop group.

  20. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Granted Penguin, I didn’t read Savage’s comment in its proper context.
    McLaren has throughout the years continued to embellish the past and exaggerate his contribution to the Pistols, and whose actions, while in his mind important to the creation of the myth surrounding the band and his part in it, did have negative consequences. For instance the lie put about by McLaren regarding a UK wide ban on any public performances by the band. Makes great copy, but the reality was somewhat different, with proprietors making known their willingness to allow the Pistols to play. Really don’t think he gave a damn about Rotten and co, and found his self-aggrandizement loathsome.
    What produced an explosion was not due to the man referencing SI tracts or paying homage to an amalgam of leftist or revolutionary ideals, but the sounds Rotten and co hammered out at shows in London and Manchester, inspiring whoever saw them.

  21. alistairliv
    April 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I disagree with DavidM…. ‘the sounds Rotten and co hammered out at shows in London and Manchester’ did not inspire whoever saw them. Only a very few came to punk that way. The explosion happened when the tabloid press went into outrage overdrive, creating a moral panic with punks as folk devils. Even then, without the Jubilee the filth and fury of initial Grundy show reactions would have faded as the media cycle moved on.

    It was the attack on the heart of English/ Britishness – the monarchy- which changed the game. It was an assault on patriotism, on the unity of the Kingdom (=the State). There is a strong historical argument which says the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was never completed – it did not (unlike the French Revolution) follow on to a republic and a written constitution as the basis for civil liberties. Even today, we Brits are not ‘citizens’ of a nation-state, we are ‘subjects of the Crown’.

    So that the attack on royal privelege made in 1977 was properly ‘revolutionary’.

  22. Andus
    April 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm


  23. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I think Al is on about William Of Orange trying to depose the catholic king James II in that year Andus.
    This is a long distant relative of mine that was involved in some way with this revolution;

    And no, my family is not rich despite having relatives buried at Westminster Abbey!

  24. Andus
    April 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I thought that was an invasion to get rid of the Catholics, wasn’t William of Orange dutch and some sort of relative of Charles I. Its were we get that right wing orange order from.

    So you’re not rich then Pengy, pity, I was gonna try and tap you for the cash, oh well.

  25. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I’m sorry Penguin, but said shows did indeed transform the lives of many who attended them, taking up the fight themselves. These shows set the course for future events, with a myriad of bands and zines arising from the scene they would throw up.
    In terms of reaching a wider public? Yes, I would agree that the band’s numerous flurries with controversy such as the Grundy incident did indeed have a greater impact, but as has already been pointed out, McLaren had nothing whatsoever to do with this, forced to react to the controversy that would ensue with screaming headlines across the pages of the tabloid press the following day.
    Regarding the Jubilee? Whilst the band taking to the Thames may have been part of Mclaren’s greater plot, as far as I’m aware, he played no part in shaping the band’s music or suggesting lyrics, so to claim that the man deserves full credit for what occurred that summer is I think quite wrong. …and as much as his (and the band’s) efforts were admirable, and yes, did shake up the establishement, to suggest that the release of this disc was an act of revolutionary purpose and intent, is false. They rocked the boat for sure, but revolutionary? No.

  26. alistairliv
    April 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    DavidM – you are replying to posts by me Al Puppy/ alistairliv not Penguin…

    I am not arguing that Malcom Mclaren as an indivdual was responsible for punk. I am saying that he and Vivienne took a bunch of ideas which had been part of several European art movements -futurism, dada, surrealism plus the arty situationists and applied them to UK popular culture/fashion.

    If punk had stayed a musical style -like glam or prog rock – it would have been of minor interest. What happened was that -when propogated via the mass media, the intentionally disruptive arty elements of punk triggered or acted as a catalyst for something much bigger. Punk became a social phenomenon, tapping into and revealing fissures and cracks in the fabric of mid seventies British society.

    Some of those fractures ran (and still run) very deep – right back to the English Civil War (which started in Scotland). The politics of punk, especially as thye evolved towards anarchopunk, were like the politics of the 17th century Diggers and Levellers.

    That punk was/ is part of the unfinished business of British history. Just today the front page of the Observer quotes Nick Clegg of the LibDems (the Whigs) predicting social chaos and Greek style unrest – if a narrowly elected Tory or Labour government try to push through draconian spending cuts.

    Spending cuts needed becuase thirty years of ‘market freedom’ have bankrupted the UK. We are all going to have to pay and pay so a few bosses can keep their multi-million pound bonuses.

  27. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Apologies regarding my confusion. Too quick to post, and what with replying to one of Penguin’s posts yesterday, got folks mixed up. Feeling rather foolish and somewhat embarrassed I have to say.
    I’m not for a moment denying McLaren’s influence (said so already), however his place in this has been overblown. The ideas he brought to the table while important, did not have the impact that you suggest. People were grabbed not by fanciful ideas of revolutions past, but by the sounds the Pistols were kicking out, kicking against a music establishment then dominated by rock dinosaurs like Yes, ELP, Led Zep, and their kind, and it was this, plus some boisterous behaviour in the studios of London Weekend, that got people talking. If you wanna attach a political significance to what was going on, you’ve got look much harder. Anarcho-punk? That’s an entirely different matter with none of the pretentious fakery of McLaren and Westwood.

  28. Chris Low
    Chris Low
    April 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    >>For instance the lie put about by McLaren regarding a UK wide ban on any public performances by the band<<

    Really must dispute that, DavidM. the Pistols were ALWAYS & INDISPUTABLY more about 'image' than music; concept than practice; a phenomena rather than simply a band.

    Without McLaren the Pistols would probably just have stayed the 'house' band to a small and secret circle of London art-students, Bowie fans, fashionistas and the band members' mates. You'll find bands like that in every city. Sometimes the music industry/press MAY pick up on them, generating a following and other bands influenced by them forming in their wake, but more often than not they go unrecognised, albeit posthumously appraised.

    Also, don't forget that Throbbing Gristle, though obviously coming from a totally different current had been performing shows/'happenings' around London previous to the Pistols becoming a phenomenon. If you trawl google i'm sure you'll find the Evening Standard 'Wreckers of Civilisation' piece on Coum Transmissions' ICA show, replete with photos of Siouxsie Sioux & Steve Severin. Ditto the 101ers, Hotrods + myriad other acts.

    It took McLaren to capture the imagination and market the Pistols to the public.

  29. Sam
    April 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    McClaren’s Machiavellian plan as put forth by The Swindle is obviously nonsense, but it’s meant to be an ironic excercise in rewriting history. What gets lost is the humour and just how instinctive this all felt at the time. The ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ album cover was, apparently ‘designed’ by the band – largely Steve Jones. They just got together and came up with the most disgusting thing they could think of. Thus non-design becomes classic design 30 years on. I was showing it in one of my art history classes last week. As most of these 18/19 year olds were born around 1991 it really is ancient history and it now takes an act of imagination to understand just how disgusting that hot yellow and pink looked at the time. Very abrasive. I disagree that punk at this time was in any way political. It was instinctively confrontational and above all the main aim was to be difficult. Malcolm, whilst probably not having some concise plan DID provide a rehearsal space and DID send them up north to play at working men’s clubs and satellite towns. I’m amazed they escaped with their lives. I think the abrasive relationship between him and the band was quite important. ‘New York’ was in response to McClaren idolising the NYC scene and ‘Submission’ was a piss take response to McClaren saying they needed to write an S and M song.
    Does anyone else remember that PIL were suspected as being an elaborate joke at the time the first album was released? We all suspected that Lydon was going to pop up and say ‘Ha ha….you all fell for it’. But, Lydon, Wobble and Levine rejecting the rockism of punk was a way of blowing off the punk scene and alienating every punk rocker at the time. Contrarianism at its best. Punk was very close to Borat I think. Sasha Baron Cohen, at his best has a similar instinctive genius for confronting the tedium of social norms.

  30. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Chris, the fact that McLaren concealed approaches by interested parties to allow the Pistols to play is not a matter of dispute, but recorded fact. For instance Roxy proprietor Andy Czezowski said he would have been happy to comply with the band’s wishes and have them play the club.
    Yes, and as I’ve said already, Westwood and McLaren’s design skills coupled with Jamie Reid’s art and Mclaren’s deft touches when it came to promoting the band, played their part for sure. No one is denying that, but they’re minor detail if we compare them to the force of the band’s music, without which they would have remained a relatively obscure phenomenon and ignored by most.
    Don’t need to Google TG or dig through the headlines garnered by the band’s then controversial and some would say shocking practices, plus know the pics to which you refer very well with snaps taken of Siouxsie and Debbie Juvenile at the ICA. The Pistols were something altogether different, their shocking sounds far removed from the pub rock of The Hotrods or The 101ers. Really, there is no comparrison.

  31. alistairliv
    April 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    In reply to DavidM

    1. If you wanna attach a political significance to what was going on, you’ve got look much harder. Anarcho-punk? That’s an entirely different matter with none of the pretentious fakery of McLaren and Westwood.

    1.1 The first line of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle – ‘In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.’ –

    was taken directly from the first line of Marx’s Capital : ‘ The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities …’

    Society of the Spectacle is effectively a 100 year on (1867 to 1967) update of Marx‘s critique of political economy -especially part 1 section 4 ‘The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret thereof.’ In particular, Debord tackled the shift from the capitalism of mass production to the capitalism of mass consumption and the creation of a mass media and advertising which through constant spectacular bombardment persuades people to equate ’freedom’ with the production and consumption of false consciousness. Debord also made a major advance in his critique of ‘spectacular time’, the

    Soc Spec 156 The production process’s constant innovations are not echoed in consumption, which presents nothing but an expanded repetition of the past. Because dead labor continues to dominate living labor, in spectacular time the past continues to dominate the present.

    157 The lack of general historical life also means that individual life as yet has no history. The pseudo-events that vie for attention in spectacular dramatizations have not been lived by those who are informed about them; and in any case they are soon forgotten due to their increasingly frenetic replacement at every pulsation of the spectacular machinery. Conversely, what is really lived has no relation to the society’s official version of irreversible time, and conflicts with the pseudocyclical rhythm of that time’s consumable by-products. This individual experience of a disconnected everyday life remains without language, without concepts, and without critical access to its own past, which has nowhere been recorded. Uncommunicated, misunderstood and forgotten, it is smothered by the spectacle’s false memory of the unmemorable.

    158 The spectacle, considered as the reigning society’s method for paralyzing history and memory and for suppressing any history based on historical time, represents a false consciousness of time.

    The false consciouness of time is political. The experience of punk, the lived intensity of its moments of excess created individual lives with history – our lives, our history. With punk, the past ceased to dominate the present and thus the stupefaction induced by the accumulation of fetishised commodities was broken. Thus punk was political.

    1.2 Was anarchopunk a spontaneous creation? Or was it, at least with Crass, consciously created (faked) using for example, Dadaist techniques and approaches? Crass were no less arty wankers than Malcolm and Vivienne.

    2. The Pistols were something altogether different… Really? When I first heard Anarchy in the UK I was very disappointed. From the hype I expected chaos rather than music. But it was only rock n roll after all.

    Far more shocking for me was seeing the New York Dolls on the old Grey Whistle Test in November 1973.

    See this clip from the show of Jet Boy.

    And also from 1973, here are the Dolls playing Personality Crisis

    Musically, the Pistols were just clever copyists of the original outrageous (but still rock n roll) sound of the Dolls. In imitation of New York as they said.

  32. Chris Low
    Chris Low
    April 11, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    >>>Chris, the fact that McLaren concealed approaches by interested parties to allow the Pistols to play is not a matter of dispute, but recorded fact. For instance Roxy proprietor Andy Czezowski said he would have been happy to comply with the band’s wishes and have them play the club<<<

    Yeah, I know that. As i'm sure everone does. But that is simply good management: you keep your public HUNGRY and enhance the aura.
    Nothing demystifies that so quickly as a band playing every gig they're offered.

    Also, i beg to differ regarding their music. With the exception of the absolutely blinding Holidays In the Sun & Bodies i WOULD say the Pistols' – and most of their contemporaries' – early music IS simply speeded up R&B/Bo Diddley riffs. If they had sounded like 'Belsen', or indeed early PIL it would have been a different matter. Though probably a lot more contained as, despite the hyperbole (and Rotten's vocal stylings), it was the fact their early singles WERE by and large fairly accessible high-octane sing-a-long pop ditties that made them successful. I remember being very surprised, if not almost disappointed, the first time I ever heard the Pistols or The Clash. From the appearance of punks that i'd seen in the papers and on the news I had really expected something much more musically 'extreme'. As i've said before on this forum, it was only when 'Feeding of the 5,000' came out that there was a record which was actually what i had EXPECTED – and WANTED – punk to sound like all along. If that makes sense.

    I agree with you tho that Jamie Reid's artwork was certainly integral to their success, which is why, even over 30 years on, it still looks as peerlessly iconic today.

  33. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Rotten I think would disagree. Sure, they were just a rock ‘n’ roll band. They didn’t pretend to be anything else, kicking against the pricks just as The Who, Stones et al had done a generation earlier, and Elvis a generation before that. However, to compare them to The 101ers is, and I’m sorry about this, frankly ridiculous. So yes, at least in this instance, they were indeed something altogether different, and in sharp contrast to the music of prog and rock excess of the day.
    The difference between Crass and McLaren and Westwood is that Malcolm and Vivienne’s politics were nothing more than a sham, a clever marketing tool. Members of Crass have however remained committed to their ideals and belief in struggle. Shit, look at Westwood today, or what McLaren became.
    Crass did not as you suggest create what would be quickly dubbed anarcho-punk (and I’m at a loss as to how you believe if any such thing were true that this could in any way shape or form be described as fakery, which is something altogether different). The movement sprang to life, as did punk via the Pistols, with folks inspired by the sounds they heard and words they read. This happened quite by accident and not by design.
    Punk was indeed political. Didn’t say it wasn’t, just that the politics of the Pistols weren’t always as clear as say The Clash, and bamboozling folks with Situationist texts isn’t helping.

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