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A record that was manufactured and ready for release that was then very quickly withdrawn by A&M Records and most copies destroyed in March 1977 due to the general ill manners of the band, and especially Sid Vicious who decided to chin some hippie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. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Chris, so good management involves lying to the band whose interests you represent? Hardly fair of the man, though point taken.
    Like it or not, the Pistols music and live performances won them friends and followers by the thousand, and did make a difference.

  2. alistairliv
    April 11, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Aopolgies DavidM, being distracted by my son who is refusing to let me wash his hair…meantime perhaps you could re-read this piece from England’s Dreaming anbout the ‘Anarchy’ shirt. I think it shows that the Pistols’ music (Anarchy in the UK in particular) cannot be separated from / is inextricably linked to the ‘package’ constructed by Malcolm and – in this case- Vivienne.

    This piece also shows that the politics of the Pistols were intentionally unclear – the message was meant to be confusing,.

    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.

    [Key sentence]
    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.

  3. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    It’s cool man. No apology necessary. Should apologise regarding my final quip re. SI texts. Think it’s best that I bow out of this discussion. Could sense that things were getting heated.

  4. Sam
    April 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    I think part of the strength of punk is that we’re all still bickering about what it even ‘was’ 34 years on. I’ll get all winky wanky again and say that, in a very instinctive, non-intellectual way, the dirty use of Chuck Berry riffs was very much the ironic appropriation of an earlier sign and (to return to dadaist couplings of sewing machines and umbrellas) combining 50s R n’ R with Lydon’s inspired howl created something new. Very Post Modernist that. Reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary and cultural movement does occur sideways, not forward by subverting the familiar. Duchamp putting a urinal in an art gallery forced viewers to rethink a toilet as a sculpture – whether they thought it was bullshit or not. The truth of this is proved by the dreadful Cook/Jones efforts after Lydon, which were a mixture of Rugby songs and pumped up R n’ B. Take Lydon out of the equation and you’re left with nothing. But those 4 people are what happened and their association is what made the band. Matlock left and it largely went to shit. Likewise Cook and Jones were geniuses in their own way. There’s a making of NMTB DVD where Jones goes over his riffs and, whilst remaining touchingly humble IMO, does say ‘pretty good for a 19 year old that couldn’t play”.
    If you want to cite the New York Dolls Alisdair, I’d have to say they always struck me as a latter day (poor man’s) Rolling Stones. And if Steve Jones was channelling Johnny Thunders, Thunders was channelling Keith Richards channelling Chuck Berry. Richard Hamilton was, apparently the first pop artist and Lichtenstein made a name for himself long before Warhol. All of which isn’t very important as ‘who did it first’ is less important than ‘who synthesised it best’. With McClaren, The Pistols, British Punk – all the strands came together and created a MOVEMENT and a scene. If the music sounded like R n’ R, the attitude certainly didn’t.
    They all may look like clothes horses now, but walking around with a print of 2 cowboys fucking or Snow White being gang-banged by the 7 dwarves wasn’t really ‘fashion’.
    Anarcho Punk wasn’t full of fakery? Middle Class kids playing out the worst Dickensian cliches of urchinism, pretending to be revolutionaries, going off to Stonehenge to connect with outdated, reactionary hippy ideas of earth majick and the like? Give me a Westwood tits T shirt any day.

  5. DavidM
    April 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Sorry, but I can’t go without first challenging Sam’s comment regarding anarcho-punk. Sure, while some folks may indeed have been just dabbling in various concepts and ideals, a lotta folks (of which I’m one) were convinced of its potential, and are still involved (in my case after 30 years). Sure, in terms of a commitment to struggle, some will not have taken their politics seriously (but hey, such a phenomenon is not unique to the anarcho-punk community), but many more did, and still do, active in various struggles, be that via alternative community spaces, local solidarity groups, anti-fascism, anarchist federations, earth and animal liberation, and more. For every five minute tosser, there are folks out there getting their hands dirty and who are in it for the long haul.

  6. Sam
    April 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Point taken David but for every fashion punk there were those who were inspired by the moment as an exemplarary example of creating something from nothing, subverting the status quo, bringing realness into a superficial world of fakeness and questioning the impregnability of the mass media. I’m far from being any kind of alternative force but the resonance of that moment informs my life still. If Westwood’s part of the establishment now who cares? It’s inevitable but she was certainly part of that exemplarary example. If some of those ideas were co opted by the mainstream doesn’t that produce a more interesting world? If movements remain underground and adopt an inverted elitism (Anarchism for example) they are doomed to preach to the choir.

  7. baronvonzubb
    April 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    hmmm anarcho punk….
    pistols used the practice of (situ) detournement to have an influence much wider than the individuals involved.
    anarcho punk has had almost no influence outside of the ultra left. (green anarchy pre dates punk by a while before folk start howling about the green movement….)
    to be an anarcho punk one first has to believe in things and issues such as ‘punk’ ‘anarchy’ ‘pacifism’ ‘fox hunting’ etc. where as to be a ‘pistol punk’ one merely had to not believe in things and find out for ones self.
    one is a an ‘enlightening’ process the other an ‘encumbering’.

  8. DavidM
    April 15, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Pacifism? You’re about 25 years out of date mate. Few in the anarcho-punk community adhere to any such principle. Back in the day for sure, but not since.

  9. DavidM
    April 15, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    The Floodgates Of Anarchy… damn, that takes me back. One of the very first anarchist titles I ever read back in 1982 or therabouts. First was George Woodcock’s Anarchism.

  10. Chris Low
    Chris Low
    April 15, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    >>Pacifism? You’re about 25 years out of date mate. Few in the anarcho-punk community adhere to any such principle. Back in the day for sure, but not since<<

    In fact round -about EXACTLY the same time Crass & Chumbawamba underwent their 'volte face' on the topic. Strange that? Then again, not surprising as though there were a number of individuals within the scene who were people of integrity and sincerity in their beliefs, for the vast majority I encountered, fundamentally, like all other youth subcultures it really just boiled down to being a fan of Crass and 'that sort of band' and the politics were largely a pose or just something to pay lip-service to.
    Myself included, I hasten to add.

    Honestly, i'd be very surprised if The Cult Of Anarcho-Punk is any less dogmatic than it was 25 years ago.

    PS: Floodgates of Anarchy was the first anarchist book I ever read too, and in 1982 or '83 as well. Followed by, if i remember correctly, Anarchy In Action by Colin Ward & Berkman's ABC of Anarchism.

    Oh, those blue remembered hills….

  11. DavidM
    April 16, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Chris, that hasn’t been my experience at all, either then or now. Perhaps you just hung with the wrong crowd. Plus, if we consider the scene of the day, one with a relatively high profile with bands featured in the music press and whose releases were hitting the charts, you’re gonna come across some folks who aren’t digging it for the right reasons.
    … and regarding your grossly unfair and wildly inaccurate swipe at today’s scene, what exactly qualifies you to make any such judgment? Based on experiences over 20 years old? Folks do their own shit. No one follows to the letter whatever band may be kicking it at the time.

  12. Chris L
    Chris L
    April 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    To be fair I know, or had contact with, most of the ‘movers & players’ in the scene back then, tho’ most pleasantly, all the good folk from those days seem to be regulars on this site 🙂

    You are right however about my experiences being over 20 years old, and perhaps younger folk who have got into it in days since crass broke up don’t suffer or project the same degree of dogmatism and ‘lifestyle-ism’ many in the early ’80s did.

    From what I observe (still having mates in punk bands and whatever – I shared a flat with Deek of Oi Polloi for a few years for instance) It appears that now there are folk who are genuinely into the activism/politics side of things and others who are just into the music and getting drunk. Whereas 20+ years ago there would have been a realm antagonism between the two camps; ‘drongoes vs hippies’ as I recall it. If you search for the ‘Toxic Shock’ demo on this site I think you’ll find one post that kind of says it all; an account of members of the band taking the piss out of some punk on a bus with Discharge painted on his leather.

    I remember having a hysterical exchange with some fanzine author once when Deek was doing an Oi Polloi interview. That absurd analogy of abbatoirs and concentration camps was brought up, which I interjected was utter bollocks. The fanzine writer seemed to be quite shocked to hear anyone ever refute this ‘party line’, coming out with the classic howler “but how can’t you not think animal rights are as important as human rights…I mean you’re into anti-racism aren’t you?”

    “Errrr…run that one past me again please…” 😉

    There was a lot of that sort of ill-conceived foolishness about back then. Hope not so much today.


    Believe me, back then they did. They were called Crass-clones. And, frankly, with the exceptions of pretty much a lot of the regulars here they WERE the ‘anarcho punk’ scene. Or certainly my experience/observation of it.

    (NB: things kind of changed around late 83/84 though politically; post-Stop The City & Miners Strike and musically; with the advent of the hardcore sound and also bands embracing the nascent thrash/speed metal scene (metallica, Slayer etc).

  13. DavidM
    April 16, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    That’s most definitely an interesting point, and one that ’til now hadn’t really occurred to me. It’s true that things are far more relaxed today with folks mixing quite happily. Yes, there are issues or causes which are still central to the scene and which arouse people’s passion, and yes, folks are gonna call people on their shit if need be, which is as it should be, but we’re a happy bunch and can still have a laugh.

  14. Sam
    April 16, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Different times though. People were religious about the bands they loved, anarcho or not. I had a row with someone because they hated The Damned. Seems like a stupid thing to get worked up about but it seemed to embody some ethereal set of values at the time.

    I went to art school with Andy Palmer who said he knew it was time to move on when kids’d phone up and say; “OK….I’ve disowned my parents, I don’t eat meat or wear leather and I’m living in a squat in Hackney… what?”

    Looking back on it Anarchism was more about denial of self than changing the world.

  15. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    You went to art school with Andy Palmer Sam? That’s cool, St Martins? I spent the morning round Andy’s house in Crouch End last saturday followed immediately by a quick visit round to Martin Flux (of Pink Indians) house who convieniantly happens to live down the same street.
    I remember hearing the same story you just paraphrased from another member of Crass, Pete Wright.

  16. DavidM
    April 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Regarding anarchism Sam, prefer to think of such lifestyle choices as taking bold and positive and steps towards building a better and more just world. It’s disappointing that some see said actions, as many do regarding vegetarianism or veganism for instance, as forms of denial instead of life embracing ideals. Also, don’t think it entirely fair to confuse the actions of some perhaps naive souls in the anarcho-punk community with the wider anarchist movement.

  17. alistairliv
    April 16, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    With the benefit of hindsight we (as in KYPP) should have done a bit more to educate and inform. We did – page 2 of KYPP 4, Sepetmber 1981 – give a reading list which included Floodgates of Anarchy see

    – we also recommended The Dispossessed by Ursula Leguin, Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, News from Nowhere by William Morris, Playpower by Richard Neville, books by Ivan Illich, The Female Eunch by Germaine Greer, Function of the Orgasm and Mass Pyschology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich (‘very hard to read’, Fat is a Feminist issue by Susie Orbach, …The Illuminatus Trilogy (hmmm). The Christie File by Stuart Christie, Beneath the City Streets by Peter Laurie, Spectacular Times by Larry Law + ‘real’ anarchist writers like Bakunin, Kropotkin and Proudhon

    – and recommended 121 Railton Road as an anarchist bookshop.

    I bought ten copies of Floodgates of Anarchy from Cienfeugos Press and we sold them all from the KYPP table at Wapping… but even if it had been a 1000 copies and even if we had done more to promote the KYPP reading list would it have made much difference?

    The sheer volume of Crass influenced material drowned everything else out.

    There was also the theory/ practice problem. The Wapping A Centre punk Sundays hardly semed to have got going before the landlord pulled the plug (and pissed off the proper anarchos) This quote about Wapping is from Albert Meltzer: I couldn’t paint golden angel’s:

    The punk support, especially from followers of Crass and Poison Girls, was substantial. Punk has lasted a couple of decades, long outlasting the proposed club. With the punks’ money came the punks, and in the first week they had ripped up every single piece of furniture carefully bought, planned and fitted, down to the lavatory fittings that had been installed by Ronan from scratch, and defaced our own and everyone else’s wall for blocks around. In the excitement of the first gigs where they could do as they liked, they did as they liked and wrecked the place. Loss of club, loss of money, loss of effort. End of story. Ronan was not unnaturally disheartened and returned to even more chaotic Northern Irish politics. [End of quote]

    After Wapping came the Centro berico followed by a string of squatted spaces… which required anarchist (+ squatting technique) practice without much time to step back and consider theory. Some of us (KYPP crew) also got involved in the Black Sheep Housing Co-op which meant dealing with local council and related bureaucracy. Boring stuff like having to keep proper accounts. There was also the lure of free festival and becoming a ‘new age’ traveller, which quite strong by then.

    Floodgates of Anarchy was first published in 1970, in the aftermath/ enthusiasm of the events (near revolution) in France in May 1968. Maybe if its revolutionary class struggle version of anarchism – rather than the more individualist anarchism of Crass -had been absorbed by anarchist punks the eighties would have been different. I doubt it though. The Thatcher/Reagan rightward shift was too powerful. It has lasted thirty years – 1968 was an end, not a beginning- and despite the recent and ongoing crisis of capitalism, is still the dominant economic/political/cultural belief-system.

  18. Sam
    April 17, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Penguin….do me a favour and say hello to Andy for me when you see him again? Great bloke and a good painter too.

    Sorry DavidM for my cynicism. The ability to give a fuck about the world is obviously a great thing, and I’m sure you and your’s do. My experiences 25-30 years ago though, was always of a very insular community of very bitchy, exclusive people, desperately trying to outdo each other in the holier-than-though stakes. I lived with a couple who had a 6 month old ‘vegetarian’ dog. They claimed that dogs were natural herbivores and fed him oatmeal. I’d take her for a walk and I’d have to wrestle her away from eating every bit of dogshit on the street, presumably for the protein. These were ‘animal lovers’. It’s a cliched criticism (but one I’ve found to be true) that animal lovers tend to be city dwellers and seem to humanize animals. I live in the country in the US and all our neighbours hunt deer. As they all stick to the correct hunting seasons it keeps the population down to a managable level (they are pests if you let the population grow too big) and they all genuinely love the animals they hunt. Something I wouldn’t have understood before moving down here.
    I found among the Anarchist community that the pressure was to adopt an alternative code with very rigid rules. I found an incredible lack of open-mindedness and originality. Very sexually repressive as well. I grew to hate feminists. There…I’ve said it.

  19. DavidM
    April 17, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Sam, to which anarchist communities are you referring? Perhaps you could list those groups for instance with whom you’ve had contact? While I’ve no interest in denying your own experiences, they do run contrary to those I know or have witnessed over the last 20+ years, bearing little resemblance to the anarchist movement I’m familiar with at least in the UK, and where no pressure was ever brought to bear to conform to strict rules of behaviour, and where open and frank debate was encouraged… and have at no time ever encountered an unwillingness to discuss sex and sexuality. Shit, I attended a sexuality workshop in Glasgow just a couple months back. A willingness to engage and debate, and where all are treated equally, is vital in any organisation or movement whose goal is freedom and liberty. The forms of heirarchy and authoritarian conduct to which you have described are unjust and so have no place in any such movement.
    Gotta say that I’m slightly puzzled as to why you should, at least in regard to the anarchist movement, choose to single out “animal lovers”. Yes, while I did indeed mention vegetarianism and veganism, I did so only to illustrate a point. Nothing to do with anarchism or those who advocate it.

  20. Nick Hydra
    Nick Hydra
    April 17, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Interesting points, and I think all are reasonably valid – there were really fantastic, committed people on the 80’s ‘Anarcho’ scene and there were idiots who could barely tie their own shoelaces, the same as with any scene.

    There was a pressure to conform to the party line, although no-one was quite sure what it was most of the time, mostly in terms off being moaned at. Which I found quite easy to survive – it wasn’t like you got expelled and sent to Siberia (possibly Coventry, but not taken into a basement and shot).

    But again some people were vegetarians (as an example) because they genuinely considered it to be the right and moral thing to do and some were vegetarians because Conflict said so.

    Although I’ve always respected Paco for his “Fuck off, meat tastes nice” stance, I think he’s wrong – not that it doesn’t taste nice (Do I still miss Steak and Kidney pudding? Well, yes.), I just don’t think you can justify killing animals just to feed your own pleasure.

    The same thing with pacifists, some people were, some people weren’t, everyone had their own stance on it and everyone had their own reasons for it.

    I will quite happily admit to being a pacifist at the time purely because Crass said so. I didn’t examine it very hard, I just took it on trust, based on the fact that I pretty much agreed with most of what they said.

    It didn’t last very long, mainly because I’m not emotionaly suited to it (kind of why I don’t like mosh pits – if some idiot twats me in the face, I want to hurt them back. It’s not big or clever, you just have to do your best to avoid situations where idiots twat you in the face), but also because the political reality of the time didn’t support it.

    When fucking ‘orrible skinheads turn up to fuck up the gig, I’m certainly not just going to stand there and let them kick shit out of me. I absolutely respect those who are prepared to get in the middle of something ugly to try and resolve it, whether their pacifist or not – maybe more if they’re pacifist – but I’m not sufficiently evolved.

    The point is some people swallowed “the Gospel According to Crass” without thinking about it much (if at all) some people took bits they wanted and left the rest, some people rejected it out of hand (sometimes just because it WAS The Gospel According to Crass) and some people seemed to swallow it whole, but actually thought about it, and agreed with it because they actualy DID agree with it.

    Again, I pretty much agreed with everything Crass said, and even when I didn’t agree I respected their reasoning, but I didn’t swallow everything. ‘Bata Motel’ for instance used to get right up my nose, because it assumed that women who like to be tied up during sex are ‘wrong’ , and doesn’t take into account that maybe they just like it. I know it’s not just about that, but it still pissess me off to this day.

    It was a shame The Damned didn’t play squat gig benefits, but they didn’t and I liked them, so fuck it – I’ll go to the Lyceum and put up with the bouncers and the door price and the bar prices instead of going to the Centro to see a bunch of third rate Crass clones. It was my choice to do it, and it chose to do it, not because I hadn’t thought about it, but because I weighed it up, and made a reasoned decision. Or maybe just because I wanted to fucking see the Damned, who knows?

    Where was I? Oh yes, ‘Anarcho’ oddly this was a term of abuse in my little band of SE London scruffbags, for the type of person who just followed the Crass line blindly. You know the ones – black army gear, stinky dreadlocks, plimsoles, pasty-faced druggy squatter who though washing was some kind of middle-class affectation, usually trying to flog you some ‘zine with at least one page that was headed “A Statement” that trotted out all the cliche’s you’d heard a million times before.

    To be fair this was towards the end of what was a reasonably short lived scene -when Antisect were the new band on the block, and there was a ugly druggy atmosphere that there hadn’t been before.

    Again, I’m not ashamed that I wasn’t particularly active, and would probably be classed as a lifestylist, but I did bits on the periphery – me and some friends formed the Black Standard collective and ‘organised’ the anarchist picnics at Hampstead Heath and Brockwell Park in ’85/’86 or thereabouts, I did some stuff at the 121, but nothing major.

    But that scene, for all it’s faults, articulated the things that I knew were wrong with the world, but couldn’t get straight in my head and were driving me mad with frustration to the point I couldn’t see any way out of the shit that was being dumped on me by everyone and everything (Hysterical teenage agnst I know, but at the time that’s exactly how it felt)

    And more importantly, it gave me a reasonable blueprint for the way things could be different, and I’ve carried that with me through the rest of my life.

    I’m no saint, but I would have been a much worse person if I hadn’t had that (and I mean this) life changing experience.

  21. Chris L
    Chris L
    April 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

    One of the things that appears to me from the above posts is that my own – and that of many of the posters on here’s – experiences of ‘the anarcho punk scene’ probably fizzled out around 1983/84 , which was a time when everything changed quite dramatically. Also I believe that was the year Crass split up so perhaps for many that was almost ‘liberating’? And from then on things were a bit more ‘relaxed’. I don’t know, I wasn’t there by that time.

    For me, I just didn’t like the music, the clothes or much else and it was basically a natural evolution to ‘move on’ I suppose. Also, there are a number of aspects of the ‘political side’ of the scene which impacted on my life and I frankly wasted a lot of my youth on. Something I regret bitterly.
    The one positive thing I would say about those times and the punk and anarchist scenes I ws involved with is that I DID meet a lot of incredibly nice people, many of whom I’m pleased to say, over a quarter of a century on remain my best friends today.
    So…not all bad 🙂

  22. slyme68
    April 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    of course, the terms “libertarian” and “revolution” tend to be contradictory which is a problem we’ve been wrestling with since Bakunin.

    compound this with the fact that very few realised, with the exception of some on the left of the Trades Unions and poss the IMG, that the Chicago School, supply side economics, Thatcherism, were in fact an armed international movement and not a localised, British thing headed by an old fashioned lady in a twinset. in that sense ’68 was a beginning, the beginning of a reaction.

    the anti authoritarian left rightly took the position that the pyramid power structures needed to confront capitalism in set peice battles are self defeating, that these structures of neccesity centralise themselves and that this allows whatever Stalin is on hand to take control. this is inherant in Leninist organisation.

    what to do, then?

    in the last essay contained in “Leaving the 20th Century”, Chris Gray (RIP) seems to reject “revolution” from a situationist perspective, calling instead for a “Mass Therapy”. pacifism as a position forces one to rethink confrontation and the structures used to confront. the use of animal rights arguements, parts of feminist theory such as the use of the word “cunt” are also useful conciousness raising tools, the myriad of grass roots community actions, co ops, taking space and putting to the use of people – lifestyleism, could be read as part of that therapy.

    but as said, its not revolutionary, it allows in all sorts of other influences, such as druggie crusties and can itself become an ideological position putting blinkers on participants faces and leads to self important isolationism.

    unless it becomes a critical mass. given that the state specifically targetted squatters/festies etc, they thought that there was at least a risk of that critical mass, yes? why else did they do it?

    which brings us back to the contradiction of how to fight back.

    i think that the intensity of the examination of the world, ourselves, the people around us, and what we did in various spheres, music, community etc was a powerful, if dangerous therapy. dangerous because not everyone survived or succumbed to SMACK. powerful because even if we were defeated politically (we here being the left, not just anarcho-plonk), we won culurally.

    i point to the position of women, attitudes to racism, conciousness of the environment, acceptance of difference, most young people not even considering that they have to follow the same path as their parents, etc etc.

    of course, capitalism will commodify and recuperate these things, but capitalism’s contradictions remain and continue to undermine it. clearly the baking crisis had to happen as a direct result of allowing baks to lend (reflate) on the basis of confidence and not reserves and the solution – to invent more money which does not yet exist – is rooted in confidence just the same. confidence being a cultural and not an material resource!

    this may seem a gradualist or evolutionary arguement, and in some ways it is. the SWP position that peoples ideas are changed in struggle doesn’t hold water for me having experienced the naked racism of striking miners all the more reinforced in struggle. i prefer to call it a “crunchist” arguement – that eventually things will come to a crunch which will probably be provoked by the ruling class’ resistance to its decomposition which is contained both within mass therapy and capitalism itself.

  23. DavidM
    April 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    One striking difference between the bands then and now, and I apologise if this may cause offense, is that a lotta the politics then, while well intentioned, was by and large one dimensional. Yes, bands today still traul some of the same themes, but do so with a far more critical and investigative eye… and you’ll find none of the hippy posturings so prevalent back in the day.

  24. Chris L
    Chris L
    April 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Your comment above could suggest this introspective or dialectic approach to be a product of the insularity of the scene? Do you think that is because the bands etc now recognise this, almost by default, to be the case? Similarily, do you think the bands now are aware of the fact that they are near-exclusively ‘preaching to the converted’ and thus feel no need to maintain the pretence otherwise?

    Arguably this was the case back in the early 1980s – despite what many would have professed – BUT in fact just the simple fact that you may have been friends with members of an ‘anarcho punk’ type band DID often lead to folk who would never have otherwise been exposed to such political/social ideas pursuing them further. i’m thinking particularly of CND groups in the early ’80s, folk getting into animal rights and , in Scotland, people rejecting sectarianism which , bewildering though it may seem to those down South, was still very culturally entrenched back then.

    I’d imagine members of bands today will be, as individuals, be active in various causes, actions & groups but as I imagine most of their band-related communication is now conducted via the internet do bands still claim they are doing it “to get their message across” , or simply because playing in a band is fun and they are into the music?

    I’m not being pejorative in any way, just interested as to whether this is one of the manifestations of a more mature and realistic consciousness. Back in my day, every band would always claim they were doing it ‘to get their message across’. Which was just a load of bollocks, but went in tandem with the loathesome asceticism and austerity that was almost mandatory within the anarcho punk scene.

  25. DavidM
    April 17, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    First of all this is gonna be my last post on not just this topic, but on KYPP. While I’ve enjoyed my albeit short time here, with this topic in particular having produced some interesting and thought provoking debate, don’t feel I belong. Nostalgia is cool and all, and hey it’s great checking out and discussing bands and/or performers of yesteryear, but really my interests lie elsewhere and with the bands and scene of today. However, gonna get to Chris’ post first.
    I’m sorry Chris but said bands targeting similar issues of concern does not at all suggest an insularity. Shit man, these are issues that affect all of us, and while it’s unfortunate that they still need addressing, folks still gotta get out there. The fact that they have to do so is instead a sad and depressing comment on the state of the world.
    Regarding their preaching to the converted? While it is indeed true that these sounds and words reach few outside the confines of the scene, it is still an unfortunate fact that despite efforts to the contrary, and in a scene where folks preach tolerance and acceptance, prejudices such as sexism and homophobia, do still exist. For instance, I’ve read several accounts of women being fondled at shows, their bras being unfastened etc. There’s still a lot of work to do. So preaching to the converted? Not at all.
    Clearly I would not be so foolish to suggest as a lotta folks used to believe back in the day, that punk rock, or this instance anarcho-punk, can change the world. However, the scene does not exist in isolation, and believe it is but one part (a small one admittedly) in a much wider struggle against capitalism and against the state.
    All the best people. I’ll pop in from time to time to have a look, just don’t wanna post.

  26. Chris L
    Chris L
    April 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Mate, to quote from above, if your “interests lie elsewhere and with the bands and scene of today” isn’t it all the more reason that you should stick around and post? You’re clearly a lot more informed than, no doubt, many others who drifted away a long time ago. Not to mention being a bit of an antidote to the risk of things all becoming a bit cosey and cliquey?

    Also, found it interesting to note your comment “and in a scene where folks preach tolerance and acceptance, prejudices such as sexism and homophobia, do still exist”

    In fact one of the things that only struck me after standing back from it for a few years is just HOW MUCH reactionary thought and behaviour exists within the punk scene. For instance, I think it is safe to say that from the late 80s pretty much everyone in knew was into the house/techno scene and going out clubbing. You really never encountered any homophobia at all, never any friction between the hardest of football hoolies and campest queens and I think in all my years of club running and clubbing I barely saw over half a dozen punches being thrown. Where-as (and I was sharing a flat with Deek of Oi Polloi between 1989-91) it was never any surprise to hear visiting punks (from all the ostensibly staunch anti-sexist/vegan/earth first type bands) coming out with homophobic crap or the most neandratholic of chauvinistic sentiments; talk of ‘slags’ and ‘sluts’ abounding. I always thought this really strange as it was almost like all the ‘normal’ folk I knew and hung around with had ‘moved on’ and realised the immaturity and idiocy of being bigoted and reactionary, but those who professed most to be radical and liberated had not.

    And needless to say I can safely say that I think the ONLY gigs I have EVER encountered fighting at have been punk gigs. Even the last two punk gigs I attended, an Oi Polloi show at Chats Palace and an Antifa benefit with The Blaggers etc at The Boston Arms, there were fights at.

    I just find that all really weird. And would be intrigued as to why people think that is.

  27. DavidM
    April 17, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Hell Chris, you’re making me feel guilty 😉 I’ll consider it, though seriously I really can’t devote as much time as I have for instance to this thread.

  28. gerard
    April 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think your posts are a breath of fresh air here David – I would be disappointed if you stopped posting here.

  29. Dev
    April 18, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Chris: Greets 🙂 Re your last post… wasn’t that because the punks from 89/91 hadn’t discovered E mate 😉

    David: Don’t be disheartened – we all belong… or all don’t as it where!

  30. Nick Hydra
    Nick Hydra
    April 18, 2010 at 9:18 am

    As to the current state of ‘Anarcho punk’, I’m not really that well informed having drifted away into the elctronic industrial music around 89/90 after an 18 month period of hardly going to gigs at all.

    I’d just got bored – all the good bands had either split up or run out of steam, and I wasn’t really interested in the thrash/ HM sound that was beginning to predominate. I have that old fashoined idea that songs should at least have some semblance of a tune.

    I still love and regularly listen to stuff from that era, but it seemed to have become a bad photocopy of a bad photocopy. I was finding more exiting sounds and similar (if less ‘preachy’) politics in other places.

    I think that the problem was that the things that were being sung about were so ‘out of left field’ that people really hadn’t thought about them at all previously. Pacifism? Vegetarianism? CND? Sexism? Homophobia? When had ‘pop’ music addressed these issues head on previously? TRB/ Crisis maybe but to have everything you took for granted shaken up and being made to examine your own prejudices (when you thought you didn’t have any) was a incredibly frightening, yet liberating experience.

    But once you’ve had that transformative experience, the rush can’t be duplicated, and it just became dull to have the same thing repeated to you again and again.

    But my tastes are still filtered through that time, I don’t care whether it’s the best tune in the world, if the words are crap, I can’t be bothered which is why I don’t like a lot of metal (or to be fair dance music).

    So I was listening to Nitzer Ebb/ Front 242/ Young Gods/ Front Line Assembly/ Consolidated and getting the same aggression and passion that I got from anarcho punk.

    At the same time I was going to see Silverfish, Leatherface, Snuff and The Senseless Things for similar reasons. Stuff like Fugazi, Pitchshifter and Blaggers ITA were around at the time as well.

    The last ‘anarcho’ gig I went to was Cross Stitched Eyes, and they were alright, but the three support bands were so generic as to be almost unwatchable.

    I think to an extent, all ‘scenes’ have a shelf life, as people get older and get bored/ settle down. I got the impression that some of the radical opinions espoused by some people (bands included) weren’t as firmly held as was made out at the time, but I’d rather have someone pay lip-service to positive values than to reactionary ones.

    So if a lot of people were vegetarian for a relatively short time, and went back to eating meat as soon as it became ‘acceptable’ at least for that short time they didn’t contribute to the cruelty and exploitation of the meat trade. It’s better than nothing.

    This has got very much off the point I know, so I’ll wrap this up. If I could find good bands on the anarcho scene I would still be going to those gigs, so if David M has any recommendations for me to check out, I’ll be very happy to be suprised by a fantastic band I’d never heard of.

    Basically, I respond to honesty and passion (even if I don’t agree 100% with what’s being said – New Model Army or The Redskins for instance), whether it be the Johhny Rotten, or Levi Stubbs.

    For a brief few years, the anarcho scene supplied that in spades, and while it doesn’t exist in the same way anymore, I think you can feel it’s influence (and of punk in general) throughout the wider culture.

    So did we change the world – not in a revolutionary ‘world turned upside down way’ – but in an incremental, ‘cultural’ way (with admittedly a lot more work to be done) yes we did.

    Which as I said, is better than nothing.

  31. Nick Hydra
    Nick Hydra
    April 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Sorry, I know I said I’d shut up about this, but I just thought I’d quote ‘Arise’ by Amebix as it appears to be addressing the dissolution of the anarcho scene as a positive force – although some would say that Amebix (and the attendant ‘crusty’ lifestyle) were part of the problem.

    “Well we’ve all heard the sermon
    Seen the preachers or worshipped the stage
    Heard the new manifesto?
    It’s all questions, no solutions at all

    You look like the ranks of the damned,
    no pride
    Bedraggled massess of tortured and twisted humanity
    You, you sow the fucking seeds of gloom and despair
    amongst your own ranks
    Pathetic snivelling little turds,
    assuming the identity of the down and out
    Despondent sheeplike cretins,
    Hopeless clowns in a circus that has long since died
    Arise you fucking arseholes and rejoice, speak now…
    Or forever hold your peace.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *