Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Flowers in the dustbin

It's depressing that the Sex Pistols are stumbling back onto the nostalgia circuit, with a gig at the Brixton Academy to mark the 30th (say it ain't so, Sid) anniversary of Never Mind the Bollocks. Depressing, but only to be expected; they did, after all, name their 1996 reunion 'The Filthy Lucre Tour', and if anybody's entitled to piss on the Pistols' legacy, it's the musicians themselves. Since their sole purpose was to provoke and disturb, they probably see it as their sacred right to disabuse anyone who still holds a rosy perspective on the whole punk phenomenon; if they were still talking to Malcolm McLaren, he could have told them that anti-art movements such as Dada and Situationism are by their very nature doomed to failure, so there's no shame in making a few quid as you stand amid the smoking ruins. Although, by the look of it, they've worked that out for themselves.

I'm less impressed with the NME, which is apparently encouraging its readers to buy the re-released 'God Save The Queen' single in an effort to get it to Number One, thus righting the wrong that was committed in 1977 (the year of the Silver Jubilee), when the hit parade was allegedly tweaked to keep the disc from reaching the top spot and spoiling all those dire street parties that my staunchly republican mother refused to let me attend. This is wrong on numerous counts: the last remaining rock weekly shouldn't be party to what is, in effect, an attempt to rig the charts; it's another example of the NME's campaign of revisionism to present itself as the mag that discovered punk (it wasn't, Sounds was, that's why the NME needed Burchill and Parsons, etc, etc); and, more than anything, it fundamentally fails to comprehend the essential outsider status that defines alternative music.

The Number Two placing in 1977 defined the Pistols as the enemies of the state. Had the chart compilers acquiesced, and allowed them to seize the top spot unimpeded, it would have been as if the Queen herself had abdicated. A battle would have been won, but the eternal war of attrition - the thing that made punk important - would have suddenly become irrelevant. The Pistols are important because they were so shambolic, because they only recorded one album, because they collapsed in acrimony, because they stalled in second place. What the NME proposes is a retrospective rewrite of musical history that will do more to cheapen the Pistols' legacy than anything Lydon and his associates could ever manage by themselves.

Ever get the feeling they've missed the point?

PS: The news that Blur bassist Alex James has been appointed as an associate editor for Tory fogey weekly The Spectator is, in a perverse way, more punk than anything the Pistols or the NME have managed to produce for years.

PPS: You know, I take that back. The old reprobates can still cause a rumpus, even if it's down to a proofing error. (Thanks to No Rock and Roll Fun for the tip.)

9 comments:

Billy said...

I'd like to see the charts get rigged again, so that they stall at number two a second time. Now that would be good.

St. Anthony said...

Ha ha, God bless the Sex Pistols, always ready to throw a spanner in the works. The more and more they reform, the more it burns down their myth ... which is very Punk of them. The ultimate iconoclasts, even attacking themselves.
I hope they go on reforming and make millions - they really do deserve it, all four of them. Makes me proud to be English.

St. Anthony said...

Completely agree with your point about the NME ... does anyone there actually understand what the Sex Pistols were all about?

Robert Swipe said...

"NME's campaign of revisionism to present itself as the mag that discovered punk"

There was a cover the NME did sometime in 1976 with the headline: "Not *another* punk on the cover!"

The subject of the headline? A picture of John Lennon c. 1960...

I was too young to understand what all the fuss was about back then, of course...


Bob

p.s. Lydon is a gooner.

Robert Swipe said...

By the way, can I just clarify something: I no longer *use* the NME...

It had that disgusting piece of phlegm Kate Nash on its cover recently. Do you need to know any more?

Bob

Annie Rhiannon said...

Yeah, it's not very punk, is it. It's like the opposite of punk.

Tim Footman said...

Yes, Billy. Does nobody recall The Beatles' attempt to wrest the 'most number ones' record from Elvis?

Anthony: I'm not sure anybody at the NME these days understands how a game of Connect 4 works. Don't they just sit in a room retyping press releases?

Bob: Malcolm McLaren supports Spurs, I believe. Explains much.

What's the opposite of punk, though, Annie? KNUP? That sounds like a name a Norwegian would give to his willy.

First Nations said...

i was one of maybe 100 'punk' kids in Portland, Oregon back in 1978-9. now even at that i was only 'punk by association' since my boyfriend was a musician in what passed for a 'punk' band in Oregon at the time. i tried. i really did. but all i can remember was sitting through these interminable, boring, loud, crappy, sparsely attended gigs and thinking 'jesus christ this just sucks ASS.'never liked it, never will.
but damn, i MISS the clothes.

Tim Footman said...

Of course, FN, hating punk is pretty punk...