photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
half a decade ago NOISEY had an INCREDIBLE series of interview videos moderated by THE QUIETUS founding editor JOHN DORAN (who also writes for THE GUARDIAN, THEWIRE , VICE and METAL HAMMER and creates programming for the BBC) called THE BRITISH MASTERS that got at the heart of what made a certain cadre of LEGENDARY ENGLISH musicians and songwriters of varying genres so IMPACTFUL and EFFECTIVE. included in the mix were participants like TRICKY (MASSIVE ATTACK), JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), COSEY FANNI TUTTI (THROBBING GRISTLE), JOHN LYDON (SEX PISTOLS, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED), MARK E SMITH (THE FALL), ROOTS MANUVA, PAUL SIMONON (THE CLASH), BRYAN FERRY (ROXY MUSIC), DAMON ALBARN (BLUR, GORILLAZ), NEIL TENNANT (PET SHOP BOYS), VIV ALBERTINE (THE SLITS), GARY NUMAN (TUBEWAY ARMY), LIAM GALLAGHER (OASIS), GOLDIE and BRETT ANDERSON (SUEDE) among others.
my sense is that there is a certain mix of PAROCHIALISM at play in BRITAIN whereby it is SMALL and DISCONNECTED enough from nearby EUROPE to cultivate an INDEPENDENT arts scene without much outside influence. conversely and completely counterintuitively ENGLAND's recent past as a colonial power allows it to have a DIVERSE cultural population that manifests in organically UNIQUE cultural products that reflect such. just a look at the guests chosen for this series one is confronted with a myriad of sub-genres including PUNK ROCK, HIP HOP, INDUSTRIAL MUSIC, SYNTH POP, POST PUNK, BRITPOP, DRUM & BASS and TRIP HOP. each represents a specific community, lifestyle with an attendant set of values that renders all of them uniquely BRITISH.
the cultural references utilized are now a bit dated, but THE BRITISH MASTERS still very much holds up and is well worth investigation. definitely worth checking out.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
by the time the SEX PISTOLS imploded on DOOMED stateside tour in early 1978, singer JOHN LYDON had long since established himself as a BRITISH cultural ICON for the ages. even to an AMERICAN audience over several generations since, his name and image is synonymous with the PUNK ROCK movement writ large. it is absolutely staggering to think of the fact that he was still in his early 20s when he started what is possibly one of the great second acts in ROCK AND ROLL history, his INFLUENTIAL POST PUNK outfit PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.
unfortunately the story of LYDON's post SEX PISTOLS career has long been overshadowed (how could it not) and not well understood by the public. thus the recent documentary THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN (VERISIMILITUDE, 2017) is well situated to address this omission and provide context on one of the great artistic and PERSONA TRANSFORMATIONS. participants include past managers, collaborators (including GINGER BAKER) and members of the band as well as notable acolytes in THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), ADAM HOROWITZ (BEASTIE BOYS), FLEA (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS) and MOBY. what is well apparent is the intelligence of LYDON's lyrics and his deep involvement of curating a DECONSTRUCTED IDIOSYNCRATIC sound that incorporated DISPARATE elements including FUNK, REGGAE, SOUTH AFRICAN MUSIC, early ELECTRONIC MUSIC and beyond.
i remember TOM MORELLO in an interview once said that he wanted his sound to be as REVOLUTIONARY as the lyrics being generated by his bandmate ZACK DE LA ROCHA. that intent spawned INNOVATION and transformed how he saw his instrument and its role in RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. decades before, LYDON had a very similar approach in that he was unafraid of including sounds that could be described as ATONAL, DISSONANT, DRONING or REPETITIVE. his intent was to move beyond the rehashing of CHUCK BERRY guitar licks (again) and move forward sonically into uncharted territory. it is that INTENTION and ABILITY to deliver challenging work long after what many consider his predetermined artistic and cultural shelf-life post-SEX PISTOLS is quite a legacy.
you also get the sense from listening to current and former members of PUBLIC IMAGE LTD that he is/was a GENEROUS collaborator and TRUSTWORTHY leader. i think where everything career-wise gets tripped up is how LYDON deals with the media and the necessary evil of debasing himself just enough publicly to promote his projects without giving away his INTELLIGENT, SUBVERSIVE nature. television interviews by definition are conducted by and for squares, so it makes sense that he took the piss out of it on most every possible opportunity. the unfortunate downside is that his PUBLIC PERSONA doesnt mesh with the private LYDON who is loyal to his wife and family and a STEADFAST ally with his bandmates.
i found THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN to be quite refreshing a lesson in maintaining one's AUTHENTICITY in a world (especially now with the internet) that seeks to consume and dispose of art with equal vigor. LYDON, his LEGACY and his PERSONA will endure through the ages.
dude is an icon.
photo & text by nacrowe
it hard to overstate the cultural impact of NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE'S THE SEX PISTOLS (WARNER BROS, 1977) by the legendary ENGLISH PUNK ROCK band the SEX PISTOLS. the record more than lives up to the decades of adoration and hype surrounding it.
no it wasnt the first PUNK ROCK record by any stretch of the imagination (that went to THE RAMONES followed by THE DAMNED), nor were the SEX PISTOLS the first PUNK ROCK band (NEW YORK DOLLS, THE DICTATORS or even THE STOOGES may take claim for that). but in terms of sheer cultural and artistic impact NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS is a singular achievement with few peers in the 20th century. it was their ferocious example in a criminally short period of time in the late 1970s that inspired the later POST PUNK scenes in ENGLAND (think JOY DIVISION, BAUHAUS and THE SMITHS) and basically every iteration PUNK ROCK has evolved into (HARDCORE, LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK, POP PUNK, NYHC, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, etc) over the last four decades and counting.
and that legacy is funny because the band started out as a marketing gimmick for a LONDON shop that sold bondage gear by entrepreneur MALCOLM MCLAREN and his designer wife VIVIENNE WESTWOOD. the initially was supported and curated in very much the same fashion as a 1990s ORLANDO boy band. to me the whole DIY ETHIC that marks the later AMERICAN HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK scenes that traces its roots to the original PUNK ROCK scene is hilarious given this fact, but make no mistake it was the SEX PISTOLS as managed by MCLAREN (and his knack for publicity stunts) that got the ball rolling on a movement that brought along THE CLASH and THE DAMNED among others to the mainstream.
but back to the actual record. i remember being a teenager and being gifted NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS and just being annihilated by the opening track "HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN." just the bile in JOHNNY ROTTEN's voice. and that machine gun descending STEVE JONES riff. i was hooked and felt a sense of kinship on the spot. no CLASH record ever spoke to me on that level, ever. other legendary standout tracks include "PRETTY VACANT," "ANARCHY IN THE UK," "BODIES" and "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN." this is the type of record that just ceases to release you from its grasp, only other classic records like SLAYER's REIGN IN BLOOD (DEF JAM, 1986) and NIRVANA's NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) had a similar impact on me as a teenager.
there is so much to mention about this record, from the fact the dismissed original bassist GLEN MATLOCK essentially wrote it to its complicated birth of being dropped by two major labels (EMI, A&M) before being finally released domestically in ENGLAND by VIRGIN (and WARNER BROS stateside). there is also that whole fracas surrounding the queen's silver jubilee celebration and the deteriorating BRITISH political and economic situation at the time under the weight of THATCHERISM and a staunchly conservative government.
ultimately it is a great album with minimalist yet punchy, transcendent songs, which i could not recommend more highly. there is also the fact that most of my favorite bands of later periods were either directly or indirectly influenced by the SEX PISTOLS' example, and for that i am truly thankful for their resolute intransigence and vulgar authenticity in shaking up ROCK N ROLL.
feels like we need that now more than ever several decades later. THATCHERISM has given birth to TRUMPISM and shit looks mighty bleak.