photo by nacrowe
what i found most compelling about LONELY BOY: TALES FROM A SEX PISTOL (DA CAPO, 2017) by legendary SEX PISTOLS guitarist and punk icon STEVE JONES, was not his rehashing of his libido or knack for stealing (although both are quite impressive) or even his heroin abuse and long arduous battle thereafter to attain his sobriety, it was his dispassionate dispelling of the mythology surrounding PUNK ROCK that caught my imagination.
PUNK ROCK is a unique genre in that despite its reputation for being anti-establishment and for breaking rules and crossing lines, it is actually quite conservative. hearing him JONES tell the story of how the SEX PISTOLS got on and by extension PUNK ROCK as a whole is beyond interesting and is eerily reminiscent of the conceit behind LIFE OF BRIAN by MONTY PYTHON. that film almost exclusively is an examination of the power and evolution of ritual. JONES at times is almost gleeful in disparaging PUNK orthodoxy relative to notions of the DIY ETHIC, anti-commercialism, being "in it" for the music and not women, not signing to major labels, etc. for him that is all bullshit that was created by outsiders. outsiders being rock critics at BRITISH publications and fans that followed them post GRUNDY INTERVIEW and post-notoriety. the rituals of "lobbing" and "pogo-ing" and the fashion aspect of it where all stuff that got ahead of the bad and took on a life of its own which was separate from their initial intent, which was largely an insular matter.
its hard to think of a more long-lasting cultural phenomenon than PUNK ROCK. its ethos has infiltrate every youth movement since. for me it is compelling that JONES isnt afraid of showcasing what a lout he was as a youth and how his choices then wouldnt jove with modern notions of what the genre is supposed to exhibit. and why should he?
its also important to look at his womanizing, drug abuse and general laddish behavior in context given his terrible upbringing and sexual abuse by his stepfather growing up. by no means does this excuse his behavior, but i can sympathize with its impact on JONES' psyche and how it contributed to his worldview from a formative youth onward. sadly this type of event is not uncommon. i commend him for being so honest about such a touchy subject as child sexual abuse, took really courage and i respect him for that. this biography is largely a telling of how that damage informed his life and creative output. again, what bravery.
when i see the SEX PISTOLS now in hindsight given all that has passed since then, i interpret their music as a primal scream against that hierarchy and the underbelly rising to the top despite society's (and the music industry's) best efforts to the contrary. the fact that their sound and image was co-opted, sanitized, repackaged and market thereafter is only a testament to its lasting cultural potency.
this is a book well worth looking into if you are interested in PUNK ROCK, POST-PUNK or ENGLAND under MARGARET THATCHER. could not recommend it more strongly.
parodies by nacrowe
ive been on a tear these past few months consuming several books by or about people involved in the PUNK ROCK explosion of the late 1970s including STEVE JONES, RICHARD HELL, VIV ALBERTINE, JOHNNY ROTTEN, DEBORAH HARRY, and JOE STRUMMER.
so with the topic still very much on my mind i wanted to revisit a show from 6 months ago that delved into the topic of where PUNK ROCK originated and how it influenced culture on both sides of the ATLANTIC. even now some 40+ years later with HIP HOP long taken over as the vehicle for the voice of the youth, classic PUNK ROCK is still very much relevant and has been a touchstone for every youth movement since. that is something that cannot be said about the mod, teddy boy, skinhead and GLAM ROCK cultures that preceded it.
a subject that is always fascinating, please check out our show of first (and some second) wave PUNK ROCK below.
parody by nacrowe
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is all about the PUNK ROCK movement on both sides of the pond, including a few PROTO-PUNK bands as context for safe measure. gonna be a fun show, make sure not to miss it!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
art by nacrowe
essentially this is the book on punk.
ENGLAND'S DREAMING (1991, St. Martin's Press) by JON SAVAGE goes into the cultural and socio-political morass that was 1970s england, which birthed the whole scene in tandem with their american counterparts.
central to the whole story is the singular figure of enfant terrible MALCOLM MCLAREN who was essentially the precursor to what we would now deem an internet troll. his whole cause célèbre was coming up with interesting attention-grabbing press events to both stick it to the uppercrust of the british establishment and promote his businesses, including a boutique store called SEX that he sold garments and wares designed in consultation with his partner VIVIEN WESTWOOD.
so essentially the SEX PISTOLS were assembled to promote a business, which is a fact i love. they are as manufactured with intent to exploit a dormant market as the BACKSTREET BOYS, N'SYNC and NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK were decades later. its just a fact, i still love them and appreciate their artistic contributions to modern music. its just an interesting fact given the later 1980s HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK scenes that channeled this scene into their own local scenes with a heavy DO IT YOURSELF ethic. this scene was anything buy DIY given that most of the major players on both sides of the pond were on major labels, including THE CLASH (CBS), THE RAMONES (SIRE), PATTI SMITH (ARISTA), TELEVISION (ELEKTRA) and of course THE SEX PISTOLS (EMI, WARNER BROS, VIRGIN).
you can also see punk as a return to basic rock formula's of the 1950s as most of these bands initially started out retreading then 20+ year old CHUCK BERRY riffs, despite their claims to the contrary and supposed revolutionary posturing.
i think the reason later musicians, most notably KURT COBAIN who later sought out SAVAGE for interviews in the british press specifically because of this book, respect this book is due to its empathy for the subject matter without romanticization or worse, hagiography. SAVAGE largely comes off level-headed in his analysis of the movement, at times letting his subjects speak for themselves and complicating a very messy period with a very messy influence on modern music.
bottom line: this book is a must read for anyone interested in punk rock. read this first and then everything else.