This is a wee treat: Johnny Rotten gives a guided tour of London, circa 2009. Full of his usual face-gurning, straightforward honesty and acerbic wit, Mr. Rotten explains his love of London is more to do with its people than the city itself. He also expresses his concern that London, like the the rest of the country is slowly doomed.
“It’s the Americanization of the universe, isn’t it? Sooner or later, Britain will become a shopping mall for American tourists.”
Of course, old men always like to talk about how things were better in their day, and yes, there is an element of this here, but Mr. Rotten’s spikiness and humor keeps things nicely ticking along.
A year on from the release of The Sex Pistols first single “Anarchy in the U.K.” and their infamous appearance on the Today show, Steve Jones and Paul Cook gave their first interview to Australian television.
Lest we forget, it was Jones, more than Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious, who launched the Pistols into the headlines with his stream of abuse at TV presenter Bill Grundy, and certainly without Cook’s disciplined drums and Jones’ era-defining guitar (together with Glen Matlock‘s bass) and their song-writing talents Never Mind the Bollocks would have been a much lesser album.
In this interview from 1977, Jones and Cook talk about the Pistols’ back history, records, and their appearance on the Today show:
Jones: If someone wants an argument, you give them an argument back, don’t ya? He started it. He said, “Go on, you got another 5 seconds.”
Cook: What did you say, Steve?
Jones: I fucking gave him a load of abuse. He asked for, didn’t he? It was pretty funny. It’s like, you know, they put all that on the front-fucking-page for all that. Just for swearing on television. Stupid.
Cook: We forgot about the whole thing, a couple of hours after, we didn’t expect nothing to happen from it.
Malcolm McLaren unleashed the greatest revolution of the last quarter of the 20th century. This was in part because McLaren was really a shop-keeper, a haberdasher, a boutique owner who knew his market and, most importantly, knew how to sell product to the masses.
Unfortunately, when it came to music, the talent was more than just product, and McLaren regularly mis-used and manipulated the musical talent (New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Adam and The Ants/Bow-Wow-Wow) for his own personal gain. It was the behavior of a man who couldn’t and didn’t trust anyone—perhaps because (as he claimed) he had been abandoned by his mother—an act of betrayal he never forgave. There is the story of how years later, McLaren was have said to have traveled on a London Underground train, only to find his mother in the same carriage. The pair sat opposite each other, with neither acknowledging the other’s presence, and each alighting at their separate stops.
McLaren was bewitching, relentless and always on the make. But for all his scams and incredible machinations, little is really known about the man himself. He re-wrote his biography so many times it is almost impossible to know what is the truth. He also carefully edited out those who had helped his success, and fabricated wonderful, picaresque tales of misadventure—-for example, the time he failed to have Nancy Spungen kidnapped, in a bid to remove her insidious influence over Sid Vicious.
In essence, Malcolm’s greatest talent was his own self-promotion—his unique role as a cultural PR man, who changed history. If there is anything to be learned from his particular type of genius, it is to make headlines out of even the worst situation. On his deathbed, Mclaren’s last words were said to have been: “Free Leonard Peltier.” As he had done in his life, McLaren had once again grabbed hold of someone else’s notoriety.
Recorded at a moment in time when the young Mr. Rotten was routinely getting his head kicked in by skinheads and hassled by the police, this is probably my single favorite bit of punk rock audio ephemera (actually, it’s a tie with the infamous Slits college radio interview, but that’s another blog post…).
What am I talking about? A guest appearance by Johnny Rotten on the Capital Radio program of deep-voiced DJ Tommy Vance. Rotten/Lydon was invited to play records from his own collection and talk about them. He comes across as whip-smart, honest and refreshingly free from much—if any—social programming and religious brainwashing. He discusses the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McClaren (he calls him the fifth member of the band), being educated in a Catholic school he despised and his passionate love of music. There’s no put-on here or any hint of the deliberate obnoxiousness of later years.
Where did you go to school?
[sighs] This poxy Roman Catholic thing. All they done was teach me religion. Didn’t give a damn about your education though. That’s not important is it? Just as long as you go out being a priest.
Which you haven’t become.
Well no. That kind of forcing ideas on you like when you don’t want to know is bound to get the opposite reaction. They don’t let you work it out for yourselves. They tell you you should like it. And that’s why I hate schools. You’re not given a choice. It’s not free.
It’s an inevitable question, and a corny question, but can you think of any better system of educating people?
No I can’t [laugh], I just know that one’s not right. I wouldn’t dare, it’s out of my depth, I have nothing to do with that side of things. I haven’t been to university and studied all the right attitudes, so I don’t know. No I haven’t.
[fades in Doctor Alimantado - ‘Born For A Purpose ‘]
This is it, ‘Born For A Purpose’, right? Now this record, just after I got my brains kicked out, I went home and I played it and there’s a verse which goes, ‘If you have no reason for living, don’t determine my life’. Because the same thing happened to him. He got run over because he was a dread. Very true.
The music he plays is a revelation. Can, some rare soul, Tim Buckley, Peter Hammill (he accuses Bowie of copping the Van Der Graaf Generator front man’s moves), Captain Beefheart (he plays “The Blimp”!), Nico, John Cale and of course, lots of reggae. When Rotten plays the dub b-side by Culture (the track with the lopping bass, barking dogs, crying babies and blaring car horns) you can hear the blueprint for the PiL sound that would come along just a few months later.
It must be said that for a 20-year-old he’s got astonishingly good taste in music and for that time period? Please! This really is an incredible thing to listen to. For the musical education alone, it’s great, but listening to the thoughts of this controversial, brilliant young man at the height of powers is a sublime pleasure.
It even contains the radio commercials from the broadcast. This has been making the rounds for years, but this version is clean and in real stereo, the best I’ve ever heard.
A transcript of the interview and a track listing can be found here.
DJ Steve Lamacq premiered the new PIL song earlier today on BBC 6.
Our John may have lost his upper register, but it is nice to hear him strain at it in such a raw way over the type of back-to-basics reggae-rock bed that’s screaming for a remix/dub-out…
According to editors at Record Collector magazine a rare recording of The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” has gone on sale for $16,000 (£10,000).
It is said the A&M recording of the song is the most valuable piece of vinyl in the world, because the band was dropped by the label before the track’s release, and the bulk of copies were destroyed. The disc is on sale at 9991.com, where it is described as:
“SEX PISTOLS God Save The Queen (Well, this certainly shouldn’t need any introduction. Quite simply, a MINT unplayed copy of the legendary withdrawn 1977 UK original A&M 7” b/w No Feelings, in the A&M company sleeve. Obtained from an ex-industry source with impeccable credentials, this is not only one of the rarest records in existence but is certainly the most sought after and no serious record collection is complete without it, regardless of your thoughts on the band or indeed the music itself. A period piece of punk/musical/social/history. I hope this goes to someone who will love and cherish it as much as i would. Be quick before the original reluctant seller wants to buy it back…).”
A revealing interview with Sid Vicious conducted by Judy Vermorel in August, 1977. In it Vicious rails against “grown-ups” and “grown-up attitudes”, TV host Hughie Green, insincerity, and why “the general public are scum” (his opinion about “99% of the shit” out on the street).
Vicious sounds incredibly young, perhaps because he was, and claims he “doesn’t like anything particularly” and that, “Nobody has to do anything”. There is some interesting thoughts on Russ Meyer’s plans for a Sex Pistols’ movie, which Sid dismisses as a “cheap attempt to get money.”
At the end, he rails against Malcolm McLaren, slightly incredulous to the information that Johnny Rotten and Paul Cook thought McLaren was the fifth member of the Pistols:
The band has never been dependent on Malcolm, that fucking toss-bag. I hate him..I’d smash his face in…I depend on him for exactly nothing. Do you know, all I ever got out of him was, I think, £15 in all the time I’ve known the fucking bastard. And a T-shirt, he gave me a free T-shirt, once, years ago. Once he gave me a fiver, and I stole a tenner off him, a little while ago, and that’s all. I hate him.
..But he’s all right. I couldn’t think of anyone else I could tolerate.
This is the interview where Vicious famously made an eerie prediction:
“I shall die when I am round-about twenty-four, I expect, if not sooner. And why my friend will die soon.”
His friend was “that girl” Nancy Spungen, who can be heard in the background of this interview.
Keith Levene and Jah Wobble won’t be attending, but, since Metal Box is turning 30 (!), chances look good for a live Poptones (see below). From today’s NYT:
John Lydon, the former frontman for the Sex Pistols, who is better known as Johnny Rotten, told The Guardian newspaper that his band Public Image Limited, or PiL, is back after a 17-year break. Though fans will have to do without two original band members, Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, the guitarist Lu Edmonds returns in the reincarnation, along with the drummer Bruce Smith. A five-date tour is to begin in December with a new member, Scott Firth, and a couple of other changes, it seems. ?