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‘They wanted to be rock stars’: Crass co-founder disses Sex Pistols and Clash in Positive Force doc
12.16.2014
08:13 am

Topics:
Activism
Punk

Tags:
Sex Pistols
Crass
Clash

Positive Force
 
Positive Force is a Washington DC-based activist collective that’s been around since 1985. The documentary, Positive Force: More Than A Witness; 30 Years Of Punk Politics In Action, explores the history of this organization, which often stages benefits with like-minded bands to promote various causes. There’s a wealth of archival performances in the film—including footage of Fugazi playing in front of the White House on the eve of the Gulf War—and this updated edition of the DVD has another 30+ minutes of rare live clips. The documentary also features interviews with such notables as Ian MacKaye, Kathleen Hanna, Jello Biafra, and Dave Grohl, who talks about his first-ever live gig, drumming for the band Scream at a Positive Force benefit.

One of the highlights of Positive Force is the interview with Penny Rimbaud, drummer and co-founder of the UK group Crass. Rimbaud’s band, which existed from 1977-1984, very much influenced the principles of Positive Force. Crass not only put out their own records and were critical of the mainstream, but they were also activists, believing that it wasn’t enough to just sing about social justice, you had to practice what you preached. In the clip, Rimbaud accuses the members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols of not meaning it, man, as he feels their drive to make it as rock stars came before all else.

If you have any interest at all in the history of American punk and/or activism, Positive Force is definitely worth your time. Pick up the new edition of the DVD via PM Press or Amazon.

All right, here’s Mr. Rimbaud:
 

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Mashup fun with Derek Jarman’s 1976 Sex Pistols footage
10.24.2014
04:04 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Derek Jarman
Sex Pistols


 
So I was searching YouTube, like one does, for interesting obscure music stuff to watch (and post to DM, of course), and lo, laid before mine eyes in the related videos column to the right of a Sylvain Sylvain video was “Sex Pistols - 1976 02 14 Butler’s Warph (sic) Earliest Known Footage,” shot by no less a luminary than the legendary underground filmmaker Derek Jarman! Now, for all I know, there may be earlier extant Pistols footage, but one way or the other, I don’t care, as the stuff is captivating. The young band is captured here in its initial burst of brash glory at a time when punk was still too young for its tropes to have become tedious clichés, and a technical happenstance rendered the footage absolutely lovely—as the captions will inform you when you watch it, Jarman shot this on Super-8 film at a nonstandard frame rate, rendering the footage soft, choppy, gauzy, and otherworldly.

When I muted the sound to answer a phone call, I noticed something—absent the Pistols’ music, it kind of reminded me a little of the video for “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by the Sundays. (If you don’t know it, click the link and take a few minutes to check it out, it’s a very pretty pop song that begins to border on shoegaze. It was popular among the 120 Minutes set in 1990, and it holds up quite well.) So suddenly, I was on a mission. I opened some new browser tabs and tried playing a couple dozen shoegaze, indie, dream-pop and post-rock songs along with the silenced Sex Pistols footage.

There are far worse ways to kill an evening.

I found something out rather quickly—there’s such a thing as too slow. Stuff I tried by Slowdive, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emperor just didn’t work well at all. The music that seemed to work most satisfyingly was dense and trippy, but still uptempo. I encourage you to do some searching on your own—and please post your wins in the comments, of course, as I’d love to try them out—but I included some embeds that I liked in the hope that might start things rolling. Oh, and tiresome punk purist fogies getting ready to agonize at me about how HORRIBLY WRONG it is to play a Lush song over this precious heavenly golden dewdrop of rebel history? It’s a bit of fucking fun, lighten the hell up. I MEAN IT, MAAAAAN.

Here’s that Pistols film, to begin with, and a pile of alternate soundtrack options follows. I don’t even have to tell you to try playing them all at once, right?
 

 
It continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Rumpole’ novelist John Mortimer defends Sex Pistols in ‘Bollocks’ trial, 1977


 
Nothing represents the Sex Pistols’ ability to push buttons as well as the choice of the word “Bollocks” to appear in the title of their first record in 1977. Unquestionably vulgar in an in-your-face way, the word was nevertheless not obviously obscene, or “indecent,” to employ the legal terminology used at the time. It was offensive enough that Her Majesty’s Government sought to suppress the display of the word in public—but not offensive enough for that position to carry the day in court. “Bollocks” clearly has some relationship to the word “Balls,” but it’s not a 1:1 relationship—it’s a little like the word “freaking” to substitute for “fucking,” but better and more vivid. Bollocks to that! “Bullshit” would be an a close synonym for American English. It’s the perfectly rude Sex Pistols word.

On Saturday, November 5, 1977, a policewoman named Julie Dawn Storey spotted the Never Mind The Bollocks display in the window of the Virgin Records store in Nottingham. She went inside, confiscated a couple of albums, and informed shop manager Christopher Seale that the appearance of the word “Bollocks” in the display violated the 1899 Indecent Advertising Act. Then she arrested him. For the couple of weeks before the trial, nobody could risk the legality of the album’s name—shop owners were forced to sell the album under the table, and a Pistols’ expensive ad campaign appeared to go to waste because no publications would dare to run it. Naturally all of this had the effect of adding to the Pistols’ reputation as the most controversial band in Britain.
 
Christopher Seale
Christopher Seale and the Sex Pistols’ immortal album art
 
On November 24, 1977, the court convened to rule on the fate of the shop owner, Christopher Seale, and Virgin Records. Defending the Sex Pistols was a fusty-looking chap who didn’t look like he belonged on the same continent as the Sex Pistols, much less the same courtroom. His name was John Mortimer, and by the time of his death at the age of 85 in 2009, his status as one of the most beloved attorneys and novelists in British history would be rock-solid.

Before the “Bollocks” trial, Mortimer’s primary claim to fame as a lawyer was his work on obscenity cases. He successfully defended the publication in Britain of Hubert Selby Jr.‘s Last Exit in Brooklyn in 1968, and three years later lost a similar case involving the scandalous Danish book The Little Red Schoolbook. In 1976, he defended Gay News editor Denis Lemon for the crime of publishing James Kirkup’s poem “The Love that Dares to Speak its Name” against charges of blasphemous libel; Lemon lost the case but it was overturned on appeal.

Although he would achieve much greater fame later, Mortimer had already been a writer of fiction for some years, which may partially explain his interest in obscenity cases. In the 1960s he had written A Voyage Round My Father, an autobiographical play about his relationship with his blind father (also a barrister)—it was later made into a TV movie with Laurence Olivier and Alan Bates. With his wife, Mortimer also wrote the script for Otto Preminger’s 1965 movie Bunny Lake Is Missing. In 1975 Mortimer began his lengthy series of bestselling comic novels revolving around Horace Rumpole.

In 1978, just a year after the Pistols trial, Thames Television launched Rumpole of the Bailey, its immensely popular series about a rumpled—if you will—and principled barrister who defends his clients against the weight of the Crown with everything he’s got. Rumpole was portrayed by Leo McKern, who became synonymous with the role—although DM readers might know him better as the heavy in the Beatles movie Help!.
 
Mortimer and McKern
Mortimer and McKern, in costume as Rumpole
 
As odd a fit as it may seem, Mortimer obviously had impeccable bona fides on free speech cases, which in fact made him a perfect choice to defend the Sex Pistols in court. The website 20thcpunkarchives describes Mortimer’s strategy:
 

John Mortimer raised the question of why Seale was prosecuted for displaying the sleeve while the newspapers that used the same image as an illustration were not. Mortimer continued to outline the history of the term “Bollocks” tracing it back to roots in the Middle Ages. Mortimer continued by bringing in a Professor Kingsley, head of English Studies at local Nottingham University. Kingsley told the court that the term had been used from the year 1,000 to describe a small ball (or things of a similar shape) and that it has appeared in Medieval Bibles, veterinary books and literature through the ages. He also revealed (not surprisingly) that it also served as part of place names throughout the UK. Eyebrows were raised when Kingsley said that the term had been used to describe the clergy of the previous century. In that connotation it was used in a similar fashion as the word rubbish and used to describe a clergyman that spoke nonsense. The defense continued to intimate that perhaps the prosecution was not interested in decency of the word in question but instead were waging war against the band themselves. After making the case clear, the judiciary deliberated for twenty minutes and felt compelled to dismiss all charges against Seale. The Sex Pistols’ cover was ruled as “decent” and set a precedent that would protect other shop owners who displayed the cover.

 
Johnny Rotten had attended the trial wearing a safari hat. As he exited the courtroom, a reporter solicited his comment—I remember hearing about this line when I was in high school, and it tickles me now just as much as it did then. Rotten was quoted as saying:

“Great! Bollocks is legal. Bollocks! Bollocks! Bollocks!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Shellac Pistols’: Shellac and David Yow do the Sex Pistols, 1998

Shellac / Sex Pistols
 
On Halloween night of 1998, Shellac and David Yow of Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard fame indulged their silly side, pretending to be The Sex Pistols for a set of scorching music. The location was Lounge Ax, the legendary venue on 2438 North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago that had been pummeling audiences with awesome music since 1987. (It closed in 2000; you might remember it as the venue in High Fidelity where John Cusack first meets Lisa Bonet.)

The first performers were Ms. Fits, an all-female Misfits cover band. During their set, Shellac’s Steve Albini stood right in the middle of the audience “to loudly support” the openers, who were facing “a tough crowd.” The middler, Sixto, featured members from Seam and Dis—they’re still active, at least judging by their bandcamp page.

When the crew put up three microphones for the final set, a rumor briefly flared up that this was going to be a Big Black reunion. What the audience got was a lot more special than that: Shellac with David Yow as a spot-on Johnny Rotten doing most of the songs off of Never Mind the Bollocks. Bob Weston was Sid Vicious, Todd Trainer was Paul Cook on drums, and Albini was Steve Jones.
 
David Yow as Johnny Rotten
 
An attendee of the show submitted the following account:
 

David Yow stalked onto the stage, in full 1970’s-era Johnny Rotten attire to the letter. Bleached and spiked hair, psychotically glaring at the audience, the whole nine yards. He’d done his homework on this one. He was followed by the three Shellacs, with Steve Albini doing his best Steve Jones in vinyl pants (!) and a red doo-rag on his head. Bob Weston *was* Sid Vicious, in spiked black hair, mesh shirt (with scratches and scars visible underneath), glassy-eyed, and an impressively bloody IV bandage on his arm. Only Todd Trainer seemed to buck the whole Pistols image. I mean, he could have found one of those big sweaters or something. Paul Cook had style too.

Anyway, they ripped into “Holidays in the Sun”, and that set the tone for the evening. Yow had Rotten’s nasal Brit accent down pat, even in song. He pulled the whole thing off so well, I tell ya. Weston kept coughing up “blood” and running into things. Steve’s guitar sounded kind of sloppy, but I don’t think Jones could have done it any better. Between songs the band taunted the audience in mock cockney accents, Steve asking if there were “any PAA-ties about”. The audience responded by throwing chunks of a dismembered jack-o-lantern at the band.

The setlist was confined to material from Never Mind the Bollocks, including “Bodies”, “Submission”, “Anarchy in the U.K.”, and closing with “God Save the Queen”. Yow seemed to remember the words to them better than he remembers the words to Jesus Lizard songs.

Yow ended the evening by asking, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” and the band walked offstage, barely an hour after they started. For a long time, nobody left. The house lights came up and nobody left. Todd Trainer started taking his drum set apart and people booed. It finally registered that that was the evening, that they weren’t going to get anymore, and they weren’t getting any Shellac songs.

 
As attendee Andy Larson wrote ten years later to the day, “steve albini said something like ‘does anyone know where there’s a party about?’ in a british accent—and i believe only that. walking up lincoln ave. after the show i passed bob weston (sid vicious) and said ‘hey—great show’ and he said “right” in a british accent.”

There’s no video of the show, and scarcely any pictures—at least on the Internet. The b/w shot above is the only one I could find. There is, however, fairly good audio, which you can download here in flac format.
 

Setlist:
1. Holidays In The Sun
2. Bodies
3. Pretty Vacant
4. Seventeen
5. Sub-mission
6. New York
7. Anarchy In The U.K.
8. God Save The Queen

 
The poster for the show was done by Illinois gig poster legend Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine. The poster run had a limited run of only 100 pressings, which combined with the specialness of the gig makes this an extremely hard-to-get item.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Selling the Sex Pistols to Texas
03.24.2014
05:57 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
Sex Pistols
Sid Vicious

1disxesynnhojslotsip.jpg
 
When the Sex Pistols played Dallas in 1978, Sid Vicious told journalist, John Blake that he was “frightened about playing” the city.

“They killed Kennedy there and everybody had warned us that the people are crazy.

“I think there’s a real danger that this is the town where I am going to be blown away.”

Vicious knew how to give good copy, but his “narcissistic attitude” was beginning to piss-off some of his fellow band members. They wanted him to play the songs, rather than plying the star.

As this was the Pistols first tour of America, their US record label, Warner Brothers, was keen to ensure the band’s success—which meant getting as much merchandise out as possible.

In December 1977, Ted Cohen of Artist Development at Warners wrote the following letter putting forward his sales pitch for the Pistols to WEA reps in Texas.
 
slotsipxesrettel111.jpg
 

30 December 1977

Bob Finer &
Paul Sheffield
WEA
1909 Herford Dr.
Irving, TX 75062

Dear Bob & Paul,

On January 10, Warner Bros. recording artists, The Sex Pistols, will be appearing at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas. This will be the Pistols first appearance in your area. It is imperative that this appearance be supported to the fullest extent possible, as we are currently attempting to firmly establish Punk/New Wave music as a viable and saleable commodity.

The Sex Pistols are the “ground breakers” of a new musical “turf”. In England they have a following that has manifested itself in both a musical and social lifestyle. They are controversial, they are raw, and they illicit a response from audiences not seen since the early days of the Rolling Stones.

Enough hype; the Pistols can and will be a major act for Warner Bros., but not without your cooperation and support. There are various merchandising aids which will be sent to you under separate cover. Please take full advantage of these materials by obtaining high visibility, window and in-store display space.

I will be in contact with you very soon to discuss marketing and promotional ideas concerning this appearance. Thanks in advance for your help and cooperation.

Regards,

Ted Cohen
Artist Development

TC/deb

cc: Lewis, Nagel, Scott, Regehr, Dennis Young, Gerrity, Thyret, NY Publicity, Merlis, Johnston.

How much promotion the Pistols actually required is difficult to gauge as their reputation preceded them in a big way. Just read the copy for this ad for their Longhorn appearance that aired on Dallas Radio in January 1978:

“They said no one could be more bizarre than Alice Cooper, or more destructive than Kiss…They have not seen the Sex Pistols.

“Tuesday night, Stone City Attractions presents live, the Sex Pistols.

“Banned in their own home country….England’s Sex Pistols, denied admittance to the United States…the Sex Pistols bring the new wave to the Metroplex this Tuesday night, in the Longhorn Ballroom.

“They said it couldn’t happen, but it happens Tuesday night: the Sex Pistols, live.”

As was becoming apparent, a Sex Pistols concert was no longer about the music, but the chaos that ensued. London’s Evening Standard reported the Pistols appearance as “Girl fan punches Vicious on nose”:

Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious were both punched in the face by girl fans as the Sex Pistols performed today deep in the heart of Texas.

Blood poured from Vicious’s face as he was hit on the nose.

Instead of stopping the show the bass player rubbed blood over his face and chest so that he looked like a demented cannibal.

The girl who hit him was 20-year-old Los Angeles student, Lamar St. John.

She said: “I drove thousands of miles to see this show with other friends from L.A. I know Sid likes to get a positive reaction from an audience so I gave him one.

“I hit him as hard as I could in the face. I wanted to make his nose bleed.”

After the attack Vicious spat blood in the faces of Lamar and her friends, but they merely spat back.

According to the paper, the audience also gave Vicious a “positive” reaction, when he shouted:

“You lot are all faggots.”

Or perhaps it was:

All cowboys are queer!”

The audience threw “tomatoes, beer cans, bottles, lighted cigarettes and other rubbish at the band.” Vicious had to be dragged away, as he reportedly tried to attack people in the audience.

Although he contributed next to nothing musically, Sid knew he was stealing Johnny Rotten’s limelight, which was more important to him at that point.

Outside a SWAT were prepped and ready to quash any riotous behavior.

After a blistering version of “Anarchy in the U.S.A.,” the band left the stage, and, surprisingly, the crowd yelled for more.

As the band reappeared for an encore, Sid showed the audience an obscene gesture and Steve yelled, “You must be mad to want more of us!”

In the middle of “No Fun,” Steve confronted a heckler by throwing a couple punches and jabbing him with the headstock of his guitar.

The next morning, the Dallas newspaper read: “Most of the people last night came to see the people who came to see the Sex Pistols.”

And here’s what happened the night The Sex Pistols played the Longhorn Ballroom on Tuesday, January 10, 1978.
 

 
H/T If Charlie Parker was a gunslinger

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Videos from the Glen Matlock/Sylvain Sylvain tour are popping up, and now I’m sad that I skipped it


 
Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain have been on an acoustic tour of the USA together this month. While the idea of an acoustic tour by two punk pioneers, famous for much more cacophonous music than acoustic guitars are generally associated with, might prompt a smirk or two in some circles, they’ve done this together before, and reviews have generally been quite enthusiastic, with much praise for the casual intimacy of the shows, and for Sylvain and Matlock’s easy humor and engaging storytelling. It would seem that with the tour being such a hit, and given the ease of recording such a stripped-down setup, a live album would be in the offing, but Matlock kiboshed the idea in a recent piece in the Michigan entertainment magazine Revue:

When asked whether or not they would be recording any of the shows for sale later, Matlock was more or less pretty sure that wouldn’t be happening.

“We’re just doing it for fun,” Matlock said. “If you want to hear it, you’ve got to come to the show.”

“Well, CRAP,” said this writer, having totally missed the tour’s stop in his city. But the fan videos being posted online tend to shore up the positive consensus. Check out Sylvain at Detroit’s Magic Bag, performing “Teenage News,” a never-recorded Dolls track that he made the lead-off song on his first solo album, posted by rawdetroit:
 

 
Plenty more after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
John Lydon’s rallying call to youth: ‘Learn how to beat this system intelligently’
02.24.2014
09:48 am

Topics:
Punk
Television

Tags:
Sex Pistols
John Lydon
Public Image Ltd.

nodylnhojlip.jpg
 
It started with a look.

John Lydon was wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt that he had modified to read “I Hate Pink Floyd.” It was this piece of anti-fashion that brought him to the attention of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, owners of the King’s Road boutique SEX.  Malcolm and Vivienne were conjuring up plans for a new band that would fuse fashion and music, and Lydon’s tee-shirt suggested the right kind of attitude the pair were looking for. Lydon was asked to audition for the band, so he mimed to an Alice Cooper number and won the role of lead singer with The Sex Pistols. He looked the part, you might say.

It may have started with a look, but for John it was never about the image, as he later explained to Melody Maker in 1978:

”The rest of the band and Malcolm never bothered to find out if I could sing, they just took me as an image. It was as basic as that, they really were as dull as that.

“After a year of it they were going ‘Why don’t you have your hair this color this year?’ And I was going ‘Oh God, a brick wall, I’m fighting a brick wall!’”

We all know The Sex Pistols, they were “a damned good band,” as Lydon recalls in this interview from That Was Then This Is Now in 1988, ten year’s after the band’s demise.

“And to be quite frank, how right it was we ended when we did, because it would have been really futile to have continued with it. We all knew that…

“When you feel you’re running out of ideas you must stop, and go onto something else, which is precisely what all of us did.

Lydon went on to form Public Image Limited with Keith Levene (guitar), Jah Wobble (bass), and Jim Walker (drums). PiL was “different,” and “experimental without being arty-farty about it.”

Their first release “Public Image,” partly written while Lydon was in the Sex Pistols, dealt with Lydon’s frustration at being only seen for the clothes that he wore. Lydon has always been aware that he is an individual, and as can be seen from his interview on That Was Then This Is Now—love him or loathe him—he has always been consistent in being true to himself, and saying whatever he thinks.

Such honesty makes Lydon good for quotable sound bytes, which fits well with the format of That Was Then This Is Now, where information was served up like the ingredients of a recipe.

For example, he tells us how he moved to America because of police harassment. His home was raided on four separate occasions, his belongings damaged or destroyed, his pet cat killed by overzealous police dogs.

While next, Lydon tells us how he considers himself to be an Englishman, and resents paying his hard-earned cash in taxes to pay for Fergie’s (Princess Sarah Ferguson) frumpy tents.

However, no matter how funny, amusing, insightful and inspiring the answers, having them all cut together, one-after-another, reveals the problem with That Was Then This Is Now: information is arbitrarily doled out as sound bytes, signposted by graphic captions, with no connective structure other than the answers given by the interviewee. It’s a nice research tool, and certainly one for future biographers and archivists, but the form lacks any sense of engagement between the audience and Lydon, as there is no possibility of knowing how rigorously he was questioned about his life or his beliefs.

Of course, there are plenty of highlights, including Lydon’s rallying call to the teenage viewer about intelligence:

“All kids should learn this in school—this is the weapon the Tories use against you.

“They want to keep you stupid. They want to keep you down.

“If you do not learn how to beat this system intelligently, you never will.

That is the only lesson really in life to learn. Period.”

Recorded in 1988, That Was Then This Is Now presented the great, the good and the oh-no of Punk, New Wave and the New Romantics, discussing their musical careers in entertainment.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sex Pistols, Clash and Motörhead covered Celtic folk style by Vyvyan from ‘The Young Ones’


 
Dangerous Minds has checked in on English actor/comedian/musician Adrian Edmondson before, to talk about The Idiot Bastard Band, his group with Bonzo Dog/Monty Python habitué Neil Innes, and his beloved BBC comedy The Young Ones, on which he played the insane and violent postcard-punker archetype Vyvyan Basterd. But we’ve only given passing mention to his fine band The Bad Shepherds, and that’s just absurd. The band’s specialty is Celtic folk covers of classic punk, though songs like Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding” and Kraftwerk’s “The Model” have found their way into the repertoire. They’ve released three albums worth of such interpretations, 2009’s Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!, 2010’s By Hook Or By Crook and last year’s Mud, Blood & Beer.
 

 
Given Edmondson’s history in comedy, you could be forgiven for assuming this was a joke band, an inversion of the tired old novelty punk covers trip. But before you leap to conclude that, hear Edmondson out in these excerpts from an excellent recent interview with Outline Online

The whole mechanic of taking on cover songs is a huge mantle for you to take on; has there ever been a song that’s been too difficult, that’s wriggled away from you, that can’t be tamed?

Oh, hundreds of ‘em. Loads of ‘em. Yeah, we try loads of stuff and what we do probably represents about a quarter of what we try to do. It’s not that we don’t like the ones that don’t work, it’s just we haven’t found a way of doing it. We generally take the songs completely to pieces and then put them back together again without thinking about the original and try and find instrumentation for them. Primarily they fall down on lyrics because I’m a middle-aged man and they’ve got to suit my age, and most folk and most punk songs surprisingly do because they’re surprisingly adult in content, most of the punk canon, y’know. They were written by people who were really thinking; they’re not just solipsistic, selfish kind of ‘ooh, I’m in love, I’m not in love’ songs. They’re about social commentary and social protest and things like that and it’s very exciting. But some songs, for example, we’ve tried a few songs by The Damned and none of them worked because they’re all – and I don’t mean this to deride The Damned but they’re all just a bit childish when you take them to bits and you read the lyrics without thinking about what the music’s about. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t go anywhere. We tried moving up the years as well thinking there must be a load of stuff in the 80s with Tears for Fears and OMD and stuff like that, so we scoured through those and tried to work on that and again, that kinda falls short, lyrically. It’s too childish. I mean, they’re brilliant, original things but they don’t fit the ethos of our band; they don’t become folk songs.

What is it about those genres that seem to lend themselves so well?


Because they’re forgotten songs and people all imagine that that sort of era is full of jumping up and down, shouting and spitting and it didn’t mean anything apart from anger in the performance. They’re disastrously wrong; they’re some of the most complex songs. The idea that all punk songs are three-chord wonders is completely erroneous. There are vastly complicated chord sequences and tuning in some of the songs we play.

 

The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.”
 

The Clash’s “London Calling”

After the jump, Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades” and more…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The Incredible Mister Biggs: Train Robber, Sex Pistol, Ronnie Biggs dead at 84

ronnie biggs
 
By the time of the U.K.‘s Great Train Robbery in 1963, train robbing had already passed more or less into quaintness. But quaintness did nothing to deter 15 men from stopping a train in Buckinghamshire and hauling in what would be equivalent to over $7 million USD today. Several of the robbers were sentenced to a rather harsh 30 years in prison, including Ronnie Biggs, who, though not the caper’s ringleader, achieved the gang’s greatest notoriety by escaping from prison less than a year and a half into his sentence, fleeing to France for appearance-altering plastic surgery, and eventually living openly as a fugitive in Brazil, who would not extradite him to the U.K.

Then, in 1978, at age 49, he became a punk singer.
 
biggs 7
 
Julien Temple’s preposterous and incoherent Sex Pistols film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle brought that band—by then halved to just drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones—to Rio de Janeiro, where they met up with Biggs and with him recorded “No One Is Innocent” and “Belsen Was A Gas.” A ridiculous but very, very fun scene in the film shows the band, with Biggs as their new singer, performing “Innocent” with bass player/Nazi fugitive Martin Bormann—actually an actor. One conceit of the film had it that rather than dying in 1945, Bormann escaped to Brazil. And joined The Sex Pistols. Did I mention preposterous?
 

 
Biggs was no newbie to music, though—he’d already participated in the creation of a jazz album in 1974! The collaboration with Bruce Henry was titled Mailbag Blues, and the album finally saw release in 2004. Per Bruce Henry via whatmusic.com:

Mailbag Blues was written over a couple months’ period ... with Ronnie at our side telling us his story and us breaking it down into events that we most related to musically. The songs are structured as a soundtrack, each one telling us part of a story and leading on to the next. When we went into the studio to record, we had the whole album pretty well defined, but we left a lot of room for individual improvisation, as was the style in 1974.

The recording took place in a very small room, on a four track Ampex Tape Recorder. Everybody played together, and we only used playback on one or two tracks for additional percussion. We were so young and eager back then, and we took ourselves so seriously, that we wouldn’t let Ronnie sing, which is too bad because he had a terrible voice but the Sex Pistols did all right with it didn’t they?

 
mailbag blues
 

“London ‘63” from Mailbag Blues

Later, in 1991, German pin-up punks Die Toten Hosen tapped Biggs to sing “Carnival In Rio (Punk Was),” the lone original song on their covers/tribute album Learning English - Lesson One. For the b-side of the song’s single, he reprised his turn on “No One Is Innocent” and also covered The Equals’ classic “Police On My Back.”
 

 

Die Toten Hosen with Ronnie Biggs, “Police On My Back”

After years of ill health, including multiple strokes, Biggs surrendered to British authorities in 2001. He was promptly arrested, and confined to complete his original sentence. He was released, due to further deteriorating health, in 2009, and was able to contribute to the book The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary:1963-2013. His years of illness finally claimed his life today.

Rest in peace, Mister Biggs. Nobody can say you didn’t live an amazingly colorful life.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Morrissey hates The Sex Pistols
07.02.2013
08:39 am

Topics:
History
Punk

Tags:
Morrissey
Sex Pistols


 
It has been said that everyone who bought a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico went on to start a band. The same has been said about the attendees of the legendary Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall on June 4, 1976, which included future members of Joy Division/New Order, The Fall, A Certain Ratio, Simply Red, Buzzcocks/Magazine, Tony Wilson and producer Martin Hannett.

One punter who was not impressed, a then 17-year-old Steve Morrissey, who let his feelings be known in a letter to the editor of the NME. What an insufferable, supercilious brat he must’ve been! Turning his nose up at The Sex Pistols???

There’s an entire book about this concert and the seismic cultural repercussions it caused in it its wake, I Swear I Was There: The Gig That Changed The World by David Nolan and a TV doc with eyewitness accounts of this infamous gig:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Ramones are Rubbish’: Morrissey’s thoughts on the Ramones, 1976

Morrissey’s snide record reviews: Moz dumps on Cyndi Lauper, The Psychedelic Furs and XTC, 1984

Via Boing Boing /Letters of Note

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Lydon’s handwritten rant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1996
05.08.2013
07:25 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Sex Pistols
John Lydon


 
John Lydon’s handwritten response to the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame regarding the induction of the Sex Pistols in 1996:

Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not coming. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organisation selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. Were not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL

Via The World’s Best Ever and Letters of Note

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The shop-keeper who unleashed a revolution: Documentary on Punk’s Artful Dodger Malcolm McLaren

neralcmmloclamknup.jpg
 
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.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Superb documentary on Malcolm McLaren from 1984


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Rock Snob Comedy: The Amish Sex Pistols!
04.03.2013
07:53 am

Topics:
Television

Tags:
Sex Pistols
Kevin Eldon


 
Kevin Eldon has one of the most familiar faces on British television today, working on virtually ALL of the A-list comedy programs of the past decade and beyond (I’m Alan Partridge, Jam, Black Books, Spaced, Attention Scum, Brass Eye, Big Train, Nighty Night, Smack the Pony, Green Wing, Look Around You, Nathan Barley, Saxondale, The IT Crowd), but he’s never had his own show until now, titled It’s Kevin, and it’s really fucking good.

Also featuring Matt Berry and Peter Serafinowicz, never mind the modern tecnology, here’s the Amish Sex Pistols:
 

 
The infamous clip of the Sex Pistols swearing at TV host Bill Grundy on the Today program in 1976, below, so you can see how note for note perfect this inspired sketch truly is. Bravo!
 

 
Thank you kindly Mr. Steven Daly of New York City!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Los Punkers: Hilariously bad Spanish Sex Pistols cover versions, 1978
02.15.2013
12:57 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk

Tags:
Sex Pistols


 
Rather than actually pay Virgin a licensing fee, el cheapo Spanish record label, Dial Discos hired “Los Punk Rockers” (rumored to be Spanish prog-rock band Asfalto) to cover the entirety of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. The point was to basically confuse music fans in post-Franco Spain into thinking that this was the real thing.

The Shit-Fi blog nominated Los Exitos de Sex Pistols for “the most shit-fi album of all time,” adding that it “simply does not get any stupider, stranger, more poorly played, funnier, or nigh-psychotic (and possibly psychedelic) than this record”

Los Exitos de Sex Pistols was obviously recorded in a flash, before the next trend could take hold. The musicians more-or-less learned the songs from Never Mind the Bollocks, but the singer must not have spoken much English, because his approximations of Johnny Rotten are complete nonsense. (Here are “Holidays in the Sun” and “Pretty Vacant”) Even when singing the song title, as in the chorus of “Seventeen,” he seems to be making words up: “I’m a lazy seven.”

He does have the snottiness down pat, though. The vocals are clearly the best part of the record, simply because they’re so hilariously terrible. The guitar sound is thin and fuzzy, quite unlike the multi-tracked wall of guitars on NMTB—actually, it’s a lot closer to what one associates today with DIY punk of the late 70s than the Pistols’ sound. Few punk sleeves are as iconic as that of NMTB, but this album’s sleeve does fit the music well. It’s dumb. The woman on the sleeve appears to be some random person a photographer pulled off the street and dressed in moderately “punk” duds.

Enjoy!
 

 
Via Vampire Blues and h/t WFMU

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Johnny Rotten plays his own records on Capital Radio, 1977

image
 
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.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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