Wednesday, December 14, 2016

God Saved the Queen

There used to be a country song containing the lyrics, "When you're lookin' at me, you're lookin' at country."

Would that it were so simple to categorize us all. We're all a lot of things, many of them surprising to people who only look at the superficial. I mentioned the other day that it was the 40th anniversary of the release of their first single, and several people registered shock that I dabble in such outrĂ© music.

In my case, since I have no piercings, no hardware protruding from my face, not so much as a tattoo that won't wear off, people are often surprised to hear that I am a huge fan of The Sex Pistols, the original 70s punk band from Merrie Olde Englande.

True, not many of their admirers look like I do, but I dare anyone to listen to Anarchy in the UKGod Save the Queen and Pretty Vacant and not be moved to some fervent toe-tappin'. Just as music - and rest assured, the grubby individuals in the band had little to do with making the music on the records - it's powerful stuff.

Johnny Rotten, who was seriously voted
one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a
nationwide poll in 2002. 
The lyrics, poignant at times, were mostly written by singer Johnny Rotten, born John Lydon in London (1956). His vocals did not make anyone forget Bing Crosby, or David Crosby for that matter. But no one else brought on the fervent angst that Rotten-Lydon sang with (and still does.)

Anyway, I like 'em, and those three songs above are to be found on any compilation of my favorite tunes. But the movement they led, the nihilist rejection of anything commercial or mainstream, was never to be taken too seriously. I mean, they made and sold records and concert tickets and all the rest, and were never photographed refusing money for these enterprises.

They were founded, in fact, as a sales and marketing tool by one Malcolm McLaren, a British impresario who could have sold more spots to a leopard, given half a chance. McLaren operated a trendy boutique called "SEX" and formed the band to promote the store, in the same way McDonald's hires clowns to enchant the children. 

So it was a little surprising that McLaren's son, Joe Corre, found his father's wealth so repugnant, and the commercialization of the supposedly free-for-all music so hard to take that he recently held an event called "Burn Punk London" in which he burned over six million dollars worth of memorabilia, including one-of-a-kind acetate recordings, the pair of bondage trousers he wore as a child (?!), live punk recordings, and a pair of Johnny Rotten’s pants.

The grande finale of the protest was when Corre rigged up dummies to represent Prime Minister Theresa May, and former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair, dressing the effigies in Sex Pistols t-shirts and loading them up with fireworks that went boom in the night in front of signs of global corporations.

Sex Pistols guitarist Glen Matlock did not approve. "I want to paraphrase Monty Python, in that he's not a savior, he's a naughty boy and I think Joe is not the anti-Christ, I think he's a nincompoop."

What a show! (photo cred, Getty Images)
For his part, Corre said, "The Queen giving 2016, the Year of Punk, her official blessing is the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard. Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a (expletive deleted) museum piece or a tribute act."

As they say in The New Yorker, there will always be an England.

No comments: