Perfect Sound Forever

Pistols at Buckingham Palace


by Billy Bob Hargus (November 1995, updated 1997)

"No other disc in rock (Never Mind the Bollocks) divided time into a "before" and "after." Though it took me forever to realize it, the division owes as much to the band's music as to their hairdos. Much of the music was banned in Parliament, which makes it as dangerous as Barry McGuire or Frankie Goes to Hollywood"- Chuck Eddy

"Rock and roll is over, don't you understand? The Pistols finished rock and roll; they were the last rock and roll band"- Johnny Lydon

The story of the Sex Pistols and the original punk rock movement in England is pretty well know by now but despite all the facts there are still plenty of glaring misconceptions about this part of rock's history, specifically related to the Pistols themselves.

I loved and still love punk mainly because it showed me that in music, and probably elsewhere, anything can go. But if I got anything out of it, it was to question everything. Deifying it and glancing over some big problems with it just to immortalize it, pisses all over it.

None of this is to say that punk was a waste or an aberration- it was or is just another shade of rock. That it tried to change the rules is not so laughable. It was up against too much and may yet have it's day. As "Alternative" today becomes mainstream, it may be that punk can still make a difference in the airwaves here as well as making a dent in peoples' grey matter.

Of course, even this is all suspect. A cynic could just as easily tell you that it's "sold out" and that the major labels have finally made their peace with this music as a market has been developed for it. Sad to say, this may be the real reason that a number of punk bands (Gang of Four, Buzzcocks, Wire, Pere Ubu, Television, the Raincoats) have had another go at it. Of course, just like Album-Orientated Rock formats, capitalism may be too big a monster for punk to take on alone.

THE REUNION: Malcolm McLaren must be kicking himself. He actually came up with the idea a couple of years ago. Lydon's response was "What's he going to do? Dig up Sid?" As Lydon and his mates saw that nothing was happening with their own careers (and not just commercially), they thought "Why not?" Lydon himself hasn't done anything remotely interesting since the early days of Public Image Limited. The Pistols had been denied the American market when they started (thanks in part of McLaren's idea of getting the best (meanest) reaction from Southerners), so why shouldn't they finally get a decent pay-check from a tour of the States? It worked for the Who a lot of times. I guess if Townshend can still sing "hope I die before I get old" with a straight face, Johnny can still cackle "no future for me" and mean it, man. Filty Lucre is pretty appropriate, considering what they have (or don't have) to offer now.

Personally, I don't care if they sound better now and do all of their "hits." The band is probably "better" now, having years of actually learning their instruments behind them. What they don't realize is that their raw quality is most of what made them exciting in the first place. I can't think of any '60s or '70s act that I'd be excited to see (except maybe Pistols-fan Neil Young who stays fresh in his own stubborn, non-conformist way). If you'd get hot by the thought of some jazzbo's spicing up a Steely Dan show nowadays, you might as well waste your money on Lydon and company trying to relive their glory days. I'll keep my memories and blast Never Mind the Bollocks when I need a good jolt from them. Punk nostaglia- who would have thunk it? Lydon singing "Anarchy In the UK" now makes as much sense as Megadeath doing it. All I can say to anyone who falls for them now is to remember Johnny's parting words the first time around:

Anarchy flag

Special thanks to Baylen and Mackey for the pictures.