Saturday, 28 September 2013
Flowers in the Dustbin - A Punk Communiqué
I was seventeen when I first saw the Sex Pistols live. Postmodern artful dodgers, lured onto stage by that ginger 'Fagin' McLaren. They appeared impossibly young, ill-nourished and slightly dangerous; lost children of the Blitz, scurrying through the darkness of Subterranean London, and then dragged kicking and screaming into the light of civilisation.
Across the sea of Deep Purpled Yeti-heads, their short ruffled Barnet's signalled a fracture with rocks most visible tribal symbol: long hair. Pistols gigs were initiation ceremonies for deluded youth. Purification rites for the possessed. Forget the cheesy charlatanism of the Stones at Altamonte, this was rock shamanism from the street.
The gig was at the Nashville in London, December 1976. I'd heard rumours about the band and read excitable, overwritten prose about them in the NME. But I was still unprepared for that first intense, glassy stab of Punk social realism. I'd only ever seen one other live band before that night: Doctor Feelgood at the George and Dragon, Streatham (Chicago rhythm and blues meets Canvey Island). So I hadn't much to compare the pistols with in the gig sense.
But through a process of commonsense deduction, and at least six years of listening to chart topping records, I reached the conclusion that the Pistols, were not the most technically proficient musicians to grace the London stage. But that wasn't the point. Like a lot of kids who were vegetating in the cultural entropy of 70's Britain, we were waiting for 'something' to happen. And this (whatever it was) was definitely something.
Imagine thousands of kids in every inner city, every silent dormitory town, every stifling village and rundown resort. An island of little neurone fires twinkling in the grey apathy of a very un-united Kingdom. All it needed was a puff of oxygen to feed the flame. A volcanic fissure to snap through the urban landscape, white lightning to crack the fog of boredom - PLEASE! - any fucking thing. All our rock heroes had terminated the association lines with kids like me years ago: Bowie, the Stones, the Faces, they'd all become decadent, druggy recluses. Their music became muzak: a space filler, a product enhancer, a capitalist polyfilla. The walls had gone up. They'd pulled up their roots and replanted in Camelot.
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