Friday, 4 October 2013

Steve Jones, The Pistols and Punk

I have always rated Steve Jones as a decent rock 'n' roll guitar player. Like a lot of people my age I remember when Punk first broke, and the perpetual aspersions on those bands musical abilities - or rather lack of. Of course, that was the point to a degree. Bands like the Pistols and the Clash were saying; get a guitar, learn 3 chords, and start a band - we can do it, so can you. They were learning as they were performing.

'Musicianship' for the untutored 18 year-old in some inner-city highrise, belonged to the posh kids in nice homes who's parents could afford expensive instruments and private tuition. Musicianship also implied technical ability, which seemed to be a license to indulge in mindless, overlong drum, guitar and keyboard solo's. Remember, Punk's golden age was the mid to late 70's, and part of it's call to arms and DIY ethic was a reaction against the self-indulgent sonic absurdities of Prog Rock bands like ELP and Yes.

It's incredible to think that it is now 35 years since the Pistols 'unofficially' got to number one in the UK chart with God Save The Queen. Thirty five years and the Queen's still there. We've had ten years of Thatcherism and now we have the X-Factor and The Apprentice as models of aspiration for the nation's youth. Okay, I'm being a bit disingenuous there, there's loads of decent music out there if you know where to look - the problem is, it gets buried under all the waves of crap that saturate the ether.

I'm sure others must ask ... did Punk actually happen??? Or was it just a mass delusion? For many of the older generation it was a bad dream. For the young it's a quirky fashion statement, or it represents the safe rebellion of sanitized so-called 'Punk' bands like Green Day. To me, The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock stirs something much deeper and older. I know that I'm not alone in this. Many cultural commentators have noted Punks Situationist leanings, or theoretical links with medieval millennial cults such as the Diggers. Greil Marcus's book 'Lipstick Traces: a secret History of the Twentieth Century' deals with all this in fascinating detail.

But it is Jon Savage's epic 'England's Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock' which brings a much darker and psycho-analytical eye upon the safety-pinned spitting brigade of yore. Savage's take on Punk is expertly filtered through the archetypes of Carl Jung. Punk was, is and will continue to be a wonderfully strange and beautiful jarring of our culture that will never be repeated, but will carry on generating the signs and symbols that represent a deeply routed revolutionary spirit that is English to it's core.

Don't you forty and fifty somethings still feel a prickle on the back of your neck when you here Steve Jones playing those 'old songs'?

~ H-Allen