Watching the sanitised Sex Pistols is not something to celebrate
The last people you would expect to be growing old gracefully would be Johnny Rotten and his Sex Pistols, but It was reported recently that poor Johnny's eyes are so bad these days he needs glasses. Johnny's confession about his failing eyesight came almost as an apology, as if he'd some how let his fans down. Not that wearing glasses ever did his contemporary Elvis Costello any harm.
Sadly I was witness to 'Punk Rocks' end of days recently, when I saw the Sex Pistols doing the band and the memory of their music a massive disservice. Dining at one of those Corporate Rock n Roll Cafe's where all the waiters treat you like your their long lost best friends and you are referred to as 'guys' . The TVs screens where filled with images of the former public enemies number one performing a very lame and toothless (literally) version of their former anthem 'Pretty vacant' Jonny and the band went through the motions, but it was Karaoke punk by numbers.
How different from my first encounter with the Pistols. I remember it clearly, it was an appearance on Granada's groundbreaking late night TV show 'So It Goes' (say what you like about Tony Wilson but where would we be musically without him.) I remember watching them in awe. From the clothes to the hair and the raw energy. I was dumbstruck I couldn't wait to tell all my friends about them. Especially the bit at the end when Johnny sang the last line of 'Pretty Vacant' he screamed into the camera 'And we don't care' At the time that pretty much summed them up.
Watching the modern day Sex Pistols, doing punk rock was hard to watch. They were going through the motions and the difference is,now they actually do care. The last thing these Pistols want is anarchy. Johnny advertises butter and makes documentaries about the countryside for goodness sake. The dishevelled clothes have gone. The suit is now a designer imitation. And he's even had his teeth fixed. Johnny isn't rotten anymore.
It's singalong a punk rock now. Phil Strongman wrote a book about the history of punk and he pretty much summed it up when he said
The fashion look of teens and twentysomethings -once so cutting edge- is now, like most of the music played on the radio, a matter of routine. Safe, tired, everywhere.
The Sex Pistols where loved and loathed equal measure. They called for anarchy in the Uk and tried to undermine the Monarchy with their ode to the Queen. So how do we treat these subversive reprobates? We give the shop where they first started playing a little blue plaque. The kind of thing you reserve for places of historic interest.
So thats what they've become something of historic interest as Doctor Who might say they were just a blip in the space time continium. A bump I the musical road you might say. .
Seeing the Sex Pistols all sanitised for a mainstream daytime audience, reminds me of what happened to Winston Smith and Alex in the novels 1984 and a Clockwork Orange. A little bit of rehabilitation from Big Brother, and Johnny not so Rotten anymore.