29 October 2007

Judt vs. Rotten

Excerpt from Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Chapter XIV: "Diminished Expectations":

If one strand in the heritage of the Sixties was high-cultural pretension, the other, its intimate inversion, was a hardening crust of knowing cynicism. The relative innocence of rock and roll was increasingly displaced by media-wise pop bands whose stock in trade was a derisive appropriation and degradation of the style forged by their immediate precursors. Much as popular romances and tabloid journalism had once fastened on to mass literacy for commercial advantage, so 'punk' rock appeared in the Seventies in order to exploit the market for popular music. Presented as 'counter-cultural' it was in fact parasitic upon mainstream culture, invoking violent images and radical language for frequently mercenary ends.

The avowedly politicized language of punk rock bands, exemplified in the Sex Pistols' 1976 hit 'Anarchy in the UK', caught the sour mood of the time.
But the punk bands' politics were as one-dimensional as their range, the latter too often restricted to three chords and a single beat and dependent on volume for its effect. Like the Red Army Fraction, the Sex Pistols and other punk rock groups wanted above all to shock. Even their subversive appearance and manner came packaged in irony and a certain amount of camp. 'Remember the Sixties?' they seemed to say; 'Well, like it or not, we are what's left.' Musical subversion now consisted of angry songs decrying 'hegemony', their counterfeit political content masking the steady evisceration of musical form.

Excerpt from John Rotten, Met Podcast, "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion":
The Sex Pistols have had an enormous influence on fashion, media, in fact everything ever since we first started in '75-'76. Everybody's copied from us, and nobody's really bothered to acknowledge where they took those ideas from. Our ideas came out of the catastrophe that we can call the British Empire falling apart. Royal family, class warfare, and a complete lack of consideration from any government then or since, is what really, really created the Sex Pistols. Out of intolerance came something perfect, like honesty. The lyrics to "God Save the Queen", they may not be eloquent, but they are not ignorant either. They are common sense from a common man. God Save the Queen. I'm neither anarchist nor monarchist, I'm a monanarchist.

The lyrics, as such: God save the Queen/the Fascist regime/it made you a moron/potential H-bomb/God save the Queen/she ain't no human being/there is no future/in England's dreaming/don't be told what you want/don't be told what you need/there is no future/no future for you/God save the Queen/we mean it, man/we love our Queen/God saves/God save the Queen/'cause tourists, their money/and our figurehead is not what she seems/oh, God save history/go save your mad parade/Lord God have mercy/'cause all crimes are paid/when there's no future, how can there be sin?/we're the flowers in the dustbin/we're the poison in the human machine/we're the future/we're your future/God save the Queen/we mean it, man.

To my mind, these lyrics are self-explanatory; if you have no comprehension where I stand on the subject, then you are not really clearly listening. I was brought up in poverty abject, as most people I have ever known were. What the Sex Pistols managed to do was combine children from many different social structures, and created something exceptionally different. We created equality amongst ourselves, and we did this without monarchy or government indulgence.

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