Search Results for "Sex Pistols"

Book Review: Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine by John Scanlan

Whenever a punk comes to grips with the classics well enough to start being cynical about them, the wet-behind-the-mohawk youngsters inevitably come to the same conclusion, over and over, ad nauseum:

The Sex Pistols were nothing but a boy band!

Yes, it is a sentiment about as new or unique as the equally age appropriate: we’re dying everyday, man or parents don’t know everything. Triteness in motion. We’ve all heard it, and more painfully, it’s probably come out of our own mouths. That’s just how it goes, I guess. Eventually, I got over it, and got back to relishing the Sex Pistols youthful, hateful, frustrated energy along with their perfect, and only, record. Like it or not, Never Mind the Bollocks is a milestone, and I’ll take it over the Ramones or the Clash any day.

John Scanlan’s book Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine is, whether intended or not, a response to the famous boy band critique. It tells the story of the Sex Pistols with an emphasis on manager and provocateur Malcolm McLaren, from his early days to the dissolution of the Pistols. It’s an interesting story alone, but with this new perspective, dimensions are added.

In punk rock, we are so used to the idea that authenticity is a hallmark of the artists, and the notion that a manager assembled a group to perform music is a mark against its authenticity. As Scanlan details it, the truth is a bit more complicated. What Poison in the Machine successfully argues is not only for the artistry of the Pistols, but also of McLaren himself. It was his obsession with provocation, transgression, and youth culture that eventually led him to form the Sex Pistols. Scanlan follows McLaren trying on different ideas, all surrounding different permutations of what would be the famous clothing store SEX. Eventually, of course, history is made, but never quite how you expect it.

And while McLaren is critical to a lot of threads punk would continue to follow, by telling McLaren’s story, Poison in the Machine also manages to give due credit to the boys in the band as well. It paints the band as more than just its members or its manager– but as a combination of influences, and more importantly, human beings, who are at odds with each others. Scanlan shows us with a collection of well-selected quotes how McLaren’s art project and the Sex Pistols became two different beasts, and then dismantled itself. It’s an almost Frankensteinian turn. When McLaren assembled Jones, Cook, Matlock, and Lydon, he didn’t plan on them having ideas or even vision, and when his monster learned to speak, the creator was out in the weeds.

It’s a fast read, with clean writing and little editorializing. Scanlan has clearly put a lot of work into the fact checking, with a good chunk of the book dedicated to references. He uses quotes and rare photos to give the reader a sense of the time and place, which is as important to the Sex Pistols as the people involved in their rise.

Great book for fans of the band who need a little more ammo in the face of trite dismissals, or punk history buffs alike– Poison in the Machine is a fascinating read.

Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine by John Scanlan, published by University of Chicago Press.


DS Exclusive: Phil Marcade (The Senders) on The Ramones, Nancy Spungen and the cast of characters on “Punk Avenue”


If we were running down a list of the most famous, and infamous, figures from the epicenter of the fledgling punk rock scene in New York City’s Lower East Side in the mid-1970’s, we’d have to scroll pretty deep into the annals to find the name Phillipe Marcade. Marcade fronted the high-energy blues punk band The Senders that were staples at such legendary venues as CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City for the bulk of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and yet neither the man nor the band really got the credit that they deserved outside a twelve-block radius.

Yet Marcade was every bit as entrenched in the 1970s Lower East Side as any of the Ramones or Debbie Harry or Johnny Thunders or Legs McNeil or any of the others whose names come more easily to mind. In fact, to hear one-and-only McNeil tell it in the Foreward to Marcade’s brand-new book, Punk Avenue: Inside The New York City Underground 1972 – 1982, Marcade, “while not a household name, was friends with everyone at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and a bona fide member, in good-standing of the New York Punk Rock Scene.”

We caught up with Marcade over the phone from his home in Italy to discuss Punk Avenue and the early NYC punk scene in more detail. Still the purveyor of a heavy Parisian accent, Marcade is equal parts humble and engaging. That he ended up with this particular story to tell is the result of a series of profoundly fascinating circumstances. A native of France, Marcade took a trip to Amsterdam as a teenager that led to a chance encounter with a American traveler named Bruce, which, in turn, eventually resulted in Marcade spending several decades in the Lower East Side, but not before stopovers in Boston, a longer stay in Amsterdam, a hog farm in New Mexico, and…his eighteenth birthday “party” in a Federal Penitentiary in Florence, Arizona. It seems that even in the 1970s, the feds frowned on shipping large quantities of straight hash across state lines…

Marcade might have ended up in the gritty, tough-as-nails Lower East Side in the early 1970s by happy accident, and yet that’s not an entirely bad way to describe the foundation of the scene itself. Given the transient, underground nature of the close-knit, artistic community that found itself magnetically pulled to that neighborhood at that time, it’s not a stretch to say that punk music as we came to know and love it would not — could not — have started anywhere else and come out the same. The thing about living and thriving in the geographical center of a once-in-a-generation social and cultural and artistic movement is that you don’t realize you’re there until you’re gone and the moment has passed. That’s especially true when you’re viewing said geographic center from the wide eyes of an outsider. “I thought it was so magical and exciting,” says Marcade, quickly adding on that he “thought that was probably because I was new in New York, and to everybody else I thought it had always been like that. Only years later did I realize that no, that was a true revolution going on at the time!

While perhaps unaware of the importance of the movement that he was a direct witness to at the time, Marcade did, at least, recognize sheer talent when he saw it. “I think that the first very important band of the movement, without being in the movement really, was Dr. Feelgood in England. They really changed things around.” Once the music moved toward this side of the pond, the cream quickly rose to the top. Says Marcade: “The Ramones and the Heartbreakers and The Cramps were just amazing groups. I’m so glad I got to see them.” And see them, he did. Especially The Ramones, whom he estimates he saw roughly “a hundred times.” When asked of his insider’s perspective on whether or not Ramones were, indeed, worthy of what’s become iconic, almost mythological status, Marcade answers an emphatic yes. “They were just amazing! They were so good. I never went to a Ramones show and left thinking “eh, that wasn’t that great.” They never ceased to amaze me!”

On the other hand, perhaps not as worthy of her iconic, mythologized status was Nancy Spungen. Marcade knew knew Spungen prior to, and in fact had a hand in encouraging, her fateful 1976 move to London. “I always thought Nancy was kind of a sad soul, a lonely girl,” says Marcade with a hint of sadness present in his voice for the first time in our conversation. “Everybody was so fucking mean to her,” a fact that led to her leaving her heroin-addicted cat (“Oh, that fucking cat!”) with Marcade and heading to London, where she’d eventually, infamously, cross stars with the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious. “I think a lot of people misjudged her because of the way she carried herself, and because of the whole heroin thing. But knowing her before, she was a sweet girl. She was as much a victim as Sid. She was not that “evil woman” that turned poor Sid Vicious on to drugs… I don’t subscribe to that theory!”

There are no shortage of memorable characters and stories and moments peppered throughout Punk Avenue. Truth be told, the four-page glossary of supporting characters is almost overwhelming (and would probably better serve the reader if it appeared as a reference index to refer back to). That Marcade can recall such a large volume of names and faces and coincidences is no small feat in and of itself. “It’s funny,” says Marcade, “because I seem to have a very, very good visual memory, and when I think back to an anecdote like that, I can really remember it well.” As the project neared completion, he fact-checked and cross-referenced some of the stories and their corresponding dates with some of his surviving companions, though most stories required only little tweaks.

Yet the real noteworthy feat is not simply remembering stories, but weaving them together in a way that is fun and funny and sad and personal and gripping, whether you’re a fan of early the early NYC punk scene or not. Marcade not only does exactly that in expert fashion with Punk Avenue, but he does it in a language that’s not his first. It is perhaps that wide-eyed outsider’s perspective that keeps everything fresh and exciting and new and real to the reader, especially when the stories involve such Herculean figures. Aside, maybe, from Please Kill Me, it’s hands-down the best read about the Who, What, When, Where, Why and, especially, the How of the origins of the punk rock scene as we know it. Punk Avenue is out now, and you can pick it up at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Target but hopefully at an independent bookseller near you!

Head below to read the text of our full half-hour conversation with Marcade. Aside from what’s touched on above, we cover a lot of ground, including the changes (read as: gentrification) in the Lower East Side in the forty years since the dawn of punk civilization, which bands from the scene got unfortunately overlooked, and which more recent bands have carried the torch most surprisingly. The results may surprise you!

John Lydon says The Sex Pistols won’t reunite again

In a recent interview, the Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon was asked if there was a possibility of another reunion of the iconic punk band. He replied:

“Oh no, that’s finished. I mean have you seen us? I mean, we’ve all put on weight but Mr Jones here is coming it at 500 pounds! And I did the butter advert!”

The Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, a year after their iconic album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and had reunited periodically since then.

Members of The Damned, Sex Pistols, Testors, and The Stooges form Sonny Vincent & Spite, announce debut album “Spiteful”

Testors frontman Sonny Vincent has joined forces with The Damned drummer Christopher Millar (also known as Rat Scabies), original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, and Steve Mackay of The Stooges to form a new punk supergroup called Sonny Vincent & Spite.

The band’s debut full-length Spiteful is set to be released on November 17th through Ultramafic Records (US) and Still Unbeatable Records (EU). Check out a teaser video for the record below, and stay tuned for more details!

Glen Matlock says The Sex Pistols may never reunite again

In a recent interview, former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock said that he has not seen his former bandmate John Lydon in five years, and that there may never be another reunion of the iconic British punk band. He explains:

“I haven’t seen John for five years and I’m quite happy about that. I’ve had no cause to speak to him. There is nothing I know of in the offing and I’m really not that fussed about it. I have no idea if we will reform but who knows the secret of black magic box. I wouldn’t write new Sex Pistols material, we’re fine with the old stuff.”

The Sex Pistols broke up in 1978, a year after their iconic album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, and had reunited periodically since then.

10 things you probably didn’t know about Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols)

Most of you know that Sid Vicious was the charismatic, if not controversial, bass player in one of the most influential punk acts in history, the Sex Pistols.  You’re probably vaguely aware that the dude played hard and lived life on the edge during his short 22 year tenure in this life but that’s probably the extent of your knowledge.  The more senior among you will be more versed with his legend but there’s probably a few facts about the punk rock icon that will still surprise you.

Read our list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Sid below.

Blast From The Past: Sex Pistols documentary “D.O.A. : A Rite of Passage”

Someone has recently uploaded the documentary D.O.A. : A Rite of Passage, which was shot during the Sex Pistols infamous 1978 tour of the United States that ended with the band breaking up.

The filmmakers followed the Pistols around, and it also includes performances from the Dead Boys, and Generation X featuring Billy Idol.

You can check it out for yourself below.

Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols) to recieve BMI Icon Award

John Lyndon (aka Johnny Rotten) is to receive a BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) icon award for his contribution to music and fashion around the world. The BMI icon award is given to musicians who have had “a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers”.

Lyndon is most well-known for being the front-man of the controversial 70’s punk band from London Sex Pistols. The group’s only studio album is their iconic 1977 album “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”.

The award will be presented to him on October 15th at a gala in London, England.

Click here to read the whole story.

Johnny Rotten is also the vocalist for PiL (Public Image Ltd.) who released “This Is PiL” last year through their own label “Pil Official”.

Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) announce tour dates; Tommy Ramone drops out

Members of three of the most legendary and iconic punk bands have joined forces for a North American tour: Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls) have announced an acoustic tour this spring. The tour was originally set to feature Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of the original Ramones, but his appearances have been postponed due to illness. Select dates will also feature Scott Kempner of The Dictators.

Check out the dates and locations right here.

Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Tommy Ramone plan North American tour

Glen Matlock and Tommy Ramone have planned a North American tour together, set to kick off March 15. The tour, dubbed the Acoustic Anarchy tour, will feature each musician performing an acoustic set. Check out the dates here.

Sacred Cow Saturday: “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”

Punk rock has been around long enough  to hold within its musical boundaries a slew of albums considered both classic and essential. We here at Dying Scene love and appreciate these classic albums, but every once and a while we have the urge to challenge what the community has deemed sacred. Every Saturday, two Dying Scene writers will square off head-to-head and either attack or defend one of these so-called classics. Up for slaughter today is “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.” Does the 1977 classic hold up today? You be the judge. Carson Winter will be defending and Jason Stone will be attacking.

Let the battle begin!

Blast From the Past: “The London Weekend Show: Punk” (1976 documentary)

In 1976, British journalist and TV presenter Janet Street-Porter made a TV documentary regarding the some of the earliest moments of punk rock.  Broadcast on November 22nd, 1976 as part of “The London Weekend Show”, Janet’s film “Punk” features interviews with The Sex Pistols (with Glen Matlock still in the line up), a little band called The Clash, and Siouxsie Sioux. The documentary also features the Sex Pistols performing “Pretty Vacant”, “Submission”, “Anarchy in the UK” and “No Fun”.

You can watch the documentary here. It’s particularly fun to watch if you were too young to experience the 70’s punk scene and want to get a feel for how things used to be before the Internet.

Joe Strummer’s former manager explains why The Clash never reformed

Caroline Coon, a close friend of and former manger of The Clash, recently explained to NME why the late Joe Strummer would never reform The Clash, claiming that it never happened because of their rivals The Sex Pistols. She addresses the following issue:

“On some level, Joe was too dependent on what the press thought about him. They always said that rock’n’roll was for the young, and that The Clash should never reform. And just when Joe would get his confidence together together and say, ‘Fuck the press, we’re going to get together again!’, do you know what happened? The Sex Pistols would reform! It happened a number of times. Joe – insecure as he was – had quite a big ego, and he just couldn’t reform The Clash on the tail of the Sex Pistols.”

The Clash released their last album Cut the Crap in 1985 on Epic Records and disbanded in the following year. This was way before many of our readers/followers/editors were even born. Joe Strummer died in 2002.

Sex Pistols to re-release “Never Mind The Bollocks” as 3CD+DVD box set

In honor of the legendary Sex Pistols‘ album, “Never Mind The Bollocks,” being released 35 years ago, the band has announced they will be re-releasing the album as a 3CD and DVD box set with a ton of bonus items. The box set will include a ton of awesome stuff: a remastered version of “Never Mind The Bollocks,” along with B-sides, and a collection of live bootlegs (including Spunk: The Official Bootleg).

Along with all of that, it will also include a 100-page book, called “1977 Diary,” a replica 7-inch of “God Save the Queen,” a 3-foot-by-5-foot promo poster, reproductions of original promo stickers and a copy of the original handwritten lyrics to “God Save the Queen.”

The box set is set to be released on September 24th.

Punk Rock Trivia: Sex Pistols – a punk rock boy band

Every once in a while the punk rock geniuses here at Dying Scene like to unleash some punk rock trivia to enlighten and enhance the minds of you, the readers. Today’s trivia takes us back to the early days of punk, where we learn a little bit about the classic relationship between art and commerce.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny the Sex Pistols were as influential as they come. But did you know that the sneering lads of London were little more than a boy band?

Rather than come together organically, the Sex Pistols were largely orchestrated by band manager Malcolm McLaren. The earliest form of the Sex Pistols were in the Paul Cook and Steve Jones occupied The Strand. When Jones asked local sex shop owner McLaren to help manage, an icon of punk was born.

But what did McLaren bring to the table? How about financing, Johnny Rotten, and the band’s bad-boy image?

N Sync is in good company.