I vividly remember the first time a good friend put “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” on the turntable in his bedroom. My arm hairs stood up the moment I heard the album opener, “Holidays in the Sun,” which starts with marching boots joined by drums and ominous power chords with Johnny Rotten snarling into the lyric “A cheap holiday in other people’s misery.” The album launches with awesome power, surly disdain, and never lets up, delivering “Bodies,” “Anarchy in the U.K.,” “God Save the Queen,” and “Pretty Vacant” along the way. The Sex Pistols made a perfect debut album, and they changed my life before I even knew that they had changed the entire rock n ‘roll paradigm. The first group that got me into the music subculture was the Sex Pistols. At first, I just dug the music, but as I learned more about them, I realized that they created an incredible cultural upheaval and that there were talented people involved not only in the music but the art, fashion, and business ends. From the amazing venom of Johnny Rotten to the guitar power of Steve Jones, to the fashion styles of Vivienne Westwood, to the graphics of Jamie Reid, to the media manipulation of Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols were the most brilliant group of outsiders to climb their way to the top of the rock ‘n’ roll industry. I studied Jamie Reid’s collage art and absorbed his audacious subversion of dominant culture’s iconography.
I gleefully took in the Malcolm McLaren lines:
“Cultivate the curiosity of the press. Concentrate on creating generation gaps. You’ve become a novel idea. You’ve got people wanting to join in. You’ve gained credibility from nothing – use this as a story you can sell. Terrorize, threaten, and insult your own useless generation.”
I used the Sex Pistols as a template for what I aimed to do: make provocative art, but also infiltrate the machine, intrigue the media, and cover every angle in culture.
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