Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Great Friggin' Swindle? Sex Pistols, School Kids and 1979

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have written an article about the Sex Pistols for the academic journal Popular Music and Society. It is now available via this link. The article looks at the popularity of the Sex Pistols in 1979, a year that is still overlooked in favour of the headline-grabbing punk year of 1977. In many ways this is unjust. In Britain, there were more punk hits in 1979 than any other year; there was also a new, younger generation of fans who were getting into the music. These schoolchildren discovered the Sex Pistols via Sid Vicious rather than Johnny Rotten, and their rebellious anthem was 'Friggin' in the Riggin'' rather than 'God Save the Queen'. They heard The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle before they heard Never Mind the Bollocks. I know, because I was that schoolchild. The article locates the teenage appeal of 'Friggin' in the Riggin'' in its themes of swearing, sex and piracy. It also explores the media infrastructure that enabled young adolescents to access punk music. It then looks at the legacy of the Sex Pistols', charting the triumph of Johnny Rotten's narrative over that of Malcolm McLaren, and argues that The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle fell prey to notions of coherence, canonicity and - dare I say it - authenticity.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard. I believe we may have worked together at MCPS? Just (belatedly!) read your article on 'FITR'. For years I've thought that the first Pistols song I heard was 'Pretty Vacant' (on the Annie Nightingale show some point in 1983 aged 12). Thanks to your memory jog, I now realise it was actually 'FITR' when I was about 9, in the form of older kids singing it at the back of the schoolbus. Sounds from your article that you have a few years on me. As a 6 - 8 year old at the time you write about, I well remember those bands beginning to appear on TOTP, but my peers and I simply didn't conceive of them as 'punk' (which hadn't impinged on our consciousness) or indeed anything other than pop bands, but ones who looked odder and did funnier, more entertaining things than other acts on the show. I'd conjecture that this is why my age group were subsequently so open to / into Adam & the Ants, 2-Tone, and the New Romantic-type bands; they fitted in well with what we already perceived as standard pop presentation. Anyway, thanks for a really interesting and (in my experience) accurate assessment. Glad to hear you're going onward and upward!