The New York punk scene may have only achieved a cult following in the New York area, but it managed to find its way overseas to the UK. England welcomed the punks with open arms. The Ramones toured England and were treated like the new Beatles. Local kids were picking up guitars and forming bands by the hour.
The Clash, The Jam, The Vibrators, The Stranglers, Buzzcocks are some of the UK bands inspired by The Ramones.
One band that got an early buzz in the states were a bunch of lowlife, snotty punks who called themselves Sex Pistols. Managed by Malcolm McLaren, the marketing machine behind the New York Dolls. He discovered them and started his publicity machine to promote the Pistols as the next big thing.
I remember hearing about them before actually hearing them. There was a buzz about the single being released in the states any day. It was supposed to be the angriest music ever recorded and they were due to explode into instant stardom.
Finally, Nipo got the first single. “Anarchy In The UK” was an anthemic, growly, snarly, pissy song over loud searing guitars and a shrieking voice form a guy named Johnny Rotten. I thought, come on, this is a bit ridiculous. But I loved the song. Sure, these guys were pissed, but can they keep it up? Where is the album?
Not signed yet, The Sex Pistols released a second single. “God Save The Queen”. Now this is real. What an amazing record. Politically charged, angry rebellious rock at its best. I was sold. These guys were the real thing. But where is the album?
The Sex Pistols created more self-inflicted harm to their careers early on than any band in the history of music. All on purpose. At first it seemed like a marketing ploy, but it was real. They were real. Johnny Rotten hated the business. He hated rock n roll. He was often quoted as stating the Sex Pistols weren’t here to play rock n roll, they were here to destroy it. (For more on the story behind the Sex Pistols shenanigans, see the movie “The Filth And The Fury”. Required viewing. Excellent movie.)
The album finally came out and did not disappoint. It was one assaulting song after another. Loud, angry, pissy, snotty, smart and fun rock n roll. Some of the best ever recorded. One of my favorite albums.
The Sex Pistols weren’t just some loud rock n roll band. Buy the album and listen to the lyrics. Some brilliant stuff here.
“We’re the flowers in your dustbin. We’re the poison in your human machine. We’re the future, your future. No future for you”(God Save the Queen)
They meant it maaaaan.
They hated everything about established rock n roll. They hated anything corporate. True revolutionaries and rebels. It was James Dean with a vomit stain.
You couldn’t help but join the cause. I hated established rock at this point. I was almost tempted to burn all my hard rock records. Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, etc. were suddenly irrelevant to me. I hated them with a passion now. Mad Jim was confused by the whole thing.
They succeeded to destroy rock n roll. then they quit. The best thing they could have ever done.
The Pistols may have died, but never lost their edge even years later. When invited to join the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, they declined the invite and Johnny Rotten wrote a letter calling their organization a “piss stain“. How can you not love this guy.
Johnny Rotten went on to become Johnny Lydon and formed Public Image Ltd., which he described as the anti-rock band that refused to conform to any kind of labeling.
I saw PIL on their first tour. They performed most of their set behind a white blank screen, unseen. People threw bottles and bayed at them. Finally, Johnny came out for one or two songs, spit beer on people, snarled. and half heartedly sang a few songs. It was exactly what I expected and it was worth every penny.
Other “British Invasion 2” bands from the punk scene emerged. The Clash were intelligent, politcally charged, angry and very talented. Musically and lyrically better than any other band of that era. The Clash debut was probably the best album that came out of the British punk scene. Joe Strummer is a genius in the category of John Lennon and Bob Marley. And that is not just me talking. Many agree.
The Jam had a Who-based sensibility only faster, louder and angrier than the Who ever were. Paul Weller at just 17 years old was as worldly as any veteran rock musician.
The Stranglers debut album had some excellent keyboard treatments to go with the growling snarl of Hugh Cornwell on vocals.
I loved most of the British punk bands. As ususal, I bought it all.
Like, the American bands, the Brits were also having a hard time getting any acceptance in the US. Radio airplay was practically non-existant, wtih the exception of a couple of NY stations like WNEW and WPIX.
They eventually became more about fashion than music, so in a way it suffered. WIth the exception of The Clash, the British punk scene faded quickly. Within a year, it was almost dead, but the mark it left resonates even to this day. An amazing period in British music.