Sex Pistols Graphic Novel review.
The 1st thing is, music is my religion.
I’m joking. Except, I’m totally serious. I knew nothing about the joy of sonic energy until I saw a documentary on Punk when I was a wee nipper. It changed my life. literally, changed it. i thought it was just me. I take this stuff very intensely because it doesn’t mean anything but everything. I believe your physiology is directly related to what you choose to listen to. Obviously if you don’t really care what aural you’re doing, you don’t matter anyway. All I’d heard was soft rock, really. Bit of Level 42. Michael Jackson. I didn’t KNOW.
I didn’t know what existed, and how much time I’d wasted not listening to it. I thought Black Sabbath was the peak of brilliance. But that 90 mins or soyes to Punk of opening my e? Heaven. The music ripped through me like nothing else and left a scar in my soul that has never healed, thankfully.
I blame/thank Punk for the person I am today. It was the 1st time I realised that there are people like me in the world. Who couldn’t think that everything was nonsense, social hierarchy, authority, class system, the notion of the Monarchy, jobs, relationships, just time-killing, unyielding conditioning. The only social tribe that constantly asking ‘Why ARE we doing this shit? Why are we letting TV/Peer Pressure tell us who we are? How is there any notion of equality between people when someone happens to be born into The Royal Family will considered more significant than every single person has ever worked for the NHS?’
Also, it’s still massively good at playing quite loud and annoying ‘Straights’. You know The Straights. They’re the people who skip past the news coming in from Syria to watch what Usain Bolt did this month ( Answer: Ran quite fast. Yup, that’s it.) They go from Marxism to Marks + Spencer’s in 10 years or less. They’ve learnt about modern Art and Graphic Design so they can assimilate the latest underground trends in order to sell you new phones. They’re desperate for this ‘Punk’ thing to have been a huge scam, they throw up comments like ‘1st manufactured Boy Band.’ ‘Just a ruse to sell t-shirts;. ‘Yeah, but, er, Iggy, Henry Rollins and Johnny Rotten have done ADVERTS, so NYEH.’
‘Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you ALIVE.‘ Sid Vicious
They need it not to be real. Because the ultimate definition of the Punk Mentality, for my money, is William Burroughs’s famous line from Naked Lunch ‘Looking at the meat at the end of your fork and realising it is flesh.’ To truly see what it is you’re doing. Most people don’t seem able to look at their lives that way. I’ve got mine, Jack, and that’s it. Look at the billboards what do they say? Forget about the movement, come and play, come and play. Pay attention, here are some men running, here is a family in a car, here are some mercenaries kicking a ball around, a woman whose parents happened to sleep in this country is a hero because she did some Judo in front of a camera. Nothing else is important today. Stay mollified. Stay Docile. Find a person. Confuse infatuation with Love. Spawn. Mortage. Never be free.
‘Do what I want, be honest to myself and then it would do good for others, that’s all, full on.’ Johnny Rotten
I get confused when I’m away from it. I start taking life seriously, I worry I haven’t achieved enough in my career, that I don’t have enough in the bank, that I don’t have a ‘steady girlfriend’. Then I play ‘Belsen was a gas.’ or ‘Bodies’;and realise it doesn’t matter.. None of these concepts are real. We don’t own anything, our titles and prestige are just made up. ll our desires are just distractions. The only thing that has ever mattered is what are you doing NOW. Right now. That’s it.
‘It was all over when they started dressing like us.‘ Johnny Rotten
In the long run, obviously, it became ‘Just Another Genre, Man.’ Identikit sound. Copycats and sheep are always drawn to the superficial and not the energy. Acoytles looking to be like their chosen heroes. Free to do anything, the doors opened by Punk led to, well, New Wave. The gobby, enlightening freedom replaced by a uniformity in both look and sound. A philosophy neatly racked and filed in HMV. Postcard Punks selling the right to take their photograph in the King’s Road. Sudden;y we were faced by Joe Jackson, The Cars, The Knack and The Police. The ideas behind this are best summed up by The Dead Kennedys here. It’s a telling sign that the questions asked on most of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks; remain relevant to society nearly 40 years later.
As you’ve probably realised, I’ve read quite a bit about this. Therefore, this wasn’t going to be a book that told me anything new. I came in with some trepidation having read Jim McCarthy’s ‘Neverland’ recently, but was cheered up to find that Sex Pistols: The Graphic Novel is illustrated by one of my old favourites, Steve Parkhouse. I hope that this book really pushes Steve’s work into a greater awareness by the general public, as he’s worked on brilliant things like The Bojeffries Saga, Big Dave, Doctor Who and the great lost classic, The Milkman Murders, happily being reissued by Image Comics. Steve recently completed the sublime ‘Resident Alien’ with general all round good bloke Peter Hogan (Tom Strong, Revolver, The Sandman Presents: Marquee Moon.) which can be seen here.
Happily, this is a great book. Slightly skimpy on the details, but certainly a great place to start if you’re one of those worringly young people who’s only aware of Johnny Rotten because of those butter adverts. It’s reminscent of the ‘For Beginners’ line published by Writers & Readers. Sex Pistols: The Graphic Novel sadly misses out some of the more gruesome details, such as why Russ Meyer* didn’t end up directing The Great Rock n Roll Swindle, THAT Spunk Sandwich incident, the problem with the contracts drawn up by Glitterbest that were forced on the young Pistols, Sid gashing his hand open to scare the life out of a cowboy and the effect that Nancy Spungen had on the band (She only actually shows up in two panels, and she’s dead in one of them.) It does sum up their career all the way from Wally Nightingale, through Bill Grundy, The Jubilee, Ronnie Biggs and the tragic events in The Chelsea Hotel.
Steve’s rendering adds greatly to the storytelling. Everything broken, dark, grotty. The dirty flab of heoin addiction oozes from the late pages dealing with Sid, hued with the blank grey emptiness that addiction eventually brings. Also those final spectacular pages of Johnny speaking to us is possibly the greatest thing McCarthy or anyone, for that matter, has written in a long, long time. If it isn’t a verbatim Rotten quote, it is dead on his vernacular. It sent tat shiver up the spine. That reminder that is No Future, and that England’s Dreaming…
Dedicated to the memory of John Simon Ritchie. 10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979.