I don’t find it necessary to drag on and tell you how much of a great person he was. I don’t want to feed you with only the sweet, succulent side of his life story. No. I want to play it all. I want to show you everything. The brutality of his life. Why we’re all gathered here today.
And I feel there’s no better way to say it than to him directly.
Although you were born in the sixties, you really found yourself between the years of 1974 and 1976. It was you who said ‘no’ to those pretentious twats with their indulgent, inaccessible music. It was you who spoke for the youth culture of London. You wanted a reaction. You got one. You provided us all with a fucking outrage to the slums of our heritage. We were all broke as fuck and had nothing to do. It was you who gave us an attitude.
I remember hanging out with you, Malcolm and Viv one day. It was 1974, and you were wearing these gigantic blue suede brothel creepers on your feet. Viv pulled out a rubber bodysuit barely bound at the seams with a few safety pins and Malcolm was sipping a lager. You were all so weird but so cool, I felt a bit on the outside. At the time I didn’t know where to slip into the conversation. You were passionately leading, as always, about some boutique the other two owned on Kings Road in Paddington. You were telling them to look around the streets at what was spilling out, a look you didn’t even realise you had created. You were telling them to “fix” the store.
I could see how much they admired you. The influence you had them under. They listened to you. And lucky the bastards did. You brought them ‘SEX’, that famous little shop full of customers that would soon become angry musicians.
You and I had been hanging out at that very shop a year later. This young sod walked through the door and started tampering with that mint little jukebox McLaren had put in the store. He was wearing a “I Hate Pink Floyd” T-shirt and walked around the place with an odd concoction of character.
I’d never seen you look so excited.
As he finished fucking around with the music machine, we were all confronted to this bastard miming the lyrics of “I’m Eighteen” that he had chosen to blast throughout the store. That thing must have been on volume fucking eleven. As he did so, another bastard joined in and started miming too. The two strangers that were draped in clothing of anarchist delight were drawn together. If it weren’t for you, the store wouldn’t have been there, the clothes wouldn’t have been there and the Sex Pistols wouldn’t have been.
Yep, the fookin‘ Sex Pistols.
You gave McLaren a little nod after watching the performance John Lydon and Steve Jones spontaneously put on for us. Giving up on his New York Dolls assignment, Malcolm gave the boys a piece of his mind and had himself managing a new and improved group (who were formerly known as The Strand) of passionate fury, “getting pissed and destroying” whatever was in their path.
This was just the beginning, and it was all you.
You certainly weren’t the only angry bastard fashioning this hatred towards society. You had established a posse. Not only the Sex Pistols, you had The Clash, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, The Art Attacks, X-Ray Spex, Generation X, Subway Sect and so many more on the band wagon. Fanzines like “Sniffin’ Glue” were established as a result of your guidance. Photographers such as Dennis Morris and Ian Dickson followed the scene with every frame they could snap. You enabled all of these different aspects of the scene support through the accessibility of venues such as the Roxy, 100 Club, the Marquee and the Greyhound. You led an underground world of misfits in a state of rebellion against the social disorder. You created a culture and it was fucking brilliant!
One festival I will never forget was the one held at the 100 Club. Held over two days in September of ’76, you and I made our way down to Oxford St to check out what was on offer. Of course, you’d helped organise what was going on with manager Ron Watts. And of course, everyone was there. Little did we know how many soon-to-be musicians were in the crowd with us. Shane MacGowan, Siouxsie Sioux, Gaye Advert, TV Smith and Chrissie Hynde had all come down to check it out.
You blokes had courageously established a bill featuring the Pistols, The Damned, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Subway Sect, The Stinky Toys and The Vibrators [to name a few]. It was brave and it was glorious. Over the course of the two days, I had never felt more at home. Despite what I said earlier about not fitting in with McLaren and Viv, I had emerged out of my shell by this point, and I reckon this festival is what helped me achieve that. The place was fucking bullshit crazy.
I remember swimming in a sea of leather, being trampled by a mass weight of bovver boots, flood lights bouncing off worn safety pins, hair streaked with every colour imaginable and faces painted with makeup, with one particularly popular style being that of Sue Catwoman’s look.
Every single person there knew you. They loved you for hating everything else. They had a funny way of showing it, too. At different points over the two evenings you were deliberately punched, had drinks thrown at and was chased around by a girl with dried chicken bones stapled to her camisole.
The bands all knew you too. You complained to me after Knox of The Vibrators had talked your ear off after their set as the guitarist from The Stinky Boys blew up his amp and speakers.
I saw how it all came together. The instrumentation and aesthetics of it all was proven to be made up of extremely fast-paced songs; consisting of downward-strumming, a fuckload of bar chords and a lack of guitar solos. I became aware of how the music was so influential, which made you influential. These bastards weren’t writing for anyone else but themselves. It was a release of ire and frustration. An entrance into alienation and isolation.
After the gig we fucked off to Dryden.
Dryden fucking Chambers.
It was here where things started to get a little bit too obscure. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great fucking end to the night. But those great fucking cocktails of heroin and all other sorts of shit can only get you so far. For the next few years you started losing sense of who you were.
You’d always been into drugs prior to this, and it wasn’t all that horrendous at first, but by ’78 you were a different person, which meant the entirety of the scene had become a devolution.
Within the last minutes of the Pistols’ career, Rotten asked the crowd before him, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Fuck. Was he right in asking that.
The following year saw the death of Sid Vicious, taken by the immensity of smack. Ian Curtis hanged himself in 1980. Bands were breaking up. New movements were swooping in.
Everything was fucked.
And now here we are in 1981 and you’re gone. Your death wasn’t completely unexpected, but fuck it’s a shame, mate. You touched the agonised youth of Britain, and they’ll forever sustain that momentum. Yes, you were short-lived, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you were a pioneer. Your legacy will live on forever.
I’m going to miss you, Punk, I’m going to miss you a fucking lot.