John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 24, 2020 08:29PM
I gotta tell you, almost 45 years later and I still think Johnny Rotten’s performance on ‘never mind the bullocks’ is something special. When I hear “god save the queen” I know I’m hearing something potent, incendiary and totally relevant upon release. (Hard for me to think of a similarly impressive achievement ...maybe Chuck D on ‘It takes a nation...’?)

Also remarkable is the dub bass and inexplicable guitar of PiL. Totally bulldozing a path for subsequent post-punk tracks I love. Lydon was no slouch.

McLaren just amazes me that he even pulled off some of his crazy notions. The mere existence of the ‘Sex‘ shop on the kings road and it’s influence. Merging inner-city hip hop with Appalachian square-dancing? It still sounds innovative to me.

The concept of Bow wow wow, with 14 yr old anabella (my unabashed teenage crush, same age) gleefully being undressed at gunpoint by Louis Quatorze? Are you serious?!?
How did this guy pull this off?

No you don’t have to pick a side.....I just have been thinking about both individuals and how ingenious both were for their time.
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Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 25, 2020 12:09PM
Excellent topic!

Both individuals are important, but Lydon seems, in retrospect, less contrived to me than McLaren now does. Although Never Mind the Bollocks is a stunning work (“Holidays in the Sun” is one of the all-time great opening tracks of any rock album, as well as a phenomenal get-you-out-of-bed-in-the-morning number), the Pistols were built to self-destruct. Lydon got rid of the albatross, exchanging the band’s Rotten-ness for the more refined assault of PIL, and he was all the better for it. PIL offered him the seemingly unlimited ability to flex his creative muscles, just as Keith Levene’s scratchy guitar (descended from Michael Karoli) and Jah Wobble’s visceral, reggae-influenced bass pushed him to greater artistic heights. I remember a Creem critic astutely observing, in his review of the Americanized Second Edition, that Lydon’s vocals were different on each album track. It’s still an amazing record, in either version. The Pistols unleashed Lydon on the world, but PIL allowed him to indulge his experimental side. I cannot imagine another band of that time period releasing—on a major label, no less—The Flowers of Romance, which is every bit as “out there” as, say, Eno’s Ambient 4: On Land. I couldn’t imagine the band without Wobble, either, any more than I could imagine Japan without Mick Karn, but somehow the lads pulled it off. Then there’s the marvelous period with John McGeoch.

Malcolm created some out-there stuff, as well, though not—at least to my mind—to the same degree. He turned the magnificent Dolls into a red-patent-leather-Commie-floor-show (yawn), borrowed liberally from Richard Hell, and gave us the Pistols and Bow Wow Wow. His stunts with the latter group would probably get him crucified by today’s social media mandarins, but they were a memorable outfit with their brand of spaghetti-surf New Romanticism. (I, too, found Annabella quite fetching. There were definitely no girls at my little high school who looked like that!)

I do think that McLaren was less sociopathic than Lydon. I’ve always considered the latter to be, as George Orwell observed of Salvador Dali, as “antisocial as a flea,” though I still relish the trainwreck of his and Levene’s run-in with the great Tom Snyder on the old and much-missed Tomorrow show in the summer of 1980. (Rotten and Snyder kissed and made up many years later.) I remember that Snyder was so angry at the band that he was still talking about the pair, who behaved like barbarians, the following night. And, of course, the band delivered—by far—American Bandstand’s most captivating performance.
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Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 25, 2020 01:45PM
It's funny how neither of them really had any musical skill, but both made great records. "Duck Rock"-era Malcolm is no "Metal Box," (nothing in my mind will ever be), but somehow introduced turntable scratching to the world, to great effect. AND South African mbaqanga. And don't forget Adam and the Ants!
Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 25, 2020 02:29PM

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/2021 11:10PM by That One Guy.
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Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 25, 2020 05:09PM
I love Never Mind the Bollocks too. The Pistols truly are one of the great one-and-done bands in rock history.

That said, I recently saw the Go-Go's documentary, which includes footage from their final gig with Sid, at Winterland in 1978. It was the first time I'd seen any of that show. It's less than a minute's worth of footage, showing the conclusion of "Problems," some futzing about on stage, and Rotten's immortal kiss-off before they left. Perhaps that's not enough by which to judge the Pistols' whole Seventies career ... but if it's typical of their onstage performances, then I gotta say, I'm not unhappy that I missed them the first time around. (The 1996 reunion show at Red Rocks, by contrast, was great fun.)
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Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 26, 2020 01:27PM
Delvin, I have to believe that was a night so bad that the only thing left for them to do was break up..

It’s been said ad nauseum that everyone who saw the pistols perform ( probably in the Matlock era?) went out and formed a band.... there must have been some Incredible energy from them, at least initially. I’d have loved to seen them in ‘76.
Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 26, 2020 04:39PM
That's a great scene in the Joy Division biopic "Control" - they're all talking about some upcoming show they're looking forward to attending, cut to them in the hall, we're hearing the Pistols, but we're seeing the looks on their faces. Jaws dropped, staring in amazement. Walking out of the hall, the Ian Curtis character says, "So guys still looking for a singer?"

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2020 04:39PM by MrFab.
Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 26, 2020 08:46PM
> I have to believe that was a night so bad that the only thing left for them to do was break up.

From all I've read, their whole '78 U.S. tour -- all two weeks of it -- was just that sort of experience.
Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
September 27, 2020 10:43AM
I remember a documentary called "D.O.A." about that 1978 tour (and the early punk rock scene in general), and it does confirm that there were bizarre things going on all around. That said, most of the hype around punk rockers not being able to play their instruments and so on - and the Pistols were the only punks that most people had heard of in the States at the time - stemmed from the presence of Sid Vicious. He was indeed a terrible musician, and an altogether negative presence, even though the journalists loved him and he became something of an icon post mortem. The other members of the band were quite proficient and the music was truly ground-breaking, as others have pointed out. The rap about the Pistols just being hooligans who couldn't play music and wanted to incite riots was unwarranted, but it became the standard line during the tour and Lydon became quite understandably pissed off about how they were being portrayed, making the break-up inevitable as soon as that tour ended.
Re: John Lydon vs Malcolm McLaren
December 11, 2020 12:27PM
For the '78 tour Malcolm thought it wisest to play off-track motels in the bible belt as it would be more scandalous to piss off rednecks than meet-up with actual fans. That Svengali was all fluff and contrivance, little substance.

The Go-Gos doc/Weidlin misrepresented Lydon's tour-end comment, as have many. Lydon wasn't asking the audience if they felt cheated, he was talking about himself. Malcolm separated him from the band, put him in a cheap motel and still refused his per diems, then left him stranded in California. He was indifferent about being in the band that night or henceforth.

np:: GBV - Mirrored Aztec
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