Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Back in my early years (the summer of 1977 to be exact) growing up in the decidedly “un-punk” suburbs of Winnipeg, Canada, saw yours truly at the tender age of 13 whiling away his time spinning his beloved vinyl discs of Kiss, Aerosmith and Queen to name a few cherished faves.
At the time my biggest societal adversity in life was slapping at the ubiquitous hordes of mosquitoes (our National Bird) while I took the bus every Saturday downtown to troll the main drag of record stores (some doubling as head shops), pinball joints, and magazine sellers. Of course, none of these things remain…rendered Pretty Vacant with the advent of “crucial” new mall space…
Anyways, back to the story…
Ensconced (a very non-punk word I know) at the back of one of my regular record stores on my favored turf, I became momentarily stunned by the headlines blaring back at me on the imported copies of British music newspaper “Melody Maker” all trumpeting the alien images of leather-clad, safety pin wearing hooligans sneering and snarling like they were on the verge of kicking my puny ass across the English Channel.
The headlines all blared the word “PUNK” and “ROCK”- just who were these scrawny alien beings who, according to the cumulative data of all this imposing British journalism, dressed like a cross between a Dickensian street urchin and a deranged Elvis greaser? And all those safety pins? I mean, I hadn’t worn a safety pin since I was in Pampers and now it was in fashion all of a sudden? How did I miss this?
So it appeared these “punks” were literally blowing their collective noses and chanting their “No Future” theme song at the anachronistic Conservative British monarchy and all the rampant hopelessness of a country on the verge of political, cultural and economic chaos.
Apparently, this new breed of young hooligans had a musical ringleader with the frightening moniker of The Sex Pistols- an unruly looking lot that simultaneously scared the bejeebers out of me as well as had me intrigued as to what they were all about. With this in mind, I next disappeared into the subterranean labyrinth of my favorite record store and suddenly came face to face with my musical Holy Grail: the brand new imported (complete with shrink wrap) “God Save The Queen” 45rpm single on the original Virgin records label (featuring the equally nasty “Did You Know Wrong” on the flipside).
Of course, it had a position of prominence and danger as it sat on display for sale behind the cash register away from the probingly illicit hands of any wanna be Artful Dodgers…
The disc had the picture of Her Majesty with a black bar across her eyes like she was some kind of wanted criminal or something- ok, this was getting dangerous now. And the price for this imported piece of provocative mini-vinyl was equal to that of a full LP which meant I was gonna have to pull some double duty shifts on my friend’s paper route to get this disc into my sweaty little 12 year old hands…
Finally, I was able to collect the sufficient funds to skulk my way back to the record store and, making sure the coast was clear, purchased this potential H Bomb of a record and headed home on the bus the whole time praying I wouldn’t run into anyone able to intuit by my flop sweat the kind of dangerous package I was presiding over.
Arriving home in earnest (forgetting even to swat away another pervasive cloud of mosquitoes), I headed to the sanctity of the basement and the awaiting stereo where, sensing I had a few minutes of safety due to my parents being out grocery shopping, I tore off the single’s shrink wrap like so much tinsel and placed the 45 onto the turntable (I hear those have made a comeback…) and dropped the needle- the fuse of my musical powder keg now lit- as I sat back and waited for the explosion to happen.
And happen it did. The opening guitar, bass and drums garageland rawness and visceral in your face musical attack of “God Save The Queen” obliterated everything I ever thought I knew about rock n roll. I knew right then that my Kiss records were gonna end up at my local second hand record store (funny- they even had a later record that summer- in homage…?- called “Love Gun”…not quite a “Sex Pistol” but still..).
And then- while I was barely off the canvas shaking my head in a punch-drunk stupor- I was hit with the ferocious snarl of the infamous lead singer Johnny Rotten’s lacerating vocals as he spat out his generation’s lyrical call to arms over top the rough-but-right relentless rhythm section of Steve Jones (guitar), Paul Cook (drums) and Glen Matlock (bass) although Mr. Matlock was later to be replaced by a certain musician by the name of Sid Vicious who ended up popularizing the concept of using his own blood for a tee shirt.
Another thing that influenced me greatly about my discovery of The Sex Pistols (besides confusing my fellow classmates by constantly saying “I’ve got you sussed out, mate!”) was the purely liberating notion that you could actually start a rock n roll band- that having passion and meaning (not to mention a great band name) was more important than whether or not you spent 10 years learning how to play your instrument at the London Conservatory of Music.
So, thanks to Pistols guitarist Steve Jones (who nowadays has an excellent daily radio show from LA called “Jonesy’s Jukebox” as well as a newly released brutally honest and insightful memoir “Lonely Boy”) I went on to take guitar lessons so I, too, could make my way into the world of starting my own musical endeavors with an assortment of garage bands throughout high school (“Anarchy in Manitoba”…?).
Flash forward to today and my current occupation as a filmmaker, my love and devotion to The Sex Pistols still burns as our most recent feature film “A Legacy of Whining” even has the musical appearance of a “fictitious” and notorious British punk rock band called The Snotty Punks (yes, I know- Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s Some Shameless Self Promotion…).
So, on this momentous day being the 61st birthday of Johnny Rotten (now John Lydon), let’s all raise a pint and unclog a nostril to the greatest, most influential and most dangerous rock n roll band of All Time- The Sex Pistols.
Viva La Cinema!