A complaint that I often hear about modern pop music is that it is formulaic, and churned out by groups that are created to appeal to the lowest common denominator. People like to point to groups like One Direction, citing the band’s lack of any kind of organic origination. With all due respect to music fans who hate corporate involvement, an often overlooked fact of music history is that some of the most famous iconoclasts were also brought together in a calculated manner.
With today being the 38th anniversary of the release of “Anarchy in the UK,” I think it is worth pointing out that the Sex Pistols, who are often credited with the breakout of punk music in England, were primarily a side-experiment for Malcolm McLaren, a versatile and somewhat omnipresent trend-follower in the music industry during the Sex Pistols’ rise. It is difficult, in retrospect, to determine whether or not McLaren was aware of the impact the band would go on to make in England and throughout the world, but the fact remains that the Sex Pistols, as a whole, were brought together by McLaren with the intention of making noise and getting attention.
What happened, especially with the release of “Anarchy in the UK,” was that the Sex Pistols became, for a time, the face of politicized punk music. Some music historians and sociologists suggests that there was nothing particularly unique or noteworthy about the band, but that they rose up at a time when common folks in England most needed them, with serious economic problems and increasing public distrust of the monarchic system. Nonetheless, it’s pretty ironic that McLaren, associated with the fashion world, could handcraft a band (including some members who had never met each other before), and use that band to bring so many of England’s conflicts to the forefront of public consciousness. In other words, a band with a fundamentally un-punk formation somehow became the band that helped inspire an entire movement of people following the lead that they thought the Pistols set.
Anyway, here’s to the pre-Sid Vicious era of carefully calculated badassery.