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Monday, 1 August 2011

I wanna be … denounced to the police

The ridiculous-yet-sinister news that the City of Westminster police have been advising people to "report" those they suspect are "anarchists" provides an excuse to post the Sex Pistols' evergreen Anarchy In The UK.


My handling of the faintly threatening all-black 7" of this at a friend's house as a young teen was the (admittedly banal) equivalent of dealing in Samizdat literature. Forbidden goods!

I reckon the tune itself, if you actually listen hard, is not that great (unless you like lumbering rockorama juggernauts...), but - as so often with the SPs - the wit, snarl and bite of Lydon's lyrics and voice take it to an altogether different level. Enough has already been written about Lydon's millennarian caterwauling (Marcus, Savage et al), but it's still depressing to compare the register and ambition of this period to the walking parody that Lydon seems content to be these days (butter, tumble driers, weak self-referential "Johnny Rotten jokes"; panto can't be far off ...).

Few bands sound like the Sex Pistols in their pomp (I was wondering about the Dirtbombs recently, but it doesn’t really hold...). It's the attitude, not the music.

Latest news is that the Met has retracted the “shop an anarcho” call, which must be a relief for the poor plods patrolling the streets of Piccadilly. How would they have been able to differentiate between the "tourist punks" with their anarchy t-shirts and the real thing, the Proudhon acolytes, with their desire to see the overthrow of capitalism or even an end to all power structures?

Such is the confusion of modern life. Even back in 1976 Lydon could play with the myriad threats and their tags: “Is this the MPLA? / Or is this the UDA? / Or is this the IRA? / I thought it was the UK”.

I don’t know whether the police were monitoring McLaren, Glitterbest and the rest during those days (it wouldn’t be surprising if they were), but you can bet they or the intelligence services were watching fellow punksters Crass (Derek Shayler apparently saw files showing that both bands were being monitored by MI5). So much easier if the anarchists in your midst advertise that fact by er, singing about it …

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