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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Don’t do it Sid’s way

On my way home from work each evening I pass a design/marketing company of some kind and through the window I can see a large print of Sid Vicious. Well, three Sids actually. It’s done in one of those post-Bacon, post-Warhol, brightly-coloured screen-print ways. Three “mirrored” versions of the same image - a topless emaciated-looking Sid with his skinny leather trousers and biker boots, legs splayed inwards like he’s slightly deformed.

I suppose it’s “iconic”. Punk par excellence. It adorns a biggish meeting room in the company’s office - it looks as if that’s where they have their brainstorms, their “creative thinking” sessions, all that jazz. Hmm. Should I care? No, I guess not and actually I don’t. But then again …

Back when I was 14, hanging out with the kids in our street, Vicious’ death had some impact. There was a friend of a friend - about a year younger than me - who had one of those “Sid lives!” lapel badges to accompany the safety pins on his Wrangler jacket. Even then, though, I remember thinking: “That’s a bit crap. It doesn’t make sense. And Sid Vicious was an idiot anyway”. Yep - I was ahead of the game even then.

Sid with dickie (pic: Brocco Lee)

Actually, I think a lot of late-70s teenagers weren’t overly impressed by Vicious’s cartoonish buffoonery, particularly when we’d seen the heavily McLaren-ised version from The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle film. Yes, in general we might have wanted a healthy dollop of pantomime rebellion, some Tiswas-style antics with our pop music fun, but there was still a place for smartness - some Lydon-esque edge. As the years have rolled by this teenage instinct (or whatever) has rounded out into a grudging respect for all of the poor Pistols - harried and manipulated by devious old Malcolm - but also settled into a view (well my view has) that Lydon was where much of the creative action was, albeit with lots of important input from McLaren, Glen Matlock and Jamie Reid. Sid Vicious? No, pretty much just a mascot, a cipher in a leather jacket with a padlock around his neck.

Recalling the affection people actually had for Vicious - Lydon, Jah Wobble, Viv Albertine etc - it’s easy to appreciate that there might have been something “loveable” about poor old John Ritchie. The lost soul, the good heart, the grinning idiot - whatever. But apart from being something of a dead weight in the post-Matlock SPs, he was also a regular fight-starter who liked to play it dirty (swinging biker chains and belt buckles at people’s heads) and someone who may have murdered his own girlfriend.

Which ... makes it kinda curious that supposedly “cutting-edge” design companies think it “cool” or whatever to decorate their walls with his skinny, white-torsoed image. (Cool? Yeah, totally). I suppose you shouldn’t expect too much depth from companies operating in Shoreditch’s “Silicon Roundabout” zone, but still, every evening that stupid print on the design company wall irritates me. I tell you what kids, next time you’re in a blue-sky brainstorm session, take another look at Sid’s cartoonish snarly face and see if you can find any inspiration for your next marketing campaign. Come to think of it, knowing what the marketing business is like, they probably can …

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