ENGLAND IN 1975: A repulsive, disgusting, festering, rat-filled open wound of desolation and despair fit only for junkies, whores and comic book writers…wait, wait, sorry, got that wrong. That’s England TODAY.
ENGLAND IN 1975: Still not pleasant.
A seemingly endless economic downturn and housing shortage combined to create a new spirit of hopelessness in the nation’s youth. With decent jobs and an affordable place to live a faraway dream for many, gangs of young people living on the street find themselves angry and alienated by the politics, fashion, art and music of the day. Glam rock, corporate rock, and the bewilderingly tame sounds coming from the most popular radio bands failed to reach them.
It was even worse for those eternal outsiders; the mutants–the ultimate disaffected and alienated youth. In retrospect, it’s small wonder that those most down-trodden of beings should gather around a central figure who seemed to value their talents and abilities–in this case, Xavier McLaren, owner of a small fashion boutique known as “X.”
BOBBY DRAKE: It was, like, a shop, right, ‘cos we was mad for clothes, you know, but mum and dad wouldn’t pay for the teddy outfits. Not me mum and dad, anyways. Warren, now, his dad had money.
WARREN WORTHINGTON III: Oh, yeah, dad wanted me to dress like a proper little mutant, right. So, it’s all “why not try the yellow and blue outfit, Warren,” and I’m all, SOD OFF, dad! Bugger!
BOBBY: We had this group, this little thing, and Warren’s dad bought us all gear an’ shit. I got picked to play drums cause I kept accidentally freezing the bass guitar.
WARREN: Right, and I decided to play guitar. We didn’t care, really, it was just somethin’ to do. But Xavier, he was keen on it. He’d come hear us and that.
BOBBY: Yeah, and he had a proper shop, and he was bald.
WARREN: Right, he was bald.
XAVIER: They were playing naff shite, Beatles, like. I told them to write their own stuff, and they listened, ‘cos I was bald, I think, plus I got this wheelchair an’ all.
He was indeed bald, thus giving him the prerequisite lack of hair needed in one so very, very bald. Hank McCoy, a talented but remarkably unattractive bassist joined the group, but still the band failed to ignite much interest with Warren’s competent but uninspiring vocals. They needed a front-man.
Enter Scotty “Rotten” Summers. Known as “Rotten” as much for his bad teeth as his proclivity towards blasting people’s faces off with his eyeballs, he was a constant presence in the boutique. His green hair, torn and pinned clothing, and his visor which prevented his eyeballs from blasting faces off, all made an irresistible statement for Xavier, who, frankly, might have hung around young boys more than was strictly necessary, and didn’t even NEED the stupid wheelchair.
XAVIER: I asked if he wanted to sing, and then I, you know, ducked ‘cos of his eyeballs, and he said, “I don’t mind.” He was taking the piss out of us.
SCOTTY ROTTEN: I was taking the piss out of them. I should have blasted his face off with my eyeballs. Stupid bald get.
XAVIER: We all hated each other, so that was all right.
Xavier claimed he wanted the X-Pistols’ music to mean something more than just the typical radio frippery.
XAVIER: Oh, yeah, I had this dream of homo sapiens and homo superior living together, in peace, and understa….nah, I were in it for the money.
BOBBY: It was a drag, ‘cos we’d be rehearsin’, and you know, the Sentinels would show up and bust up the place and take all the good lookin’ women. F*****’ Sentinels!
At the Pistols’ first major gig, at St. Martin’s College, the were to follow a band much more popular at the time, The Avengers, which featured a then-new-to-the-scene Adam Antman.
ADAM ANTMAN: Yeah, you know, they played like five songs, and they sucked. They didn’t know how to play at all, except that bassist with the huge goddamn feet. My band hated them and the crowd booed them off the stage, but they definitely had an impact. I looked and said, “That’s the future, man. The Avengers are yesterday’s news.”
SCOTTY ROTTEN: Then I blasted his face with my eyeballs.
WARREN: Right after that, Scotty made us get rid of Hank, the only one who could play, and replaced him with the untalented and slightly mental Logan Vicious. We did it ‘cos all of us liked our faces and didn’t want them blasted. I mean, look at me! I’ve got wings, right? Lot of good that does against an eyeball-blasting. But we was writing better with Logan, I’ll grant that.
God save the White Queen
Her mutant regime
She’ll make you a moron
God Save the White Queen
Her outfit is obscene
There is no future
Homo sapiens dreaming
She will tell you what you want
She will tell you what you need
There’s no future no future for you, man
For you, man
This period of productivity ran parallel to the band’s increasing popularity on television and in live shows. TV hosts would coach the Pistols to be rude and destructive, and then publicly chide them for the ratings-boosting behavior. During one particularly memorable appearance, the band used the “F” word approximately 400 times in a 90 second segment, Logan relieved himself on the floor and Rotten blasted the interviewers face not once, but thrice, with his eyeballs.
It was time to make an album.
The album was a stunning success among those too poor or too stoned to buy it. Those who actually heard the album heard the classic songs:
HAVOK IN THE SUN
APOCALYPSE IN THE U K,
And the classic Punk Anthem, PRETTY MUTANT.
There’s no point in blaming our chromosomes
We’re the end product of f****d genomes
We all got powers and we’re all too ‘cool’
You can always find us, pissing in the gene pool
Oh, we’re so pretty
Oh so pretty we’re mutant
We’re so pretty oh so pretty
Don’t ask us to to pretend we got nothin’ to say
We’re the twisted version… of your DNA
We got no reason and we’re out to lunch
We’re evolution’s errors with fifty books a month!
Oh we’re so pretty
Oh so pretty, we’re mutant
We’re so pretty oh so pretty
And we don’t CARE
Punk had taken the world by storm. Kids hated their parent’s music, and parents hated their kids, bypassing the music entirely. Spin-offs and imitators appeared everywhere: The Damned, The Clash, X-Factor, X-Force, X-Factor Force, Factor Force X, and many others, mostly with the letter X in there, for sure.
But it was too late for the X-Pistols, as the two main creative forces behind the group could no longer work with each other and split acrimoniously, leaving the group shattered in their wake. Bobby Drake took a job at Dairy Queen. Warren Worthington became professionally fey. Logan Vicious, practically invulnerable due to his healing factor, became the world’s only Drano addict. Xavier McLaren continued to have an interest in clothing, particularly on scouts and car wash attendants. And Scotty Rotten got religion after nearly blasting his own face off with his own shaving mirror.
Perhaps it’s better this way. Perhaps it’s better if we remember their work fondly, than to see them return with less passionate conviction. Maybe Punk wasn’t about popularity, or records shipped, or sold-out stadiums. Maybe Punk was a reminder that one didn’t need to be beautiful or talented to connect with an audience.
Or maybe, just maybe…
It was crappy music and we all fell for it.