The Sex Pistols made history as one of the most notorious as well as influential bands of the 1970s punk movement. They were greatly popular for their robust disregard for traditional society as well as obscene antics. Mostly, they have been perceived as an embodiment of the anti-conformist and also a representation of the voice of people who are socially repressed (Sean). Even though they just released one album, “Never Mind the Bollocks,” the influence they had over rock and roll music scene as well as their message of individuality is still prevalent till today. The documentary, “The Filth and the Fury,” offers the story of the generation of the Sex Pistols as told by the members of the band who are alive.
The film begins by setting stage for the issue of social discontent in the period 1970s and in London. The audience gets introduced to some state of social upheaval as well as chaos whereby the people who were working at the time get fed up. The party ruling at the time, “Labor Party,” did not provide for the people who were working at the time and the rate of unemployment shot up and this led to a lot of discontent and many riots and strikes (Rhodes). There being no control where the working class held over the future of the place was shown in the social strife witnessed. They had the feeling that they never had power and that the surest way to retain any semblance of self-respect was to usurp any power they could lay their hands on. As is stated by Johnny Rotten, “The socially repressed man is sad because he is misinformed, misused, and misled”. There never existed any room for social mobility and hence only those who were born into money had money. It is based on this historical context and due to the chaos that the Sex Pistols came into existence.
The audience only gets to see the members of the Sex Pistols in videos and clips of the years that they are forming or before they become full blown. The interviews of members who are surviving end up shadowing their faces and the voices they have end up narrating the story they had (Noel). The real purpose is to ensure that the image of the band members that they had is preserved as one generation of youths who are dispossessed. Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock all had to grow up close to the corner from one another in the same working class conditions. Later on, because of internal conflict between Johnny and Glen, Matlock got to be replaced by the infamous Sid Victims. Of most interest is the fact that Steve Jones was a kleptomaniac. This is a habit that he got to inherit from his own parents and then he stole all the equipment belonging to the Sex Pistols. While growing up, Rotten says that he had the feeling that his education was not important since it taught him to accept the lot that he had in life and that he was simply informed that he had no future in life. While together, the boys did bond on the mutual feeling that they were people who were wounded. Even though they couldn’t play the instruments they had and that Johnny Rotten was unable tossing, they left all the rules of music which proved the impression that anybody was able to do what they were able to do. While in their shows, they ensured they came up with new environments whereby each audience member was supposed to be a unique individual (Dougan). They had to speak to an audience whereby the people who did not have self-respect in the past began to see the beauty in case they were not beautiful and they were not women, who were mostly treated as citizens who were of second priority. They were now not perceived as such.
From impoverishment came the style through which the Sex Pistols are known by. Johnny Rotten offers an anecdote where he wore trash because of the garbage strikes which went on for many months. He had the belief that after wearing the trash, he was actually handling the issue of strike. The safety pin, that was iconic of the punk culture and also well-documented in Dick Hebdige’s 1979 book “Subculture,” started with the idea of poverty and not having enough money and hence safety pins so as to enable clothes be held together. Starting out from the ideas of the subculture of teddy boys, the punk movement style was supposed to be rebellious. In one of the shows, one of the audience members is depicted as dressed in full costume of a Sioux cat. She then had to exemplify the intention of the punk style so as to be really original. Not only was the individuality she had remembered, but she was applauded for the bravery she had in being able to come out in full light in public the way that she wanted to.
The standard perception of the Sex Pistols as subversive emanates from the antics they were performing on stage, but they were mostly perceived by traditional British society as some threat to the way of life they had (Court). While being afraid of the influence of the Sex Pistols on children and the other moral qualms, they were not allowed from various towns and it proved hard for them to get places where they would play. They got signed on EMI and A&M due to the controversy which surrounded them and later on dropped for the very same reason. The most famous song they had was, “God Save the Queen” that they played down the river Thames at the time of the Queen’s Jubilee. Much as it is perceived as criticism of the archaic monarchial system in England and also as a threat to the Queen, the message that the song intended as was interpreted by Johnny Rotten is different. He says that it was written to show the love he had for England and was not happy with the way the monarchy mistreated the middle class. Central to Sex Pistol’s philosophy is the idea of the music emanating from the kids alone and not from the industry. They never accepted to submit to the press, and this separated themselves from many other musicians (Noel). They perceived themselves as honest and also raw on top of their reputations being crude and being troublemakers and outrageous. What was not known to the public was that Rotten’s idea was that of violence within the mind and not physical violence.
“The Filth and the Fury” presents as some form of response to directional debut by Temple on the film “The Great Rock N Roll Swindle” the story of the Sex Pistols which was highlighted through the eyes of the band manager Malcolm McClaren. If not for McClaren, the main voices of the film are Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones who continuously disparage the role of McClaren in the production of the Sex Pistols and the way that he mishandled their career in the form of a business deal (Dougan). As is said by Rotten, that he can’t be created since he is him. McClaren gets to be reduced to some inflatable leather mask like he were some prop in the entire career of the band. He gets defamed by the members of the band as having stolen ideas from Johnny Rotten and also usurping credit for the controversies that were made by the band like the mishap. McClaren continuously gets to refers to the way of handling of the issue as his “artful little dodgers” just like he is Fagin, profiting off of the misdeeds that his clan had propagated of young thieves. He also gets to mismanage the funds they had while taking royalties and also getting to divert them into projects that had failed like the movie “Who killed Bambi?” In the end the Sex Pistols got to end the self-same way that they had started or began (Dougan). In the end, the Sex Pistols had to break up due to the irony of their absorption into the system. The punk attitude did present as an acceptable culture and the message was now not concentrated. The punk style then became a uniform of some style that was adopted and an attitude when the entire idea concerned being original.
Works Cited
Albiez, Sean. “Print the Truth, Not the Legend. The Sex Pistols: Lesser Free Trade Hall.” Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time (1976): 92-106. Print.
Court, Benjamin. “The Christ-like Antichrists: Messianism in Sex Pistols Historiography.” Popular Music and Society (2015): 416-431. Website.
Dougan, John. “Introduction, Popular Music and Society.” 10.1080/03007766.2015.1039790 (2015). Online.
Noel, S. Something Rotten: The Punk Rock Richard III of Julien Temple’s The Filth and the Fury. ProQuest Research Library, 2011. Web.
Rhodes, Eric Bryant. The Filth and the Fury. University of California. The Filth and the Fury. California, 2001. Web.
Sean, A. Know History!: John Lydon, Cultural Capital and the Prog/Punk Dialect. ProQuest Research Library, 2003. Web.