Monday, October 29, 2007


This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. The album is getting the whole commemorative re-packaging treatment.

I did not realize any of this when I sat down to watch The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle this weekend. I had seen it several times before, twenty years ago when my roommate had a Japanese import videotape copy that we used to watch sometimes.

This is the notoriously-biased, Malcolm McLaren-endorsed version of the Sex Pistols creation legend. In fact, it was so biased that the director, Julien Temple, flagellated himself for years before ultimately issuing the corrective The Filth and the Fury, which presented the band members' version of the same story.

The problem with TGR&RS isn't that it's inaccurate or unfair -- after all, this is punk rock, and as long as it's entertaining, it can be all of those things and more. The greatest insult in punk rock was to label something "boring." This film is boring.

OK, the few snippets of Sid Vicious jumping around in his underwear lip-synching Eddie Cochran songs are pretty good. He definitely had charisma, and he wasn't a bad singer for that style.

The best moment is when McLaren, holding a (staged?) press conference, engages in a quick rhetorical roller coaster ride that ends with him putting words in the mouth of a French journalist who agreeably, and casually, labels Johnny Rotten a "collaborator," in the sense of the Vichy Frenchmen who worked with the Nazis, for the supposed sin of listening to the advice of record company executives. Of course, five minutes later, McLaren, Cook and Jones are in Brazil with Ronnie Biggs and a Martin Bormann impersonator, in full Nazi regalia, singing Belsen Was A Gas. Hey, at least it was offensive, rather than just boring. Unfortunately, both the movie and the band had long since been reduced to cheap confrontational shock tactics by that point.

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