Thursday, November 10, 2011

28. Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the U.K." (1977)


This is so obvious and, in a way, self-serving that I'm almost embarrassed to put it here. But long before it was the hallmark of a cultural earthquake/tidal wave that changed everything, etc., blahhh, it was this funny-weird song that a friend turned up on a 45 single. A 45 single! That by itself seemed strange enough at the time. Then it was this. Sure, there's a lot of scary sensation to it, big swaggering words like "anarchy" and "Antichrist" and all that unholy cackling from Johnny Rotten (later John Lydon), and plus he's not such a great singer you know, or anyway misses a lot of notes. But it's as much a pure pop song for now people as anything concocted by Nick Lowe and his Stiff brethren and that's exactly how I took it. I just loved it. Somebody put it on a tape for me, and I dubbed it from there onto all kinds of tapes for other people. I still think it's a pretty swell song, with a big raw wailing guitar sound and martial marching tempos, and all the howling and caterwauling from Lydon. There's something just thrilling about it. "There's so many ways to get what you want!" "It's the only way to be!" And, of course, the one that resonates across the ages, "I wanna destroy!" Each and every with an exclamation point embedded in the grain of the vocals and the emphatic kick of the band. I was perfectly prepared to accept this as the future of rock 'n' roll. I'm still not sure it wasn't, although by the time I was reading about them regularly in fan magazines they were pretty much over. They weren't exactly dead, they still aren't (and that includes poor old Sid). But they were over—an interesting state of affairs that this song utterly embodies, tensions and all.

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