Live at Loch Lomond - The Sex Pistols
Thirty-one years after their incendiary debut album helped reshape the musical landscape, the Sex Pistols are back and headlining festivals. Doug Johnstone ponders the return of Rotten and co
‘No future, no future, no future for me.’ Those words, penned by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) back in 1976, expressed not only Lydon’s feelings, not only his band The Sex Pistols’ attitude to life, not only the stance of the fearsome punk movement they sprang from, but also, it seemed, the whole mood of a nation.
It’s very easy to imagine exactly what he and his bandmates would have said back then if you’d told them that rather than no future, they would in fact have a long and successful one: as reality television celebrities, as newly-adopted cultural icons and as music festival headliners. They would’ve laughed into their pints and told you to fuck off.
These days, The Sex Pistols are massive. Their headline appearance at Live at Loch Lomond in August is the latest step in their recent remarkable resurgence, resurrected from nowhere to the helm of the current trend for rock’n’roll nostalgia. This is 2008, not 1998, but just look at the recent headliners at T in the Park: The Verve, Stereophonics, Rage Against the Machine, Primal Scream and R.E.M.
On the one hand, it’s hard to begrudge Lydon and co their chance to cash in. By all accounts they got royally screwed first time round and besides, they never claimed any moral high ground about their music in the first place. They vehemently hated the establishment and all it stood for, but they certainly weren’t preachers for altruistic music-making.
However, as Lydon takes the stage at Loch Lomond, there might be something niggling away at him. Punk was a slash and burn musical revolution, wiping out everything that went before it. Before 1976, the charts and festivals were full of hoary old dinosaur rockers, and the Pistols were at the centre of the storm which did away with all that. Isn’t all this retrospective lust for past music a bit unhealthy? Isn’t it stifling the progress of this century’s new, innovative bands?
Even asking such questions seems futile in the face of punters voting with their wallets. People want to see the Sex Pistols. Perhaps because of the legends surrounding them, perhaps because they want a piece of that visceral thrill they missed first time round. Whatever the resason, Lydon and his cohorts still have plenty of bite and bile to them. They recently refused to acknowledge their induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, calling it ‘a piss stain’, so maybe they’re not quite ready for the musicians museum just yet.
Sex Pistols headline the Main Stage at Live at Loch Lomond, Sun 3 Aug.