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This review is from: England's Dreaming (Paperback)
'England's Dreaming - Sex Pistols and Punk Rock' by Jon Savage is first and foremost a story about the formation of the Sex Pistols. The book starts with a young and ambitious Malcolm Mclaren - inspired by the Parisian student revolts of 1968 - and Vivienne Westwood who, together with Mclaren, created the 'Sex' shop which provided the backdrop to the formation of the Sex Pistols and delivered the aesthetic which symbolised and communicated most directly what punk stood for. A story which, in this case, ends in effect with the predictable demise of Sid Vicious, who in the end came to symbolise more than anything else what Punk Rock meant in the eyes of the mainstream (and to paraphrase Shakespeare) 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'
The greatness of this book is that while ostensibly this is a book about the Sex Pistols (and it is) it is much more than that. As someone born in 1980 it is easy to forget that Britain in the 1970s was such a Politicised place, today apathy rules ok, but thirty years ago things were different. The Post War consensus was crumbling, the age of Thatcherism was dawning, the promise of full employment was exposed as a lie as unemployment figures grew, the once proud ruler of most of the worlds surface had to go with begging bowl to the IMF for a loan, union power was rampant, strikes ubiqutious, the far right increasingly evident and, in the words of Savage 'political and social (even behavioural) extremism seemed very attractive as a way out of this impasse.' In other words the time was ripe for Punk.
The history of the Sex Pistols in the 1970s is the history of the U.K in the 1970s, this is what Savage conveys, Punk grew in fertile soil. The word most used in this book is NIHILISM. Nihilism is a philosophical position which argues that that the world and espiecally human existence is without objective meaning, purpose or comprehensible truth or essential value. The nihilism of punk was a reaction to the idealism of the hippies who had preceded them and to many proved frightening, but while the life of Sid Vicious showed one obvious consequence of nihilism, Savage manages to convey the less obvious flip side: only by negating what has gone before can one create afresh. The concequence of the Sex Pistols was that in this country, musically, things were never the same again.