December 17, 2015
‘You stole our thing!’ yell old hippies who don’t believe in private property, 40 years later
In the week of the opening of Jamie Reid’s exhibition Peace Is Tough, the founder of the 70s American Situationist group Point-Blank! challenged claims that Reid originated one of the key graphics of the punk aesthetic: the so-called “Nowhere buses”.
These have appeared countless times in many forms since Reid applied them to such Sex Pistols-related material as the 1976 one-off fanzine Anarchy In The UK and the sleeve for the 1977 single Pretty Vacant.
Point-Blank! was a touchstone for the radical theorists of punk, receiving a mention on the You’re Gonna Wake Up manifesto t-shirt created by Malcolm McLaren, Bernie Rhodes and others in 1974 (Reid was not involved).
In return, Jacobs says he was extremely interested in punk when it broke:
“I heard the Pistols on a transistor radio while living in what would be called a hovel in Paris (20th arrondissement, Rue des Amandiers) in 1976.
“When I got back to California in the spring of 1977, I went up to Berkeley to buy God Save the Queen and next came the discovery of the buses on Pretty Vacant. I thought, blimey, this is weird, how did this happen? I had no correspondents in the UK, just ones in Europe. So I and my friends were out of the loop, and only saw bits and pieces much later in various pamphlets and pop historians’ books.”
Jacobs witnessed the final concert by the Sex Pistols, in San Francisco in January 1978. “I enjoyed it, even if one punk came up to me and said: ‘Cut your hair!’, which is what the fascist gym teachers of my youth had told me. Quite ironic, that.”
Given that Point-Blank!’s own publications flagged up their permissive attitude to intellectual property rights, what is Jacob’s beef with Reid exactly?
“I saw Francis Rubinstein, with whom I worked on the original buses graphic, last Friday evening as a matter of fact,” sighs Jacobs. “We are always amazed to hear of how Reid continues to spin his yarn and to spin money out of the buses.”
Next: How Point-Blank!’s smoking gun logo was co-opted by The Clash, a historical overview of the group’s subversive acts and a catch-up on the current activities of Jacobs and his fellow-travellers.
“There is a lot going on with the Occupy movement,” he says. “My friends and I are rather busy these days.”
(For BONUS fun, Google “CRASS” + “lawsuits”)