Don’t miss this must-read from Michael Moynihan, who pulls off the rare feat of getting the Sex Pistols mostly right, and pointing out that Jon Savage — who was there, and an ally — ever so slightly didn’t:
Trawl the Internet and one can quite easily find lonely souls like Dr. H. T. Spence, a pastor willing to write junk history sentences like this: “The 1980s brought sexuality and Satanism together in presentations by The Sex Pistols and Madonna.”
Ignoring the niggling details that the Sex Pistols dissolved by 1978 and that Satanism isn’t a thing, Spence is right to identify both the Material Girl and Johnny Rotten as pivotal in the development of the modern outrage industry.
As British music journalist Jon Savage notes, “For all their shock tactics, the Sex Pistols were making conscious moves towards the music industry.”
And tactics is the right word here, because the “shocking” Bill Grundy appearance—on mainstream television with a band becoming increasingly mainstream on a mainstream record label—was designed to sell records, to raise the band’s profile, and to precipitate headlines like the one from the Daily Mirror: “The Filth and the Fury: TV’s Grundy in Rock Outrage!”
(I suppose it’s the commodification of dissent that one can buy a t-shirt of the Mirror front page for £14.99 on Amazon.co.uk).
The shock tactics and the moves toward the music industry were part of the same very strategy.