At turns astonishingly astute and appallingly wrong headed, this delightfully written piece by David Hawkes (circa 1999) is a must-read for anyone who cares about this crap:
After the Pistols broke up, MacLaren went to great lengths to portray the band’s entire career as a scam orchestrated by himself. Pouring scorn on their music, he entitled their posthumous album and movie The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, which was an obvious allusion to Great Britain’s most famous crime of the century, known to all residents of the U.K. as “the Great Train Robbery.” The only participant in that heist to evade justice was the least intelligent and articulate of the colorful selection of London’s underworld who came together in 1963 to plan and execute the biggest robbery in European history. He was the hired muscle, the thug who marred the considerable sympathy which the gang attracted from the public by beating the hapless driver of the train with such ferocity that he fell into a coma, and died a few years later. His name is Ronald Biggs and — a few aging Nazis apart — he remains to this day the world’s best-known fugitive from justice and the only one to have been, for a few weeks in 1978, the lead singer of the Sex Pistols. (…)
On one level, of course, Lydon was quite right. The record Biggs cut with the remnants of the Sex Pistols, “No-one is Innocent,” (it was originally going to be called “Cosh the Driver”), is as good a candidate as any for the coveted title of The Worst Record Ever Made By Anyone, Anywhere. Listening to it today you get a sense of what MacLaren had wanted the Pistols to be, and what they would have been had they not stumbled across the unique genius of John Lydon. (…)
And this, of course, is what MacLaren would have us believe was his purpose in creating the group. Maybe it was. Certainly his earlier bright idea of pretending that the Communist vanguard of the proletariat could be located in the New York Dolls — a band who probably thought manual labor was the President of Cuba — was a cut and dried case of epater le bourgeoisie, and a singularly unsuccessful one at that.
And yet it would be surprising if such a consistently mendacious character as MacLaren was being entirely honest even about his own lack of principle…
Mark Steyn on Ronnie Biggs and his arch nemesis, “Slipper of the Yard.”