Five Punk Sell-outs?
Above Photo: John Lydon in one of his Country Life butter adverts.
I recently read an interesting Punk-related article by Deborah Coughlan in the UK’s Guardian Newspaper, which is relevant to an article I wrote about the Sex Pistols’ Credit Cards (see link below).
Called “There is no such thing as a punk credit card” she goes on to discuss the Pistols’ credit card furore, then lists four more Punk ‘sell-outs.’ For the record, I don’t begrudge any former Punk musicians who can make money. Unless they’re so loaded they can afford to say no, of course, and good for them if they’re in this position. Everyone knows the shit they had to go through to get where they are today.
Also, for less exalted and less wealthy Punk musicians, often it’s not even their own choice if their music (or album artwork) is used in ways they might not like, but the choice of those who hold the music or artwork rights. The rights-holders can licence music and artwork to advertisers, regardless of the feelings of the musician.
Anyway, here’s the article. I’ve added photos for illustration.
By Deborah Coughlan
“Loads of big businesses like to think of themselves as being a little bit edgy. They’ll plunder and pillage pop culture to find inspiration then try to sell it back to us – whether it’s some kind of generic revolutionary spirit, feminism or, most often, punk.
Yet like a perfectly nice dad having a midlife crisis, most of the time this punk edge is as flimsy as a Marks & Spencer leather jacket. It ends up coming across a bit “Danger would be my middle name, if my real middle name wasn’t Derek”.
Of course this wouldn’t be possible if punks stuck to their anti-establishment, nonconformist guns. But punk really has become a big business bitch, coz, ya know, we’ve all got mortgages to pay.
This can be the only explanation behind Virgin proclaiming on Twitter: “Introduce a little anarchy to your wallet with our new Sex Pistols credit card.”
First off, there is no such thing as a punk credit card. It’s impossible to be in the midst of an anarchic frenzy while committing to 18.9%. Second, for Virgin to suggest that their customers should treat this new product of theirs in any way nihilistically seems to be a huge commercial risk. “It’s a big bit of our history”, pleaded Virgin, as Twitter went WTF? True, but that was before you became a bank. This is, as one of the card designs states, bollocks.
Here’s a rundown of four other ways in which punk has never been so unpunk.
1. John Lydon’s Country Life butter advert
“It is important to realise that in all the years I have been in the music industry the only people that treated me with any real respect was a butter manufacturer,” said Lydon in 2009. This is often cited as the moment punk died – and it was way before the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten signed up to those credit cards. I’d actually suggest that it’s last spit dried up a few years earlier, when in 2004 Lydon joined the cast of I’m a Celebrity, the series best known for Katie Price and Peter Andre getting it on. Forget punk, the only music that inspired was Andre’s “classic” single Insania.
2. Iggy Pop sells Swift insurance
I’m not sure how Iggy got away with slightly less ridicule than Lydon. Maybe he’s more likeable. Maybe internet-based insurance is a less firebrand issue than butter. Or maybe it’s because this advert came two years after Lydon’s and by this point we’d all resigned ourselves to a future where middle-aged musicians will end up selling us crap. The advert was later banned for being misleading, as the insurance didn’t cover musicians.
3. Vivienne Westward going to the 1997 Cool Britannia party at No 10 and accepting her damehood
Westwood now says that not only would she never have darkened Tony Blair’s doorstep if she’d known what he was going to do in government, but also claims she thought she was going to the party of Tony Banks.
It is very punk not knowing whose house you’re going to and not really caring. However, when she turned up at Buckingham Palace I’m guessing she knew who she was going to curtsy to – albeit knickerless.
4. PIL and Ramones merch in Primark
How was Primark going to get more rebellious, edgy teens through its doors? By flogging Ramones cushions and Public Image Ltd T-shirts, that’s how. Assuming a high level of punk ignorance in their target customer base, Primark make a handy factsheet including things like the “key looks” for being a Ramone: “Leather jackets and lots (and lots) of hair!” Plus historical background: “Fun fact: This lot are often noted as the first punk rock group. Ever.”
Capitalism bred punk; today it well and truly buried it.”
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php
And this is an Iggy pop Swift Insurance ad:
This is a link to the original Guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/09/no-such-thing-punk-credit-card-sex-pistols-iggy-pop