Seventeen Again

I had something else lined up for today but then I wrote yesterday’s post about Sharon Van Etten’s Seventeen and this seemed like the obvious thing to follow it with.

Opening side two of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols the song Seventeen is a high octane sneer fest from the combined talents of Lydon, Jones, Cook and Matlock. Jones’s guitars cough into life, then the riffing starts and Rotten lets fly-

‘You’re only twenty nine
Got a lot to learn
But when your Mummy dies
She will not return

We like noise, it’s our choice
It’s what we want to do
We don’t care about long hair
I don’t wear flares

See my face, not a trace
No reality
Oh I don’t work I just speed
That’s all I need’

Three short verses and what feels like one of the more throwaway songs on Never Mind The Bollocks… but then Cook doubles up on the drums, the guitars pile up some more and Lydon really lets go

‘I’m a lazy sod’

For all the fuss about the word ‘bollocks’ and the subsequent court case and the Bill Grundy show swearing (‘you dirty fucker’ and ‘what a fucking rotter’) it’s funny to hear Lydon making such a repeated show of the word ‘sod’ and to use it with such force.


According to Glen Matlock Seventeen was a song that existed before Lydon joined the band which had a lyric written by Steve Jones that Lydon then adapted. Jones’ song was called Lonely Boy. Lydon, smart cookie that he is, retitled it Seventeen because ‘that’s the age when everything hurts the most. You’re not quite an adult, you don’t want to be viewed as a young whippersnapper, and you’re not fully prepared for adulthood either.’ Lydon goes on-

‘The rest of the lyrics were representing everybody around me, since these are not lonely-boy problems; this is what everybody faces, but nobody faces up to. A good book is when an author tells you the truth and you can tell because they are embarrassing themselves doing it. But facing up to that truth is so important to the readers because it helps them break out of their shells’.

Which is pretty much what Sharon Van Etten was writing about too.


She’s Got Herself A Universe

Madonna’s Ray Of Light single and album are 20 years old. The album is a modern pop showpiece, borrowing from all over the place, mainly but not only dance music and dance music production, to make something new and up-to-date. The single was a blast, a riot of acid-tinged electronics merged with a soaring chorus and a feeling of freedom, flying, re-birth. Madonna had been through several life changing experiences in the previous couple of years, not least the birth of her daughter, and a desire to capture this newness, ‘wonderment’ she called it, was uppermost in her mind. The person chosen to bring it to life was William Orbit and he brings the sound, the electronic and dance influences and the production techniques. Ray Of Light, the single, still sounds fresh today. Orbit deliberately pushed her vocals as far as he could, making her sing just beyond the top of her range, a semitone above where she’d usually peak, to get that reaching and slightly straining effect. I was deep into stuff in 1998 that was often quite a long way from Madonna but I loved this single- and still do.

The 12″ and cd single came with a range of remixes. William Orbit’s own 8 minute Liquid version of Ray Of Light was well worth the cost of a cd single (£3.99 probably), a stretched out, less hyper take on the pop version, with looped electric guitar parts for the intro and then burbling synths and bass, the vocal covered in reverb.

Ray Of Light (William Orbit Liquid Mix)

I may come back to the Ray Of Light album at a later date- I haven’t listened to it for a long time but it’s got a lot of songs worth re-investigating. While putting this post together I cam across this semi-ambient, floaty remix of Drowned World with a great backwards guitar part, again by Orbit himself- Drowned World- A Reverie Remix. Rather beautiful.

Punk bonus- Mark Vidler, as Go Home Productions, was a master of the 00s mash-up/bootleg scene. He spliced Ray Of Light with Pretty Vacant, added the filth and fury of the Pistols on Bill Grundy and some gig chatter of Lydon complaining about being spat upon.

Ray Of Gob

Freaked Out For Another Day

In their 1993 and third Peel Session The Orb launched a sonic assault that was a long way from the trippy ambient dance they were renowned for- a cover of No Fun. Sit up and listen to this it seemed to say. It’s raucous, as snarly as Johnny Rotten on a bad day and could harsh your mellow, if it weren’t so much fun.

No Fun (Peel Session)


Final Lydon post this morning- it would be silly to move on without mentioning Open Up, his collaboration with Leftfield from 1993, a high octane, pummeling piece of progressive house with a paint stripping vocal from John complaining about Hollywood’s refusal to cast him in its films. Brilliantly, as the song was released Los Angeles was on fire.

Leftfield’s Neil Barnes had known Lydon from North London and they approached him tentatively about vocals. Lydon leapt at it. The single came with a handful of remixes including the Sabres Of Paradise I Hate Pink Floyd Mix and a Dust (Chemical) Brothers remix.

At a later date (some royal anniversary or other) Leftfield returned the favour and remixed God Save The Queen. Not strictly necessary but I once heard this in a club and it sounded immense.



One of the books I got through on holiday in France was John Lydon’s autobiography Anger Is An Energy. It was in parts entertaining and infuriating (like the man himself), but eventually became a bit boring. I’ll come back to it in a bit.

John Lydon willed himself into becoming Johnny Rotten in his late teens, a complete one-off, unique, an utterly new frontman for a rock ‘n’ roll band. The three men he joined were essentially a sped up pub rock band using stolen gear until John found his voice and wrote lyrics that did more than describe boredom, they actually took on the British establishment. Their recorded legacy is out of all proportion to their influence and importance- four astonishing singles, one breathtaking album (containing all four astonishing singles) and a B-side (The Stooges cover No Fun). Lydon freely admits in his book that he had no idea how to sing when he joined the band, had never thought of joining a group or singing. His vocal style is perfect for those songs and had to be found quickly, in rehearsal rooms and then on stage. His lyrics on Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen are supreme, his delivery on Pretty Vacant is hair raising, not to mention Bodies or Submission. Rotten wasn’t just about the words, he knew image and presentation were important, stamps of identity and markers. The visual sense of Rotten and the Pistols and their entourage is as important as their sound.

In 1976 Tony Wilson put them on Granada TV at tea time (Lydon slags Wilson off in his book, calling him smug and sarcastic, which is a bit silly).

The Sex Pistols were, given the personalities involved, always living on borrowed time and their split can’t have surprised anyone. The Winterland gig in 1978 contains the greatest onstage comment ever (at 6.39).

Lydon’s book is good on the Pistols years, his upbringing and his dirt poor childhood of North London in the 1960s, the Irish and Jamaican diaspora, his illness and recovery (meningitis, not nice) and the rise from nothing to pioneering punk band and public enemy number one. This is all good stuff and well told. But, and you knew there was a but, eventually it all gets very wearing. The book is written in Lydon’s voice which gives it authenticity I suppose, but after a while all the phwooaars and wowzers and BITS-IN-CAPITAL-LETTERS get irritating. Not to mention constantly referring to himself in the third person. He also slags off almost everyone except his wife and family- Malcolm McClaren (no surprise there), Vivienne Westwood, all his fellow Sex Pistols, most of the other punk bands, Joe Strummer, everyone in PiL especially Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, his live audience (who can’t keep up with him apparently), the record buying audience, Britain, journalists (he’s never had any good press apparently), Jon Savage… and so on. He claims to have invented almost everything that’s happened since the mid 70s from punk (fair enough) and social comment in songs, to house music and hip hop, even David Beckham’s haircuts… Everything he’s done was always the right decision (including inviting Sid in to join the Pistols, which partly led to the demise of both the band and Sid). He sees himself as a walking version of the Millwall FC song- no one likes him, he doesn’t care. On top of this he is wildly contradictory. He claims Sid was both clever and stupid within a few pages. He claims to abhor violence, lives the life of a Gandhi loving pacifist yet gets a massive kick repeatedly out of hanging around with Arsenal’s top boys, drinking in pubs used by London’s gangsters, and using his minder/manager Rambo to cause trouble and crack heads. On and on he goes, circling around, falling out with everyone he’s ever worked with, most of whom are portrayed as money grabbing parasites while his motives are always pure and artistic. He does admit he must be hard to work with. The chapter on the 1996 Sex Pistols re-union is a joke- Jones, Matlock and Cook were all this, while he was that, it wasn’t about the money, he doesn’t have any money, he did it for the art unlike the others, they insulted him with a demo for a new song etc etc. It wore me out to be honest and by the last few chapters detailing his television work I’d pretty much lost interest. Which is a shame because he was one of the true, stand alone giants in music.

It may be of course that the whole book is just a wind up. In which case, pffft.

I’ll get to PiL later.

The Fabulous Stains

A punk curio for Tuesday- Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains! was a film released in 1982, shot in British Colombia. The plot centres around The Stains, an all girl punk band created after Corinne Burns (played by Diane Lane, in the middle above) loses her job. There’s a full synopsis here and the original 1982 trailer here.

The film got a dvd release in 2008 and you might find a copy on any of the popular internet shopping websites. It’s pretty dated but Lane gives a good performance and it’s good fun. The film also features the UK punk band The Professionals (who appear in the film as The Looters)- Paul Cook and Steve Jones (both at a loose end following the demise of the Sex Pistols), plus Paul Simonon (who flew off to make the film while the rest of the Clash holed up in New York starting work on Sandinista and so missed playing the bass on The Magnificent Seven) and Ray Winstone (who is now most often found encouraging people to bet responsibly NOW! before the next throw-in). The band play their song Join The Professionals in the film, proving to be a punk epiphany for Corinne Burns and later on Ray tries to get off with her in a hotel room while also telling her how frustrated he is as an artist…








The Professionals were an actual band for Jones and Cook and the song is perfectly adequate, functional, second division punk, showing mainly that John Lydon’s contribution to Sex Pistols songs was invaluable and unique. And maybe Glen Matlock’s songwriting was quite important too.

England’s Dreaming. Still

It might be cliched to post this but it’s still a thrilling blast of punk rock.

I went out for a few pints the other night with some of the Year 4 Dads. The jubilee came up in conversation and the opinions offered by me left some of them taken aback and speechless and the opinions offered by them left me taken aback and a bit speechless. We didn’t fall out or anything but there was a spot of throat clearing and a small bundle of tumbleweed rolled past.

Nine of us were present, seven or eight appeared to be fully in favour of the monarchy. This gasted my flabber. I wouldn’t have put support for the royal family at that kind of level in this (admittedly unscientific) sample size. I think we need to get shot of the royals, abolish the monarchy and have an elected head of state. It’s not anything against the Queen personally, it’s what she and they represent. Now I realise that we probably can’t lead the royal family down some cellar steps and do for them as the Soviets did but when the Queen shuffles off (presumably sometime fairly soon), we should abolish the office of monarch, pension the main ones off and the rest of them can go and get jobs/sit around reflecting on the old days. There’s been a lot of talk in the media recently about social mobility, lack of opportunities for state school educated people, the prevalence of Oxbridge graduates at the top levels of society. We as a country will never begin to approach anything like a more equal society while we still have a class at the very top who get their wealth and privilege given to them by us due to accident of birth. The very existence of a monarchy and everything associated with it actively promotes social inequality and a lack of social mobility. They are a relic of a past where we doff our caps and tug our forelocks. And this particular royal family aren’t even that much of a relic, they haven’t really been around very long.

Then there’s Charles. Some of the Year 4 Dads actually expressed like for him. I get that he’s spent 60 years waiting around for something to happen and that must cause some frustrations for him, but we’ve paid for him to spend 60 years waiting around for a job, while he demonstrates he doesn’t really understand the position of constitutional monarch, putting forth his opinions on all sorts of subjects that are really none of his business to express publically. His charity work- fine. His opinions on other things- not fine.

‘They attract a lot of tourism’. There have to be better arguments for paying for a monarchy than this.

When Kim Jung Il died the other month we marvelled and shook our heads at the outpouring of grief from the North Korean people and their joy at their new leader. But watching some of the news footage recently there are people here behaving the same in the way, ecstatic from seeing the Queen walk past them, having flown half way round the world to do it.

Blah, blah, blah. My self righteousness is boring me now. Enjoy the weekend, and stay away from those street parties.

Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?

Nearly two years of posts at Bagging Area and I’ve never had put up anything by the Sex Pistols. They split up in 1978 after a traumatic tour of the US, finishing with a gig at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. Ending (the gig and the band, at least until that mid 90s reformation) with a cover of The Stooges’ No Fun, Johnny Rotten, soon to revert to John Lydon, introduced the song with ‘This is No Fun, no fun at all’ and the question at the top of this post. All of which is on this legendary recording.