Friday, 8 August 2014

June 1979

The Spoiler

Part Three

‘I wanted to make Sid a star.’

But you just said you prevented the Pistols from becoming such animals.

‘Ah, but that was before I realised people wanted a star. And the last star they wanted was Sid – that’s why I would have made him the biggest star of them all. He would have been number one now, had he lived. Let’s face it, he had one of the best rock ’n’ roll voices in years. He had the right attitude, plus the one basic self-destruct ingredient to make him the tops – he never, ever saw a red light. Only green. He would do anything, anywhere, anytime.

‘Do you know the song I was going to let him sing –"Mack The Knife"? See, all the songs have been written. It doesn’t matter anymore about writing. Just take the culture by its throat, like we did with "My Way". He could have competed with Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, all of them. I wanted to take him to Las Vegas, to let him perform in the nightclubs. But he missed the boat and so did I.

'I was very upset when he died. Sid was the one to be the star and he was the ideal person for me to abuse. I suppose I was partly responsible for his death. I wish I could’ve been there. He wouldn’t have died if I’d been around. The man had to go and that was what he was destined for.

‘He wanted to be accepted. He loved the razzmatazz of show business. That’s why Rotten hated him. The Pistols were the ultimate showbiz group. After Sid died I tried to promote him as being THE Sex Pistol.’

Wasn’t it a big mistake to head for the States with the band?

‘Of course. I was against it. I wanted them to go to Leningrad.’

East meets West with McLaren as mediator.

‘It’s a question of knowing what you’re doing. Sometimes you work on your gut reaction, sometimes your intellect. Most times I’m able to combine the two and that’s why I’m successful. I can make money,’ contradiction time, ‘but it never really bothers me. Oh, it does now because I don’t have very much. When you’re riding on the crest of a wave like I was you get to know when to seize the moment and take the initiative. Like making a record with a fifty-year-old ex-train robber.’

Are you immoral?

‘Johnny Rotten was a good Catholic boy who didn’t have the immorality that I possess. He had this silly idea about honour. Kids don’t want to be honourable. They want to be destructive and fabulously immoral and at the same time they want to be exploited or to exploit. If they don’t have the expertise for the latter they take the first choice. That’s why they get onto a stage. That’s a tremendous sexual release and an alleviation of all that they’ve lived through for the past sixteen years.

‘One of the Sex Pistols great contributions was getting rid of the music. Kids got more interested in reading about them going up the Amazon with a train robber than sitting in their bedrooms listening to bland old music. It added adventure to their lives. It stimulated them on their way to work.

‘Oh, how I hate all these abominable groups. How I hate all these silly little record labels like Rough Trade. How I hate Rock Against Racism. Who cares? It just makes people join silly little armies.

‘Do you know something? More hippies listen to punk now. They’re the ones who buy the records. The actual punks are still on the streets, the nearest thing to the Dickensian image of the urchin. You don’t see them in the shops buying Human League records – but you do see the hippies. It gets less exciting every day. It’s a good job the audience jump up on stage and try to strangle Jimmy Pursey. They should try and destroy such silly people.

‘I’m convinced the kids don’t want that. The record industry is dying, it’s not important any more. The 1980s will be the decade of the painter. There will be a big visual explosion – that’s why records are appearing in a variety of colours now. If a kid can pick up a guitar he can just as easily pick up a tin of paint.

‘Okay, I shot my bolt, but I’m proud of it. As far as I’m concerned there is a fantastic excitement in Europe, excluding England. All those kids on the streets in France, Spain and Italy want to share in that attitude – maybe I can find a niche. The kids are bored. They don’t care about these singers. They would enjoy going to a fashion show and seeing dancers with music providing just a background. They don’t care who’s up on that stage. Look at Ian Dury’s new album – punk à la Weather Report. It’s wallpaper music.

‘People in the record industry are useless. They’re only interested in pinewood furniture and getting Jimmy Pursey on the golf course. It’s all so cosily liberal. That’s why they hate me. I hit them where it hurts.’

So, what projects loom on the horizon? ‘I’m thinking of doing a TV film on the history of Oxford Street set around child thieves through the ages. They’re all in search of their mother and they find her in the end – a fabulous Faginesque character carrying twenty-five handbags. And I’d love to open a music-hall style club where the music itself would be demoted to the toilet. Kids can tune in to what they want down there while upstairs they’re busy telling each other jokes and performing in front of audiences made up of themselves.’

Malcolm McLaren, punk’s most famous iconoclast, has a recurring nightmare: ‘I keep seeing these huge Edwin Shirley trucks going up and down the M1. Up and down, up and down, up and down.

‘Who needs it...?’

Next: Queen

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain

© Barry Cain 2013

Check out Barry’s new novel, Wet Dreams Dry Lives



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