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Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that formed in London in 1975. They were responsible for initiating the punk movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring many later punk and alternative rock musicians. Although their original career lasted just two-and-a-half years and produced only four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.In their first incarnation, the Sex Pistols included singer Johnny Rotten, lead guitar player Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bass player Glen Matlock. Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious in early 1977. Under the management of Malcolm McLaren, a visual artist, performer, clothes designer and boutique owner, the band provoked controversies that garnered a significant amount of publicity. Their concerts repeatedly faced difficulties with organisers and local authorities, and public appearances often ended in mayhem. Their 1977 single "God Save the Queen," attacking social conformity and deference to the Crown, precipitated the "last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral pandemonium".In January 1978, at the end of a turbulent tour of the United States, Rotten left the Sex Pistols and announced its break-up. Over the next several months, the three other band members recorded songs for McLaren's film version of the Sex Pistols' story, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. Vicious died of a heroin overdose in February 1979. In 1996, Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock reunited for the Filthy Lucre Tour; since 2002, they have staged further reunion shows and tours. On 24 February 2006, the Sex Pistols—the four original members plus Vicious—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum "a piss stain".Origins and early daysThe Sex Pistols evolved from the Strand, a London band formed in 1972 with working-class teenagers Steve Jones on vocals, Paul Cook on drums, and Wally Nightingale on guitar. According to a later account by Jones, both he and Cook played on instruments they had stolen. They would go to music performances and, when the concert was over, would go up on stage and steal as much musical equipment as they could carry.Early line-ups of the Strand—sometimes known as the Swankers—also included Jim Mackin on organ and Stephen Hayes (and later, briefly, Del Noones) on bass. The band members hung out regularly at two clothing shops on Kings Road, in London's Chelsea neighbourhood: John Krivine and Steph Raynor's Acme Attractions (where Don Letts worked as manager) and Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die.The McLaren–Westwood shop had opened in 1971 as Let It Rock, with a 1950s revival Teddy Boy theme. It had been renamed in 1972 to focus on another revival trend, the rocker look associated with Marlon Brando. As John Lydon later observed, "Malcolm and Vivienne were really a pair of shysters: they would sell anything to any trend that they could grab onto." The shop was to become a focal point of the punk rock scene, bringing together participants such as the future Sid Vicious, Marco Pirroni (who became a guitarist, songwriter and record producer), Gene October (who became the singer for the punk band Chelsea), and Mark Stewart, among many others. Jordan, the English model and actress noted for her work with Vivienne Westwood and the SEX boutique, was a wildly styled shop assistant, who is credited with "pretty well single-handedly paving the punk look".In early 1974, Jones convinced McLaren to help out the Strand. Effectively becoming the group's manager, McLaren paid for their first formal rehearsal space. Glen Matlock, an art student who occasionally worked at Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, was recruited as the band's regular bassist. In November, McLaren temporarily relocated to New York City. Before his departure, McLaren and Westwood had conceived of a new identity for their shop: renamed Sex, it changed its focus from retro couture to S&M-inspired "anti-fashion", with a billing as "Specialists in rubberwear, glamourwear & stagewear".After informally managing and promoting the New York Dolls for a few months, McLaren returned to London in May 1975. Inspired by the punk scene that was beginning to emerge in Lower Manhattan—in particular by the radical visual style and attitude of Richard Hell, then with Television—McLaren began taking a greater interest in the Strand.The group had been rehearsing regularly, overseen by McLaren's friend Bernard Rhodes, and had performed publicly for the first time. Soon after McLaren's return, Nightingale was kicked out of the band and Jones, uncomfortable as frontman, took over guitar duties. According to journalist and former McLaren employee Phil Strongman, around this time the band adopted the name QT Jones and the Sex Pistols (or QT Jones & His Sex Pistols, as one Rhodes-designed T-shirt put it). McLaren had been talking with the New York Dolls' Sylvain Sylvain about coming over to England to front the group.When those plans fell through, McLaren, Rhodes and the band began looking locally for a new member to assume the lead vocal duties. As described by Matlock, "Everyone had long hair then, even the milkman, so what we used to do was if someone had short hair we would stop them in the street and ask them if they fancied themselves as a singer." Among those they approached was Midge Ure, who was involved with his own band, Slik. Kevin Rowland—who would co-found Dexys Midnight Runners three years later—auditioned, but apart from Matlock, no one was impressed. With the search going nowhere, McLaren made several calls to Richard Hell, who turned down the invitation.After the break-upAfter leaving the Pistols, Johnny Rotten reverted to his birth name of Lydon, and formed Public Image Ltd. (PiL) with former Clash member Keith Levene and school friend Jah Wobble. The band went on to score a UK Top Ten hit with their debut single, 1978's "Public Image". Lydon initiated legal proceedings against McLaren and the Sex Pistols' management company, Glitterbest, which McLaren controlled. Among the claims were non-payment of royalties, improper usage of the title "Johnny Rotten", unfair contractual obligations, and damages for "all the criminal activities that took place". In 1979, PiL recorded the post-punk classic Metal Box. Lydon performed with the band through 1992, as well as engaging in other projects such as Time Zone with Afrika Bambaataa and Bill Laswell.Vicious, relocated in New York, began performing as a solo artist, with Nancy Spungen acting as his manager. He recorded a live album, backed by "The Idols" featuring Arthur Kane and Jerry Nolan of the New York Dolls—Sid Sings was released in 1979. On 12 October 1978, Spungen was found dead in the Hotel Chelsea room she was sharing with Vicious, with stab wounds to her stomach and dressed only in her underwear. Police recovered drug paraphernalia from the scene and Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder. In an interview at the time, McLaren said, "I can't believe he was involved in such a thing. Sid was set to marry Nancy in New York. He was very close to her and had quite a passionate affair with her." (Apart from Vicious, heroin dealer and sometime actor Rockets Redglare has also been posited as Spungen's killer.)While free on bail, Vicious smashed a beer mug in the face of Todd Smith, Patti Smith's brother, and was arrested again on an assault charge. On 9 December 1978 he was sent to Rikers Island jail, where he spent 55 days and underwent enforced cold-turkey detox. He was released on 1 February 1979; sometime after midnight, following a small party to celebrate his release, Vicious died of a heroin overdose, aged 21. Reflecting on the event, Lydon said, "Poor Sid. The only way he could live up to what he wanted everyone to believe about him was to die. That was tragic, but more for Sid than anyone else. He really bought his public image."On 7 February 1979, just five days after Vicious's death, hearings began in London on Lydon's lawsuit. Cook and Jones were allied with McLaren, but as evidence mounted that their manager had poured virtually all of the band's revenue into his beloved film project, they switched sides. On 14 February, the court put the film and its soundtrack into receivership—no longer under McLaren's control, they were now to be administered as exploitable assets for addressing the band members' financial claims. McLaren, with substantial personal debts and legal fees, took off for Paris to sign a record deal for an LP of standards, including "Non, je ne regrette rien". A month later, back in London, he disassociated himself from the film to which he had devoted so much time and money. McLaren went on to manage Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. In the mid-1980s he released a number of successful and influential records as a solo artist.The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, the soundtrack album for the still-uncompleted film, was released by Virgin Records on 24 February 1979. It is mostly composed of tracks credited to the Sex Pistols: There are the new recordings with vocals by Jones, Vicious, Cook, and Ronnie Biggs, as well as Edward Tudor-Pole, briefly considered as a permanent replacement for Rotten. McLaren himself takes the mic for a couple of numbers. Several tracks feature Rotten's vocals from early, unissued sessions, in some cases with re-recorded backing by Jones and Cook. There is one live cut, from the band's final concert in San Francisco. The album is completed by a couple of tracks in which other artists cover Sex Pistols classics. Four Top Ten singles were culled from the Swindle recordings, one more than had appeared on Never Mind the Bollocks.The 1978 "No One Is Innocent"/"My Way" was followed in 1979 by Vicious's cover of "Something Else" (number three, and the biggest-selling single ever under the Sex Pistols name); Jones singing an original, "Silly Thing" (number six); and Vicious's second Cochran cover, "C'mon Everybody" (number three). Two more singles from the soundtrack were put out under the Pistols brand—Tudor-Pole, among others, singing "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" and a Rotten vocal from 1976, "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"; both fell just shy of the Top Twenty. On 21 November 1980, the final "new" studio recordings attributed to the Sex Pistols were released by Virgin: "Black Leather" and "Here We Go Again", recorded by Jones and Cook during the mid-1978 Swindle sessions, were paired as one of a half-dozen 7-inch records (the other five reconfiguring previously released material) sold together as Sex Pack.The Sex Pistols film was completed by Temple, who received sole credit for the script after McLaren had his name taken off the production. Finally released in 1980, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle still largely reflects McLaren's vision. It is a fictionalized, farcical, partially animated retelling of the band's history and aftermath with McLaren in the lead role, Jones as second lead, and contributions from Vicious (including his memorable performance of "My Way") and Cook. It incorporates promotional videos shot for "God Save the Queen" and "Pretty Vacant" and extensive documentary footage as well, much of it focusing on Rotten. In Temple's description, he and McLaren conceived it as a "very stylized...polemic". They were reacting to the fact that the Pistols had become the "poster on the bedroom wall of the day where you kneel down last thing at night and pray to your rock god. And that was never the point.... The myth had to be dynamited in some way. We had to make this film in a way to enrage the fans". In the film, McLaren claims to have created the band from scratch and engineered its notorious reputation; much of what structure the loose narrative has is based on McLaren's teaching a series of "lessons" to be learned from "an invention of mine they called the punk rock".Cook and Jones continued to work through guest appearances and as session musicians. In 1980, they formed The Professionals, which lasted for two years. Jones went on to play with the bands Chequered Past and Neurotic Outsiders. He also recorded two solo albums, Mercy and Fire and Gasoline. Now a resident of Los Angeles, he hosts a daily radio program called Jonesy's Jukebox. Having played with the band Chiefs of Relief in the late 1980s and with Edwyn Collins in the 1990s, Cook is now a member of Man Raze. Following The Rich Kids' break-up in 1979, Matlock played with various bands, toured with Iggy Pop, and recorded several solo albums. He is currently a member of Slinky Vagabond.The 1979 court ruling had left many issues between Lydon and McLaren unresolved. Five years later, Lydon filed another action. Finally, on 16 January 1986, Lydon, Jones, Cook and the estate of Sid Vicious were awarded control of the band's heritage, including the rights to The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle and all the footage shot for it—more than 250 hours. That same year, a fictionalized film account of Vicious's relationship with Spungen was released: Sid and Nancy, directed by Alex Cox. In his autobiography, Lydon lambastes the film, saying that it "celebrates heroin addiction", goes out of its way to "humiliate [Vicious's\] life", and completely misrepresents the Sex Pistols' part in the London punk scene. Although he praised Gary Oldman's performance as Vicious, Lydon felt Oldman only captured "the stage persona as opposed to the real person."Reunions and later group activitiesThe original four Sex Pistols reunited in 1996 for the six-month Filthy Lucre Tour, which included dates in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Japan. The band members' access to the archives associated with The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle facilitated the production of the 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury. This film—directed, like its predecessor, by Temple—was formulated as an attempt to tell the story from the band's point of view, in contrast to Swindle's focus on McLaren and the media. In 2002—the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee—the Sex Pistols reunited again to play the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London. In 2003, their Piss Off Tour took them around North America for three weeks.On 9 March 2006, the band sold the rights to their back catalogue to Universal Music Group. The sale was criticized by some commentators as a "sell out". In November 2006, the Sex Pistols were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose citation named Vicious as well as the four living members. The band rejected the honour in coarse language on their website. In a television interview, Lydon accompanied a suggestion that the Hall of Fame "Kiss this!" with an obscene gesture. According to Jones, "Once you want to be put into a museum, Rock & Roll's over; it's not voted by fans, it's voted by people who induct you, or others; people who are already in it."The Sex Pistols reunited again for five performances in the U.K. in 2007. In 2008, they undertook a series of European festival appearances, titled the Combine Harvester Tour. In August, after performing at the Dutch festival A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, Lowlands director Eric van Eerdenburg declared the Pistols' performance "saddening": "They left their swimming pools at home only to scoop up some money here. Really, they're nothing more than that." That same year, they released the DVD There'll Always Be An England, recorded at their Brixton Academy appearance on 10 November 2007. In 2010, Fragrance and Beauty Limited announced the release of an authorized Sex Pistols scent. According to a statement from the cosmetics firm, "the fragrance exudes pure energy, pared down and pumped up by leather, shot through with heliotrope and brought back down to earth by a raunchy patchouli." The band signed with Universal Music Group in 2012 to re-release Never Mind the Bollocks.Cultural influenceThe Trouser Press Record Guide entry on the Sex Pistols declares that "their importance—both to the direction of contemporary music and more generally to pop culture—can hardly be overstated". Rolling Stone has argued that the band, "in direct opposition to the star trappings and complacency" of mid-1970s rock, "came to spark and personify one of the few truly critical moments in pop culture—the rise of punk." In 2004, the magazine ranked the Sex Pistols No. 58 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Leading music critic Dave Marsh called them "unquestionably the most radical new rock band of the Seventies."Although the Sex Pistols were not the first punk band, the few recordings that were released during the band's brief initial existence were singularly catalytic expressions of the punk movement. The releases of "Anarchy in the U.K.", "God Save the Queen" and Never Mind the Bollocks are counted among the most important events in the history of popular music. Never Mind the Bollocks is regularly cited in accountings of all-time great albums: In 2006, it was voted No. 28 in Q magazine's "100 Greatest Albums Ever", while Rolling Stone listed it at No. 2 in its 1987 "Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years". It has come to be recognized as among the most influential records in rock history. An Allmusic critique describes it as "one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time".The Sex Pistols directly inspired the style, and often the formation itself, of many punk and post-punk bands during their first two-and-a-half-year run. The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Adverts, Vic Godard of Subway Sect, and Ari Up of the Slits are among those in London's "inner circle" of early punk bands that credit the Pistols. Pauline Murray of Durham punk band Penetration saw the Pistols perform for the first time in Northallerton in May 1976. She later explained their importance:Nothing would have happened without the Pistols. It was like, "Wow, I believe in this." What they were saying was: "It's a load of shite. I'm going to do what I do and I don't care what people think." That was the key to it. People forget that, but it was the main ideology for me: we don't care what you think—you're shit anyway. It was the attitude that got people moving, as well as the music.Although much of the Sex Pistols' energy was directed against the establishment, not all of rock's elder statesmen dismissed the upstarts. Pete Townshend of The Who said: When you listen to the Sex Pistols, to Anarchy in the UK and Bodies and tracks like that, what immediately strikes you is that this is actually happening. This is a bloke, with a brain on his shoulders, who is actually saying something he sincerely believes is happening in the world, saying it with real venom, and real passion. It touches you and it scares you; it makes you feel uncomfortable. It's like somebody saying "The Germans are coming! And there's no way we're gonna stop 'em!"The Sex Pistols' 4 June 1976 concert at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall was to become one of the most significant and mythologized events in rock history. Among the audience of merely forty people or so were many who became leading figures in the punk and post-punk movements: Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, who organized the gig and were in the process of auditioning new members for the Buzzcocks; Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis and Peter Hook, later of Joy Division; Mark E. Smith, later of The Fall; and Morrissey, later of The Smiths. Anthony H. Wilson, founder of Factory Records, saw the band for the first time at the return engagement on 20 July. Among the many musicians of a later time who have acknowledged their debt to the Pistols are members of Motörhead, NOFX, The Stone Roses, Nirvana, Social Distortion, Black Flag, Bad Religion, The Germs, Green Day, and Oasis. Mike Ness of Social Distortion went on the explain in his documentary Another State of Mind how early in his career, he wanted to be "Orange County's Sid Vicious". Describing the band as "immensely influential", a London College of Music study guide notes that "many styles of popular music, such as grunge, indie, thrash metal and even rap owe their foundations to the legacy of ground breaking punk bands—of which the Sex Pistols was the most prominent."According to the Trouser Press Record Guide, "the Pistols and manager/provocateur Malcolm McLaren challenged every aspect and precept of modern music-making, thereby inspiring countless groups to follow their cue onto stages around the world. A confrontational, nihilistic public image and rabidly nihilistic socio-political lyrics set the tone that continues to guide punk bands." Critic Toby Creswell locates the primary source of inspiration somewhat differently. Noting that "[i\]mage to the contrary, the Pistols were very serious about music", he argues, "The real rebel yell came from Jones' guitars: a mass wall of sound based on the most simple, retro guitar riffs. Essentially, the Sex Pistols reinforced what the garage bands of the '60s had demonstrated—you don't need technique to make rock & roll. In a time when music had been increasingly complicated and defanged, the Sex Pistols' generational shift caused a real revolution."Along with their abundant musical influence, the Sex Pistols' cultural reverberations are evident elsewhere. Jamie Reid's work for the band is regarded as among the most important graphic design of the 1970s and still impacts the field in the 21st century. By the age of twenty-one, Sid Vicious was already a "t-shirt-selling icon". While the manner of his death signified for many the inevitable failure of punk's social ambitions, it cemented his image as an archetype of doomed youth. British punk fashion, still widely influential, is now customarily credited to Westwood and McLaren; as Johnny Rotten, Lydon had a lasting effect as well, especially through his bricolage approach to personal style: he "would wear a velvet collared drape jacket (ted) festooned with safety pins (Jackie Curtis through the New York punk scene), massive pin-stripe pegs (modernist), a pin-collar Wemblex (mod) customised into an Anarchy shirt (punk) and brothel creepers (ted)."Christopher Nolan, director of the Batman movie The Dark Knight, has said that Rotten inspired the characterization of The Joker, played by Heath Ledger. According to Nolan, "We very much took the view in looking at the character of the Joker that what's strong about him is this idea of anarchy. This commitment to anarchy, this commitment to chaos." Ledger's costar Christian Bale has claimed that Ledger drew inspiration from watching tapes of Vicious.Conceptual basis and the question of creditThe Sex Pistols were defined by ambitions that went well beyond the musical—indeed, McLaren was at times openly contemptuous of the band's music and punk rock generally. "Christ, if people bought the records for the music, this thing would have died a death long ago," he said in 1977. The degree to which the Pistols' anti-establishment stance resulted from the members' spontaneous attitudes as opposed to being cultivated by McLaren and his associates is a matter of debate—as is the very nature of that stance itself. Deprecating the music, McLaren elevated the concept, for which he later took full credit.He would claim that the Sex Pistols were his personal, Situationist-style art project: "I decided to use people, just the way a sculptor uses clay." But what had he supposedly made? The Sex Pistols were as substantial as pop culture could get: "Punk became the most important cultural phenomenon of the late 20th century", McLaren would later assert. "Its authenticity stands out against the karaoke ersatz culture of today, where everything and everyone is for sale.... [P\]unk is not, and never was, for sale." Or they were a cynical con: something with which "to sell trousers", as McLaren said in 1989; a "carefully planned exercise to embezzle as much money as possible out of the music industry", as Jon Savage characterizes McLaren's core theme in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle; "cash from chaos" as the movie repeatedly puts it.Lydon, in turn, would dismiss McLaren's influence: "We made our own scandal just by being ourselves. Maybe it was that he knew he was redundant, so he overcompensated. All the talk about the French Situationists being associated with punk is bollocks. It's nonsense!" Cook concurs: "Situationism had nothing to do with us. The Jamie Reids and Malcolms were excited because we were the real thing. I suppose we were what they were dreaming of." According to Lydon, "If we had an aim, it was to force our own, working-class opinions into the mainstream, which was unheard of in pop music at the time."Toby Creswell argues that the "Sex Pistols' agenda was inchoate, to say the least. It was a general call to rebellion that falls apart at the slightest scrutiny." Critic Ian Birch, writing in 1981, called "stupid" the claim that the Sex Pistols "had any political significance.... If they did anything, they made a lot of people content with being nothing. They certainly didn't inspire the working classes." While the Conservative triumph in 1979 may be taken as evidence for that position, Julien Temple has noted that the scene inspired by the Sex Pistols "wasn't your kind of two-up, two-down working class normal families, most of it. It was over the edge of the precipice in social terms. They were actually giving a voice to an area of the working class that was almost beyond the pale." Within a year of "Anarchy in the U.K." that voice was being echoed widely: scores if not hundreds of punk bands had formed across the country—groups composed largely of working-class members or middle-class members who rejected their own class values and pursued solidarity with the working class.In 1980, critic Greil Marcus reflected on McLaren's contradictory posture:It may be that in the mind of their self-celebrated Svengali...the Sex Pistols were never meant to be more than a nine-month wonder, a cheap vehicle for some fast money, a few laughs, a touch of the old épater la bourgeoisie. It may also be that in the mind of their chief terrorist and propagandist, anarchist veteran...and Situational artist McLaren, the Sex Pistols were meant to be a force that would set the world on its ear...and finally unite music and politics. The Sex Pistols were all of these things.A couple of years before, Marcus had identified different roots underlying the band's merger of music and politics, arguing that they "have absorbed from reggae and the Rastas the idea of a culture that will make demands on those in power which no government could ever satisfy; a culture that will be exclusive, almost separatist, yet also messianic, apocalyptic and stoic, and that will ignore or smash any contradiction inherent in such a complexity of stances." Critic Sean Campbell has discussed how Lydon's Irish Catholic heritage both facilitated his entrée into London's reggae scene and complicated his position vis-à-vis the ethnically English working class—the background his bandmates had in common.Critic Bill Wyman acknowledges that Lydon's "fierce intelligence and astonishing onstage charisma" were important catalysts, but ultimately finds the band's real meaning lies in McLaren's provocative media manipulations. While some of the Sex Pistols' public affronts were plotted by McLaren, Westwood, and company, others were evidently not—including what McLaren himself cites as the "pivotal moment that changed everything", the clash on the Bill Grundy Today show. "Malcolm milked situations", says Cook, "he didn't instigate them; that was always our own doing." It is also hard to ascribe the effect of the Sex Pistols' early Manchester shows on that city's nascent punk scene to anyone other than the musicians themselves. Matlock later wrote that at the point when he left the band, it was beginning to occur to him that McLaren "was in fact quite deliberately perpetrating that idea of us as his puppets.... However, on the other hand, I've since found out that even Malcolm wasn't as aware of what he was up to as he has since made out." By his absence, Matlock demonstrated how crucial he was to the band's creativity: in the eleven months between his departure and the Pistols' demise, they composed only two songs.Music historian Simon Reynolds argues that McLaren came into his own as an auteur only after the group's break-up, with The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle and the recruitment of Ronnie Biggs as a vocalist. Much subsequent commentary on the Sex Pistols has relied on taking seriously McLaren's onscreen proclamations in the film, whether lending them credence or not. As music journalist Dave Thompson noted in 2000, "[T\]oday, Swindle is viewed by many as the truth" (despite the fact that the movie purveys, among other things, a completely illiterate Steve Jones, a talking dog, and Sid Vicious shooting audience members, including his mother, at the conclusion of "My Way"). Temple points out that McLaren's characterization was intended as "a big fucking joke—that he was the puppetmeister who created these pieces of clay from plasticine boxes that he modeled away and made Johnny Rotten, made Sid Vicious. It was a joke that they were completely manufactured." (In his final onscreen scene in the film, McLaren declares that he was planning the Sex Pistols affair, "Ever since I was ten years old! Ever since Elvis Presley joined the army!" [1956 and 1958, respectively\].) Temple acknowledges that McLaren ultimately "perhaps took this too much to heart."According to Pistols tour manager Noel Monk and journalist Jimmy Guterman, Lydon was much more than "the band's mouthpiece. He's its raging brain. McLaren or his friend Jamie Reid might drop a word like 'anarchy' or 'vacant' that Rotten seizes upon and turns into a manifesto, but McLaren is not the Svengali to Rotten he'd like to be perceived as. McLaren thought he was working with a tabula rasa, but he soon found out that Rotten has ideas of his own". On the other hand, there is little disagreement about McLaren's marketing talent and his crucial role in making the band a subcultural phenomenon soon after its debut. Temple adds that "he catalyzed so many people's heads. He had so many just extraordinary ideas". Though, as Jon Savage emphasizes, "In fact, it was Steve Jones who first had the idea of putting the group, or any group, together with McLaren. He chose McLaren, not vice versa."

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