Do we ever need another Punk documentary? How many times must we watch the same footage being talked about by the same talking heads, saying the same things?
Strikes, Bill Grundy, fuck the establishment, we got the gist now thanks. It’s with no little irony that mainstream TV and media in general still can’t get enough of a scene they had consigned to a dustbin marked “violent racists” for fifteen years after it imploded.
Over the past twenty-five years, since Punk has been invited back into the fold, however, it has had to be rewritten to fit the orthodoxy of the time. In 1977, to make a record insulting the queen was dangerous and could get you attacked with a machete, in 2017 it can get you several Facebook likes. To claim to be Punk is the easiest way to feign rebellion. All you need is a bottle of blue hair dye, a confused left-wing outlook and a deluded sense of self-satisfaction. You can even buy the T-shirt at Primark.
There is no doubt John Lydon can be a difficult individual. At times it can get tiresome, but his biggest crime, the one that is having him written out of the story of Punk, is that he refuses to be a hero for the 21st century left-wing press. He could have spent the last twenty-five years telling them the things they wanted to hear, banging on about “The fascist regime”, but instead he has delighted in pressing their buttons and pointing out their own failings.
Joe Strummer, on the other hand, is a gift to them. The son of a diplomat, he spent much of the Punk years dressing up like a Sandinista and shouting about how bored he was with the U..S..A.
He bemoaned his “Career opportunities” and how the only reason work exists is to keep you out of a prison cell. All the while affecting an accent that swung from Harold Steptoe to Bob Marley. Early Clash interviews are a more embarrassing watch than Nu Metal bands affecting “gangta-isms”.
None of that is to say that The Clash are either irrelevant or lacking talent, and, for what it’s worth, I still hold London Calling up as the greatest achievement of any Punk band. Strummer, as confused as he could be, was an awesome front man and should be celebrated as such. Class only matters in this case because he made it an issue.
In the wake of John Lydon’s interview with Piers Morgan about Brexit earlier this year, the Internet was alight with people patting themselves on the back for being so brave for agreeing with each other and lamenting the crimes of the great unwashed.
How dare he not join in the chav-bashing! In response, I saw someone say of Lydon, “He’s no Joe Strummer”. I couldn’t agree more.