*as published in June 2021
Although there is discussion that the punk movement emerged in the New York underground, it was in London that it became most famous. Thanks to the look of ripped clothes, leather, creative make-up and hair colors and a host of worldwide blockbuster bands. Among all, the band Sex Pistols was the main symbol of the turbulent musical moment.
Books, documentaries and films about some of the members of the group (Sid Vicious) have been made, but there is great anticipation for the look that Danny Boyle will give to the trajectory of the band. Still in recording, the series that airs on FX, is named Pistol and will have six episodes, bringing together an outstanding young cast. Danny drew on guitarist Steve Jones‘ biography, Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol, to recount how young people with no musical education changed the world’s cultural landscape.
The series isn’t due for release until 2022, so it’s a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with the characters that will appear in the series. Shall we?
London in the 1970s
The group was formed in 1975 in London and had a short (but intense) life of just over two years. The musicians’ violent attitude, with profanity and physical aggression, in addition to the look, shocked British society and delighted young people. The singer, John Lydon – nicknamed Johnny Rotten (because of his teeth) – was chosen by manager Malcolm McLaren for his look. Paul Cook and Steve Jones, plus Glen Matlock (who eventually left the band and was replaced by Sid Vicious), were not professional musicians, so they used fewer notes and arrangements without major work, providing the opportunity for anyone who dreamed of the stage. even without knowing a note.
With McLaren’s vision, a lot of attitude and luck, the Sex Pistols quickly gained a reputation as chaotic and innovative. After a few albums, they even toured the United States, where they collected more fights and scandals. It was no surprise that they ended up fighting each other and breaking up the band. Those two and a half years will be Pistol‘s heart.
Everyone was passing King’s Road
Before the Pistols, there was The Strand, with friends Steve Jones and Paul Cook, who played with stolen instruments. In the 1970s, London’s Chelsea neighborhood was the city’s trendiest hotspot, and more specifically, Acme Attractions and Too Fast To Live, Too Young to Die. The latter belonged to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, and sold all styles, including S&M.
The main attraction of the establishment was the saleswoman Jordan, with an innovative look even for the avant-garde audience (and will be played by Maisie Willliams), and it was in this store that “many bands were created”, including the Sex Pistols. The store changed its name and positioning – it was called Sex and became more of a sex shop and anti-fashion.
Fashion and music became connected when The Strand musicians asked McLaren to handle their business side, and a controversial partnership was born. Remembering that these guys were between 17 and 20 years old, and even having survived hard and poor lives, they didn’t have any experience yet.
McLaren accepted the challenge because he had spent a few months in New York, where he had contact with the American underground movement, meeting the Ramones, Television, Talking Heads and Blondie, among others. He even worked with the New York Dolls, so when he returned to London, he accepted the challenge of working with The Strands. The band changed the name to Sex Pistols and began looking for a singer. When they saw Lydon on the street, green-haired, wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt – written “I hate” above the band’s name – they knew they’d found who they were looking for. Vivienne thought Sid Vicious had more of a face than they were looking for, but McLaren was confused that she had thought of Johnny. Or so the legend says…
The loyal fans: Bromley Contingent
Those who witnessed the band’s first shows became a faithful group that followed the Sex Pistols everywhere. All with an innovative style and the group was formed by Jordan, Billy Idol, Sid Vicious, Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders) and another punk icon, Soo Catwoman, as well as Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin, among others. They were so much a part of the group that the press dubbed them the Bromley Contingent (after the town the teenagers lived in).
The Bromley Contingent was in the interview that generated controversy and gave fame to the punk movement. In fact, it all started when the presenter made a comment about Siouxsie on air – saying he would “meet her after they were off the air”, which led guitarist Steve Jones to fire a swearing machine gun in her friend’s defense. Siouxsie, who later formed her own band, became known across the country from this event. One of Steve’s famous quotes in another interview defined the Pistols: “We don’t like music, we like chaos,” he said.
In the mid to late end of the Sex Pistols‘ brief existence, Sid Vicious (who was drummer for Siouxsie and the Banshees) was called in to replace the bassist, who left in February 1977. If Johnny Rotten was already troubled, Sid, with addiction into drugs since he was little (his mother accompanied him), he went to the extreme. Their attitude made them an instant star and started jealousy among the musicians.
The tragic rise of a star
Sid’s name was John Simon Ritchie and he was a childhood friend of John Lydon. It is said that he invented the dance nicknamed the pogo, in which he jumped awkwardly. He was only 17 years old when he joined the group and for his charisma, he was both hated and loved. Without consequences, Sid got hurt and hurt others as well. The son of a young single mother and a drug addict, Sid Vicious learned to do drugs from her and was extremely needy. He quickly succumbed to fame.
In 1977, he met American groupie Nancy Spungen. It was love at first sight, but she was addicted to heroin and induced him to take the drug that would take the musician’s life. The union of the two was violent and intense, and ended up accelerating the end of the band. Sid went to the United States with his girlfriend, but a few months later she was found dead, stabbed to the stomach, with only Sid in the apartment and drugged out. He was arrested and left the police station to await trial in freedom. In just 3 months he was dead from an overdose. The crime was never solved because he alternated between admitting guilt and having no memory of what happened. His mother defends the thesis of a suicide pact gone wrong. The 1986 film Sid and Nancy suggests an “accident,” but some say Nancy was murdered by drug dealers who let Sid take the fall. Nobody knows for sure.
Who’s who (confirmed so far) in Pistol
The cast of Pistol is a parade of new English talent.
Maisie Williams will be Jordan, Thomas Brodie-Sangster will be Malcolm McLaren, Talulah Riley will be Vivienne Westwood and Iris Law, daughter of Jude Law, will be Soo Catwoman.
Christian Lees will be Glen Matlock, Toby Wallace will be Steve Jones, Jacob Slater will be Paul Cook, Anson Boon will be John Lydon and Louis Partridge will be Sid Vicious.
Chrissie Hynde will be played by Sydney Chandler, Dylan Llewellyn will be Wally Nightingale and Nancy Spungen will be played by Emma Appleton, Beth Dillon and Zachary Goldman are Siouxsie and Billy Idol.