Further to my previous selection from punk’s big league, I turn this time to the contrary collection of herberts who could arguably be termed the team captains.
I have, throughout my life, had a long and turbulent relationship with The Sex Pistols (not personally, you understand, though I did meet Paul Cook once and even brushed elbows with John Lydon – literally – on my way to the toilet at a boxing match).
I became a Pistols devotee of the most rabid variety from the age of ten, when the Steptoe-esque exclamation of ‘cheap holiday in other people’s misereeeeee’ first leapt from a pair of speakers to assault my pre-pubescent brain, and it really wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens that I came to question many (or indeed, any) of my heroes’ decidedly queasy qualities.
Nazi shock tactics, Ronnie Biggs collaborations and Sid Vicious’s depressingly predictable heroin habit all took their toll – John Lydon’s willful dedication to sabotaging his own finer elements in order to act like the biggest prick imaginable eventually became a constant water torture, and finally, somewhere amidst the slew of unutterably embarrassing reformations and the emergence of a Sex Pistols perfume, I just gave up.
So what of the good things these irksome oiks bestowed upon the young Ed Zed then? Aside from making me politically aware, banishing much of my shyness and giving me the confidence to make music of my own, they also, somewhat unexpectedly, provided me with my first taste of the pleasures of reggae.
Although virtually none of the Pistols’ repertoire reflects the dread influence that would come to permeate PiL’s early work, I like to think that John Lydon’s obsession with reggae must be at least partially responsible for the heavy metal skank of the SP’s most laidback number, Submission.
The wonky ‘love as an undersea voyage’ metaphor of Submission’s lyrics were allegedly Lydon’s riposte to Malcolm McLaren’s request for some lyrics about S&M, and it’s easy to imagine him crowbarring in some spiky dread action to further antagonise his non-reggae-appreciating manager along the way.
Of course Submission’s spiky/dread ratio is stacked far more in favour of the former, which is why it hasn’t graced these pages before now, but since we’re enjoying a temporary period of ‘borderline’ inclusions, I couldn’t resist giving it an airing.
And veering back into very, very dread territory for a moment, here is Militant Barry’s Pistol Boy, a curious roots/dub exploration of Sid Vicious’s murder case featuring Rico on trombone and Sly Dunbar on bass with Keith Hudson and Tappa Zukie at the controls: