There’ll Always be an England

Sex Pistols: Live From Brixton Academy

a film by Julien Temple

Fremantle Media Enterprises

“We had a manager once too, and he was a cunt.”

It’s one of those bands that you absolutely must understand in order to form some reasonable opinions about the history of punk music from the tail end of the 1970’s to the present day.  The Sex Pistols have been reputed as the bombastic, chaotic, and non-conformist group who set a whole new wave of classic musical groups to flourish under this new set of anti-social values. While musically, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and singer John Lydon can bring back the magic and spite of the anarchistic punk revolution, Sid Vicious’ absence truly does create a gap in their otherwise seamless performance.  

Without Vicious’ somehow graceful self-loathing, Lydon’s boisterous tendencies to over-dramatize just make him look like a tired caricature of his former self. At the same time though, Julien Temple’s production of the concert highlights the ultimate of an era that defined itself by thriving in an anti-social climate.

the pistols live at brixton academy

the pistols live at brixton academy

The film begins quasi-documentary in style, showing the scores of punks waiting anxiously to get into the Brixton Academy venue. Who would ever go to a Sex Pistols show? This question is self-referential. Aged, balding, overweight alongside a younger, skinny generation of punks who’s only pre-requisites are studded leather and an anarchistic attitude. Rotten describes how a Sex Pistols show attracts “all races, all creeds, people of all colours. So long as their working class I’ll have it.”

Frontman and iconoclastic punk Johnny Rotten (a.k.a. John Lydon) humbly thanks the crowd of belligerent rebels for coming to the “There’ll Always be an England Tour,” and defiantly exclaims that as long as the band lives, there’ll always be a “fucking England.”

The band started off the show with a blistering rendition of the song “Pretty Vacant” from their one and only ever recorded album Never Mind the Bollocks (1977). All the songs are complimented by a rally-like chanting from the predominantly white crowd who knows every single lyric, giving it an ominous, deep vocal glow. Temple takes artistic license during the song “Submission” by giving the camera a watery, green translucence which adds a further dimension of filth around a song about cunnilingus.

a caricature of his former glory?

john lydon: a caricature of his former glory?

To add even further on the dimensions of filth which the Sex Pistols thrive on, here is a list of Lydon’s expressions which he peppered through the set breaks on the DVD. Please bear in mind that this list is but a mere sample of offensive statements which Lydon could surely surpass:

“I’m a very pretty pink cunt”

“I’ve forgotten the fucking words, haven’t I?”

“I’m a fat British bastard”

“You know, all you blokes and girls, want to suck on my nipples!”

“Who’s the biggest fucking cunt? fucking champagne socialists, fucking catastrophe”

and of course

“It’s the eye of the pussy”

The Sex Pistols formed in 1975 when John Lydon was at the sweet and suggestible age of 17. Formerly, the original members were in a band named The Strand dated from 1973, but two years later evolved upon Lydon’s entrance. Together, the fourtet created what many have considered to be the first generational gap in rock music, characterized by boisterous, bombastic hard rock and a destructive, anti-social attitude. Rebelling against the hippy-rock, bell-bottomed, long-haired divergent social groups from the 1960’s 70’s, the Sex Pistols made their own fashion that consisted of KY-Jellied spiked hair, tattered clothing and Doc Martens boots.