PERMANENT RECORDS: FUCK THIS AND FUCK THAT, FUCK IT ALL AND FUCK THE FUCKING BRAT
[Due to the San Diego Comic Con International, this week's Permanent Records is being posted two days early. Better to be ahead of a deadline than miss it. Cheers!]
Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.
24. THE SEX PISTOLS - NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE'S THE SEX PISTOLS (1977)
Personnel: Johnny Rotten, vocals; Steve Jones, guitars; Sid Vicious, bass; Paul Cook, drums
Producers: Chris Thomas & Bill Price/ Label: Warner Bros.
Let's face it. There's not much originality in teenage rebellion. The way I did it, the way you did it, the way some kid tomorrow is going to do it--it's almost always along some line that is completely hackneyed and cliché. We scream out in tones all too familiar to the ears of history regardless of how daring and unique the intent of the scream was.
It's only fitting, then, that when I decided to stick a flag in my own independence, I chose to play the Sex Pistols album in the background. (And let's face it, when I call it "the Sex Pistols album," it's because it's really the only one, all shameless cash-ins aside.) Just look at the name of the band. It has the word "Sex" in it. Their music must be naughty, and it surely will piss off my parents. It's not a terribly unique choice, nor is it the most leftfield selection for this list.
Amusingly enough, I hardly knew anything about the Sex Pistols when I bought the cassette of Never Mind the Bollocks. Would you believe I had first heard of them when they got a mention on the TV show "Alice"? Alice's son had tickets to see the band on their tour through Arizona (did that ever even happen?), and you guessed it, Alice is shocked that there would be a rock band with such a name. Surely I couldn't have been the only kid in America who was drawn to this lightning rod via a television sitcom?
I had already basically discovered punk. I owned a Suicidal Tendencies and an S.O.D. record by then, and kids I hung around with listened to a lot of different thrash-type bands. We should be straight, though, I was not a punk. I was never an anything. I was always sort of skating around edges of things, picking and choosing, noting places where I could link up the frozen ponds. My real rebellion, in this essence, was against being assimilated into any one group. I was me, and me I'd stay.
My dad got married a second time when I was fifteen. I wasn't really down with it, but it worked in my favor when they bought a house that had an add-on in the garage that was converted into my bedroom. I was a part of the house, but separate. You had to go through the garage to get to me. In this spirit, whenever there were family activities, I would find a way to weasel out of them. I'm a good weaseler, and so I was on my own a lot. Thus it came down that everyone else was going on some kind of vacation for the weekend, and I was staying home.
Back up a few entries and look at the picture of me in the Depeche Mode rundown. That was how I had my hair cut through most of high school. It was really the beginning of where I am now, it was only a matter of time before both sides were standing up and I was James Dean in my Ferrari careening over Mulholland Drive (even if only in my head). (And actually, that was a day out in the desert, my hair looks to have failed a little. It's not as high on the left side as normal, and the crest of the bangs in the middle is not as Ocean Spray logo as I preferred.) On the home-alone weekend in question, what you see in that picture was my base to work with.
I had an idea, see. I was going to dye my hair. No grand revolution, to be sure. Teenagers act out in this way every day. The only thing I can even try to make a claim to being more creative is how I was going to do it. I was just going to dye the sides and the back: solid black all around. No, I was probably not the first, nor would I be the last, but at least I narrowed the playing field some.
Never before had dye touched my hair. I was extremely naïve about the process. I figured you just bought the bottle and put it on, easy peasy. Granted, with black dye on blonde hair, it is pretty much that easy--unless you factor in the handling of the dye. It stains everything, as I would soon discover.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Then again, it's not like no one can guess what I'm going to say.
That's right, when I went out and bought the hair dye, I also bought Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols. What a thrill it was to be in the upstairs bathroom pouring chemicals on my head while the Sex Pistols blasted so loud from the downstairs stereo, I could hear it all the way up there. My suburban neighbors must have been so frightened to see our house trembling under the throb of the album's mighty guitars!
Because it did feel mighty. Sometimes things get the reputation they deserve, and that is certainly true with Never Mind the Bollocks. How can an adolescent brain resist a record that opens with jackboot marching and the declaration, "A cheap holiday in other people's misery"? It can't, of course, and once again, that is why all teenage rebellion is the same. It's no coincidence that "Holidays in the Sun" is the name of the first chapter in Cut My Hair.
Listening to Never Mind the Bollocks was another one of those epiphanies. Where had this music been? Why was I not in tune with it? Feeling like a misfit, unloved and misunderstood, songs like "No Feelings" and "Liar" and "Pretty Vacant" were instantly understandable. "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" weren't about the country I lived in, but it didn't matter, authority was authority. And "Bodies"--oh, God, "Bodies"!
Forget the loud thrash of the guitars, the snarled lyrics that the old folks didn't have a chance to understand, "Bodies" was something I didn't think anyone could ever do ever. A song about abortions? And how many times did Johnny Rotten say "fuck"? Had my dad and stepmom realized they had forgotten something and been forced to turn around, to come home and step into their abode while "Bodies" was blaring, I'd have been disowned then and there. I had no clothes on, pungent acid in my hair, and I was running around the house screaming, "She don't want a baby that looks like that!"
Which was how I got black hair dye everywhere. I think there were flecks of it on the carpet in nearly every room. I got some on the kitchen curtains. It was on the walls. It had never occurred to me that if it was permanent on your head, then it must also be permanent on other surfaces. That shit is impossible to get out. I think that's what my stepmonster was angriest about: I had messed up her stuff. My father didn't like what he saw, nor the obvious attempt at doing something wrong. When he noted I didn't have his permission, I responded that I also didn't not have it, either. Everyone is Aristotle at sixteen.
Of course, my revolt was neutralized when I was informed that when next I wanted to dye my hair, my stepmother would do it at her salon. She was a hairdresser, after all, and now that it was done, that particular cat was out of the bag and sitting firmly on my skull. I didn't fess up to owning the Pistols, though, so that little plastic rectangle remained subversive. I didn't need to declare it, it would be contraband.
Even if I had marched around triumphantly displaying it for everyone to see, however, I don't think they could have sucked the power out. It's been nearly thirty years, and the establishment hasn't neutralized it yet. Some tortured teenage soul in the middle of nowhere is logging on to the internet as we speak, and he's going to download Never Mind the Bollocks. This display of open warfare on the adult world will be all the more wicked for the fact that it's not available on iTunes, so he (or she) is going to have to procure this particular dirty bomb illegally. I'm not normally an advocacy of piracy, but screw it. The kid's being punk rock. He's breaking the mold that millions of other kids smashed a million times already, but just like all of them, our boy feels like the very first one. That's what makes all the difference.
My hair is the gate to Hell
Reminder: As always, this post is full of links to Amazon. Click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.
Current Soundtrack: Pharrell Willaims, In My Mind
Current Mood: stressed
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich