Jello Biafra and John Lydon…the punk jesters.

The punk jesters

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine came to Dublin this week and they entertained a large and receptive crowd in the Button Factory. When I say ‘they came to Dublin’ I actually mean that some promoter brought them over and make it happen….in this case, as Jello acknowledged from the stage, the promoter was one Timmo, or Paul Timmony. Jello explained to the crowd that Timmo was the only person who ever promoted shows for him in Dublin.

In which case, Dublin has a lot to thank Timmo for, Jello Biafra is one of the most articulate, thought-provoking and interesting characters from the early US punk/hardcore movement. Yet with the Dead Kennedys he always seemed to stand apart from that movement…if he was one of its leaders, he was also one of its innovators and most unorthodox figures. Maybe people like that are what stopped punk becoming so (or more) formulaic and standardised, even when commercial forces seemed to drag it in the direction of a generic identikit market segment.

So we have a lot to be grateful for to promoters like Timmo and acts like Jello B.

Seeing Jello with, what was a really cracking band, in Dublin, also brought home how funny he is. Onstage, he was almost a cartoon character, which rather than make his words feel like gimmicks, or his points silly, actually made his message sink deeper. He runaround actions drew me in, made me pay close attention…and made me smile. He would probably have been an excellent stage actor..although probably one who would not be constrained by a script. I can imagine: “To be or not to be…..hey, why don’t we think about that for a moment!”

So he is a Merry Prankster, making serious points and making us laugh by ridiculing situations and power. What an intriguing way to Fight The Power. Maybe laughter is the best medicine.

Mirroring this idea..punk frontmen as Merry Pranksters, this week Neil McCormick (former Hot Press writer/artist) printed a really good article/overview of one John Lydon, whose excellent PiL have released a new album.

I haven’t heard it yet, but the interview reminded me why I look forward to buying it. Lydon achieved the unthinkable when he formed, and maintained, PiL and became an even more fascinating front-man that he had been with the Sex Pistols. And that is not to deny what a thrilling and innovative frontman he was with them!

Funnily enough, for such a lightening rod of controversy, for such an engaging and vibrant front-man, he also professes to be a very shy individual.

In the interview, he spoke about how humour was a great weapon….and clearly in his hands, just as with Jello, it is a wonderful tool/skill to make your point, to be heard, and to be sensational!

To me, Jello and Lydon are valuable contributors to our culture, and also possess sharp minds and know how to cut through a cluttered media landscape.

Long may they entertain us.

Wild hearted outsider

The Sex Pistols at Christmas

Never Mind the Baubles

 

The Julian Temple documentary on the Sex Pistols’ Christmas gig was such a joy.

 

The footage of the band performing was incredible. I am assuming it was just one camera, and the room wasn’t exactly set up with fancy lights to help out. Yet it conveyed how great the band were, full on, strong songs, and so much personality.

 

What really came across in the documentary was the humanity. Simple as that. And as silly as it may sound, I found that a very inspiring Christmas message.

 

Here was one band, hated by many in Britain, banned from even entering Scotland by all accounts, and sadly despite the headline in the Limerick Leader newspaper, a band that never came to Ireland in their original incarnation. It is interesting to think how many musicians were inspired to join a band following the electric shock that the band transmitted.

 

Here were found pretty ordinary guys, albeit ones with various neuroses and flaws just as you would expect in any young band. It is amazing to think how short their career was, how bumpy the ride, how unlikely they would produce such great music…and yet they did.

 

Here was that band of ‘public enemies’ according to politicians and self-appointed moral guardians, playing two benefit gigs for striking firemen and their families in Huddersfield.

 

John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten came across the best, naturally. He had charisma and a very sharp mind that wasn’t always highlighted in the tumultuous times the band lived in. The scenes of him dancing with the kids at the afternoon gig, playing cake-fights with them, getting them involved in sing-a-longs were great to see. I came away from watching with a better appreciation of Steve Jones from his interviews here. What a sad young man he was at the time of the Sex Pistols. I admire his honesty at how he was able to look back on his youthful self. It was sad to hear how much he disliked Christmas as he felt so sad and lonely at those times. It makes you think how people we assume are having fun, may be just the opposite.

 

Another great element of the documentary was the footage of the young people who attended the gigs. The cheery chap whose friend got him into the gig because his dad was a firefighter was great to watch. It was funny at the end when it was revealed how this punk-loving youth who remembered the day with such joy, is now a policeman.

 

The other great interview was with two lads who had walked to Huddersfield on Christmas Day for the gig all those years ago. It was 9 miles away. Yet they wanted to make the journey to see the Pistols. And when they got there…the gig was sold out. All was not lost and Malcolm McLaren, the eccentric who put the band together in the first place, insisted the band would not play unless the punks on their pilgrimage were admitted.

 

And that is what you call a Happy Christmas.

 

God Bless the Punks.

 

And my wish for the new year is a stronger more caring society. We can do it.

 

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Never Mind The Baubles – Sex Pistols at xmas documentary : review

 

 

Wild Hearted Outsider