40 Years Of Punk: Phil Strongman On the Sex Pistols, the Queen, and Anarchy
30 December, 2016

History of punk starts from release of the first “Sex Pistols” song called “Anarchy in the UK”, that is from November, 25th, 1976. This year is 40th anniversary of punk style.

On this occasion film festival “Punk Weekend” took place in Kyiv on December 2-4. British director Phill Strongman also came to Ukraine to present his film “Anarchy! The McLaren Westwood Gang”, which is about “Sex Pistols” manager Malcolm McLaren, riot, fashion and punk’s influence on modern culture.

What happened in London in 1976?

“I first saw “Sex Pistols” in the 100 Club in 1976. Their behavior was shocking, because nobody acted like that before. They went on the stage saying: “That’s what we are doing. You don’t like it? Blast off!”

Nevertheless we would wear that clothes, but “Sex Pistols” gave music for that. It was wonderful, because you could have no money. You just needed to get ripped jeans from a store. Shabby T-shirts and tights unexpectedly became very valuable. And it turned everything upside down. Surprisingly $300 hip-huggers became out of fashion.

It was also a method to demonstrate creativity. Since then till 90s people bought clothes and did something with that: cut a sleeve, added something, just changed the way it looked. It was live culture. It’s interesting to talk about that in Kyiv, because I see many similar thing here, so many things are happening in culture. It reminds me of that time.”

 Sex Pistols,

About Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood

“I guess I met him in the 100 Club, when “Sex Pistols” were perfoming there. We put the posters up and were allowed to come to their concerts free. Sometimes it was not safe, especially during “God save the Queen” periods. Police could catch up us or somebody could’ve throw a brick at us.

At that time England was very conservative. You couldn’t make a sarcastic thing. It wasn’t even about the Queen, but about the system, that people on the top didn’t know what they were doing, they didn’t care about us. It was in the Cold War period. The wall had been staying for 20 years, and nobody talked about that. And eventually someone did. It was wonderful: somebody pointed on an elephant in the room.”

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood,

I think Malcolm changed a lot and Vivienne Westwood helped him to do that. They did a lot together. They were doing things I didn’t always endorsed. Sometimes it was too much. But they made everything so lively and it was amazing. Common people eventually got the voice.

You can show some things worse or better in a film. You can see idealism or you can just not pay attention for that. I used to see idealism and just to remember that time. How people were bitten. Two panelists of “Sex Pistols” were taken into the hospital with stab wounds. I knew people who also suffered. The reaction against that movement was strong. I wanted to show another side of story, because some people thought that that music appeared with no reasons.”

About burning “Sex Pistols” stuff

On November, 2016 Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s son Joe Corre collected “Sex Pistols” memorabilia and other things that reminded of punk culture and burned them. He explained that punk and nostalgia have never been connected. That's how he explained his actions.

Burning of punk things,

“I feel responsible a bit. We burned a lot of things in the end of our film. However, 99% of that stuff wasn’t original. Joe had seen my film a week before he announced about his plans to burn that. So I asked him if he had been inspired by the film. He said: “No”. So maybe yes, maybe no. I actually like stupid actions, but it seems to me it was useless loss. He like played in the hands of institutes, saying that it wasn’t culture, but something one-use. But I think that some of that clothes is still interesting.

As for me, we need to remember it. It’s a part of culture. Don’t ruin what you did. Destroy something else in order to create something yours. You can dance to someone’s music, but you can have your own opinion, sing your songs. So it’s the process that is still continuing. And how to respect it? To create. That’s all.”

Watch Hromadske Culture’s interview with British director Phill Strongman.

Authors: Oksana Horodivska, Julianna Slipchenko, Anna Moskovchenko, Andriy Shurpenkov