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By Johnny Angel

Say It Ain't So, Johnny:
Upcoming Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols reunion tour could prove to be both ugly and vacant

There are some topics so ready to be assailed that the essay practically writes itself. I'd vowed to lay off the Sex Pistols reunion tour. However, in the wake of the quartet's asinine press conference, I thought I'd better comment before I blew my stack and spewed corpuscles all over my walls.

The argument that my esteemed colleagues and peers are espousing (and these dudes and dudettes are, to a person, in a rabid froth of joy over this regrouping) is that Johnny Rotten/Lydon is just being candid when he says, "The only reason we're doing this is for the money." Well, ye nimrods, what do expect him to say? "It's all for the love of rock & roll"--or worse, "We're doing it for the kids who never got to see us." That would be totally out of character and, for a born hammy actor, not bloody likely to ever happen.

I see this "We're selling out, har har ..." as equally ruselike--basically, the band has no reason for being except to fatten the wallets and (this is the telling part) the egos of the participants. The march of time assures anonymity for 99 percent of those in the pop culture. John Lydon is the world's forgotten boy, to quote Iggy, and how it must ache in his gut that no one hangs on his phlegmatic discourses anymore. The only way JL can regain the spotlight is via this reunion, because no one gives a rat's ass about him except as a piece of history.

Money? Maybe for Jones, Cook and the once-vilified (but now necessary) Glen Matlock. But Lydon married an heiress and hasn't gone without a hefty bank account for eons. Besides that, the Pistols beat Malcolm McLaren for about 2 million bucks in 1986--surely that dough was wisely socked away--and three years ago Columbia Publishing ponied up a million more for song rights. They're not starving.

And the ludicrous alternative explanation is even worse. "Bands like Offspring and Green Day are second-rate wankers," spouted the carrot-topped Rotten. "We're the real thing." Hmmm. All I know is that punk rock was supposed to overthrow the powers that were back in '77, and the Pistols didn't make a dent outside of God Save the Queen's showing in the UK. Fact is, the assiduous touring of bands like the Ramones and REM had more to do with the creation of a national underground here than the puny two-week pass the Pistols made through the States.

Say what you will about Green Day, but the question about propaganda is: Does it convert the masses? The Pistols were the ultimate cult act. As for second-rate, you'd have to go well below that quaint colloquialism to describe PIL's last disc, Nine, or Steve Jones' Fire and Gasoline, perhaps the worst rock record ever made.

Let them have their money and their 15 minutes again. But caveat emptor. The superior and much more influential Velvet Underground's reunion was a turkey, too. Bands who remove themselves from the flow of history find that they are out of step when they return. It's the way of the world. This reunion is the act of desperate men who crave attention at all costs.

I got an idea. Why not pair the upcoming "Original KISS in Make-Up" reunion tour (that's coming this summer, too) with the Pistols and kill two '70s relics with one stone. Gene and Johnny, what a perfect pair.

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From the April 4-10, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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