Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Come On Baby Light My Pyre, or, "this person's had enough / of useless memorabilia", or, Fire It Up and Start Again

Via Pitchfork  (and just about everywhere) comes news of McLaren & Westwood's son Joe Corré's
vow to  burn  his 5 million quid personal collection of punk memorabilia in protest at the Punk 
London events celebrating 1976's very own Jubilee (four decades of ye olde punke rocke)  

"He's also asking other dissatisfied punk fans to join him in burning their own punk stuff. The ceremonial burning will take place  in London's Camden district on November 26, which will mark the 40th anniversary of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." ...  Punk London, a series of events celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk  [is] sponsored by British institutions such as the BFI, the British Library, and the Museum of London. "The Queen giving 2016, the Year of Punk, her official blessing is the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard," he said in a press release. "Talk about alternative and punk culture being appropriated by the mainstream. Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a fucking museum piece or a tribute act." ... Corré added, "A general malaise has now set in amongst the British public. People are feeling numb."
I wonder whether he will go through with it? 
As a gesture, there's a weirdly impressive honor to it, I suppose.  But it also does seems like shutting the stable door long, long, LONG after the horse has bolted.
For even in 1986 - the 10th Anniversary -  when Jamie Reid's punk-era artwork for punk (+ work before + work after it) had a retrospective exhibition in London (the Monitor crew attended and Hilary Bichovsky wrote  up a great piece critiquing punk from a feminist / non-combatant angle) - even then it didn't feel the least bit surprising or even really especially lamentable that punk should be "institutionalised" in that fashion. That didn't stop a clutch of Situationists from half-heartedly protesting about punk's "recuperation" outside the art gallery, of course! 
Corré s proposed immolation - which is destroying his parents's inheritance in literal financial terms as well as in terms of the artifacts they created - also reminded me of the KLF setting fire to the million pounds.... 
Also it did made me think of the first chapter in Retromania which is about museums and the heritage-isation of rock. It starts with me going to the British Music Experience and their reification of punk relics and me walking past a giant cut-out of Johnny Rotten... and then a day or two later visiting  Mick Jones's Rock 'n' Roll Public Library, and then  moves to discussthe Sex Pistols's non-induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame c.f. Jones & the Clash's meek acceptance of the award..... with some references along the way to Julie Burchill's Rock's Rich Tapestry. Much of  the chapter turns around Punk (or similiar cultural irruptions/insurrections) and whether it / they should be or can be assimilated into the museum space.  
But even as I wrote it I was quite consciously suspending for the time being the thought - the understanding - that of course it was always going to be recuperated/assimilated/institutionalised/cooopted/monetized...   Just like Dada, like Futurism, like whatever outrage or seemingly un-assimilate-able anti-movement you could mention....  Every irreverence inevitably becomes reverenced....  every act of cultural patricide is destined to be respected and accepted .... every corrosion, cordoned off safely...   every participatory situation turned into a nostalgic spectacle....  every delinquency turned to edification..

And finally - putting aside for the moment, the evident sincerity of  Corré's intent, the honor to it, etc - putting that aside, it's perfectly obvious that behind his promise is a deeply nostalgic impulse, a hankering for the lost purity of non-compromise. 

Those images literally are BritRockPop's Rich Tapestry.... or rather BritRockPop's Rank ScreenSaver


  1. And the Clash actually wrote about it *at the time*. Or just afterwards, anyway:

  2. I'm a big supporter of the British Music Experience.

    This is how punk deserves to die to be honest. I think we should campaign to ramp this up - see if we can get Nigel Farage to host a "Patriotic Celebration of Punk" at the Cenotaph on the Queen's birthday. Have the Band of the Coldstream Guards do a medley of "Never Mind The Bollocks". Get Prince Harry to dress up as Sid (swastika and all) and mime to "My Way". Watch the Red Arrows do a fly past with yellow and purple smoke.

    Lets see punk go out with a bang, and not a whimper!

  3. Phil wins. Best laugh I've had all week.