Monday, 12 November 2007

On sexuality and handguns

South of the river on Friday, to the Brixton Academy, with my younger son, for the Sex Pistols. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen them, not even the tenth. As some of you will know, I have some previous in this matter.

They took the stage to Vera Lynn’s There’ll Always Be An England — two of them live in California. Johnny sang, feelingly, of having no feelings. They did No Fun — all around me, shaven-headed men greeted it joyously and had fantastic fun singing along. We all shouted that we wanted anarchy in the UK and probably meant something of the kind — though perhaps not till the mortgage is paid off.

They did an entertainingly energetic I’m A Lazy Sod. They sang Bodies, with its horror-struck retreat from the physical: it’s about abortion. We danced. When Bodies finished, John Rotten challenged us with deliberated ambiguity, saying something like: ‘If there’d been abortion back when I was born, I wouldn’t be here. What do you think to that? Eh?’

The last time I was at the Academy was for the Gotan Project — slightly abstract, slinky Parisian reimaginings of a Buenos Aires of the senses. The audience was all over the place, distracted, involved with themselves and each other rather than the show, falling down drunk, picking arguments, bumping into each other, blocking each other’s views — my view. It felt like being in the middle of a giant pinball table.

The Pistols’ audience was engaged, not uncritical but still open, happy to be in the moment, collectively. They, we, were able to play with the idea of being pretty vacant.

As I left, I thought of Fawlty Towers, episode eight, in which Dr Abbott, a psychiatrist, having observed Basil for an evening, says: ‘There’s enough material here for an entire conference.’

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