The war of words will culminate in a $7 million public bonfire that will incinerate decades of punk rock history.
That fire will be lit by Joe Corré—the scion of punk royalty Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood—who is planning to destroy his vast collection of memorabilia in a huge bonfire to stop punk becoming “a fucking museum piece.”
Some of the artifacts came from Corré’s father McLaren, who was the Sex Pistols’ provocative manager. Others were handed down by his mother, Westwood, whose anarchic clothing design was cultivated during the punk movement before she became an icon of mainstream British fashion.
One of the first ever copies of the “Anarchy in the UK” single—cut in acetate—will go up in flames; as will the door handle from the boutique Sex, which was McLaren and Westwood’s punk hub on the Kings Road in West London.
Corré, who co-founded the underwear brand Agent Provocateur in 1994, says the punk rock pyre is the only way to salvage his parents’ legacy.
He believes that London’s official 40th anniversary celebrations of the punk movement, which are sponsored by the Mayor of London, the Heritage lottery fund and the British Library, have destroyed the true anarchic meaning of punk.
The Sex Pistols, and wild frontman Johnny Rotten in particular, were the movement’s standard bearers, smashing up gig venues, throwing bottles, and getting banned from TV studios for shocking audiences with the kind of foul language that was virtually unheard of in the year of the Queen’s Jubilee; “The Filth and the Fury” screamed one disapproving newspaper frontpage.
“At the time punk was both hated and feared by the Establishment and much of Britain. At 9 years old, grown men would spit in my face in the street for being a punk. Our windows got smashed at home,” said Corré in a statement emailed by his publicist.
“If I don’t make a stand to defend these values before they are lost entirely, as they sink to the bottom of the commercial cultural soup, no one else will! These items would become worthless to me, a shrine, icon or fetish to something that doesn’t exist!”
This being the world of punk rock, I guess you wouldn’t expect Corré’s plans to be politely welcomed by his peers.
Johnny Rotten hasn’t disappointed.
“You selfish fucking lingerie expert. Why don’t you burn your own bra?” he asked in an interview with the Metro newspaper.
“It’s pompous, ludicrous, and unfortunately what Britain seems to be full of,” said Rotten, who now goes by his real name John Lydon. “I mean, c’mon, don’t be so self-centered and self-aggrandizing. It’s very mean spirited… It’s pathetic and he’s going to ruin the environment with all those toxic fumes. If you’ve got £5 million of anything, donate it to charity.”
Corré, who sold Agent Provocateur for almost $90 million in 2007, is only following in his father’s footsteps. McLaren’s ability to manufacture outrage was one of the cornerstones of punk’s success.
The bonfire will be lit on Nov. 26, exactly 40 years after the Sex Pistols’ debut single was released. Within a year, McLaren had helped to transform the ramshackle band into a global phenomenon.
One of his greatest stunts was to hire a boat to sail down the Thames River to celebrate the Royal Jubilee in front of the Houses of Parliament by playing their new song “God Save The Queen.”
Its lyrics: “God save the Queen / The fascist regime” and “God save the Queen / She ain’t no human being” ensured that the single had been banned by the BBC and police officers soon boarded their boat to halt the performance.
Newspapers around the world were captivated and the song became a smash hit.
Corré hasn’t been so pleased with all of the global coverage of his stunt. After an open letter in the Observer that argued “Any Idiot Can Destroy,” he hit back in a seething blog-post.
“There is a significant difference between value and price that’s too often, and certainly by someone like you, tragically overlooked and not considered,” he wrote.
“Ultimately what your letter makes me feel is that, if some version of what Punk started created a person like you, it makes me more determined than ever to burn it all.”