Oh dear. Some silly tabloid journalist had to go ask John Lydon what he thought of the Arctic Monkeys. That was never going to end well. Under the deeply original (not) headline “It’s the Arctic punkies”, Lydon is quoted thusly:
“Oh don’t be silly. That’s not a band. That’s a showbiz construct. A mockery. Alex Turner just turns on the computer and types in ‘punk’ and it goes ‘ping’. I see no gut-wrenching soul-searching going on there”
Hmmm. I know full well that Lydon is a classic contrarian, that his brand of punk has never been about principles, and that he’s probably entirely right about the Arctic Monkeys (full disclosure: I’d rather chew my own foot off than listen to any of their albums…) – but this from the man who sold what little soul he had left – after Malcolm McClaren had finished with it, obviously – to a butter company, of all things? Not very punk, really – however you choose to define that concept.
I mean, what is it about first generation punk legends and the irresistible draw of the advertising dollar? I’ve written before about the horrors of Iggy Pop flogging insurance to British television viewers (if you’ve not seen the ads, count yourself lucky) – and Lydon’s own worrying foray into reality TV with his brief stay in the I’m A Celebrity… jungle back in 2004 also left me and many others wondering precisely what it was he was trying to achieve (quite apart from the obvious publicity).
Personally, I’m inclined to agree with the late Bill Hicks on the subject of celebrity commercials. I could yell ‘sell out’ at the likes of Iggy and Lydon until I’m blue in the face – however, instead of such ranting, I give you the immortal words of Hicks, who expresses my sentiments so perfectly that there is no way that I could better this fiercely cogent analysis of why celebs doing adverts is A Bad Thing:
“Here’s the deal, folks. You do a commercial and you’re off the artistic roll call forever. End of story. OK? You’re another corporate fucking shill, you’re another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. And if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head, everything you say is suspect, and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink…
… And yes, I have been offered commercials, so I’m not jealous, and I turned them all down because I’m not a salesman… And I don’t need money that is built on blood…. You do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call for ever, and that goes for everyone…”
(Originally recorded in 1993)
Wise words indeed; and words which Messrs Pop and Lydon (amongst others) would do well to contemplate as they watch the very last of whatever cool they thought they had left disappear down the plughole of life…