John “Johny Rotten” Lydon and the rest of the original, pre-Sid Vicious, Sex Pistols lineup (Steve Jones on guitar, Paul Cook on drums, Glen Matlock on bass) appeared for the single U.S. show in their “world tour” at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. I don’t know if there is anything more amusing or pathetic than a bunch of grown up “punks” pogoing to the cleaned up spittle-flecked rants of their youth, unless it is a bunch of grown-old but not grown-up hippies with legs and arms all rubbery in a psychedelic stoner dance to Dave Matthews or another improvisational acid-rock band. The Grateful Dead may have died and gone to Trippsville, but they inspired many who still mine their jug-band groove. And so it is with the Sex Pistols, though mercifully without the jug band influence.
The Killers, who were fans in attendance at the Hard Rock show, are fans also in their performances (though their tribute to the Pistols was filtered through the Stranglers). Green Day are like the Pistols without the bad attitude. Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains all updated the power-trio punk-band with a gravel-throated, heroin-addicted singer and nihilistic lyrics formula that the Sex Pistols stamped into the DNA of the post-punk period. Good Charlotte are inspired by the Pistols and the Ramones, seemingly in equal measure. The Pistols aren’t the only classic punk band that inspired others. Rancid sound like a Clash cover band. Ministry inspired the whole industrial music genre in America (see Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Korn). Goth bands hearken to Alien Sex Machine, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy even if they don’t realize it.
Finally, the do-it-yourself ethic, anti-melodic vocals, morally reprobate personnas, stupid fake names, and tolerance for found noises and aural chaos of all the punk music bands has found its full flowering in gangsta rap music that glories in the worst, most animalistic aspects of the human experience. While Johnny Rotten chanted the lyric “I’m not an animal” with bile-spitting sympathy for the aborted infant narrator of the song, gangsta rappers rhyme about humans reduced to animalistic fight or flight instincts and mythologize men who have bought into the Nietzschean superman, objectified women, and rejected the transcendent aspect of humanity. Gangsta is the new, purified punk for this generation’s true believers. Fifty Cent is the new Johnny Rotten. Johnny Rotten has demonstrated once again in this year’s Sex Pistols tour that he wasn’t really serious about his anarchist message, but Fifty Cent believes. For Rotten it was never about changing the world or speaking the truth to power, but about getting one over on his audience. When he sang “no future, no future for you” it wasn’t about him, it was about the gullible fools in the audience. It was all about king dollar. Maybe that’s the real legacy of punk music, that the cynical, avaricious jokers who built the foundation for the children of punk music have been succeeded by true believers who lack an understanding of what it was all about: Selling out and living to spend the loot in comfort.
Video after the jump.