Danny Boyle infuses the group’s transgressive odyssey with verve and creativity in ‘Pistol’, a Disney Plus series about the impact of punk in the UK in the late 1970s
The year was 1976 and hordes of bored and angry young Britons metaphorically stormed the mansions of music stars who had become millionaires in the 1960s. Punk reacted with virulence against its predecessors like no other musical trend had done before. . He defended amateurism: it didn’t matter if you didn’t know how to play an instrument, the important thing was the attitude. Virtuosity was replaced by short songs in which they furiously described a country hit by the economic crisis.
‘Pistol’, the six-episode series available on Disney Plus, is an event for many reasons. Its director, Danny Boyle, knows what he’s talking about and recovers the nerve of ‘Trainspotting’ to tell the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols. With them he changed not only music, but also fashion, hairdressing, graphic design, marketing and philosophy. Boyle rolls in the same way that Johnny Rotten and company sang: screaming. At a time when all series are alike, ‘Pistol’ dares to do something different thanks to the risky work of director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle, experienced on the set of Lars Von Trier, Oliver Stone and Boyle himself.
The director of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is based on the memoir by Steve Jones, ‘Lonely Boy. Stories of a sex pistol’, edited in our country by Libros Cúpula. “Remember that scene in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ where the main character is forced to keep his eyes open to make him feel like shit every time he remembers what a disgusting bastard he’s been? More or less that’s how I’m going to feel writing this book, “says Jones, a lonely boy who grew up in the neighborhood of Sheperd’s Bush, west London, and who felt an epiphany when he discovered the glam of David Bowie and Roxy Music.
‘Pistol’ kicks off precisely with Jones paying homage to Ziggy Stardust in the only way he knew how: by stealing his instruments at night, laid out on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon for a concert the following day. That picaresque would not have gotten him anywhere if it weren’t for Malcolm McLaren and Vivianne Westwood, who ran the ‘Sex’ boutique, where Jones also tried to pilfer. Paul Cook, Glenn Matlock and Jones were joined by John Lydon, later known as Johnny Rotten, whose squeaky green-haired look was his main endorsement into the group.
An image of ‘Pistol’ with the members of the group.
John Lydon is 66 years old today and he hates Danny Boyle’s series: “It steals the past and turns it into a fairy tale”, the man who sang “I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist” told ‘The Sun’ and who today condolences on Twitter for the death of Elizabeth II. “You can all go fuck yourself. I supported them for years and years, even knowing that they were worthless. None of these bastards would have a career if it wasn’t for me.” The author of ‘God save the Queen’ is shown in the first bars of ‘Pistol’ as a botarate, but little by little his role grows in importance and he even ends up becoming something like the guardian of the moral integrity of the cluster.
Worse off appears Sid Vicious, who replaced the original bassist, Glenn Matlock, hostage to drugs and protagonist of the most morbid episode in the history of the band, which Boyle subtly addresses: his death by overdose in 1979 the day after leaving in jail after being tried for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. His mother procured the drug for him without knowing, as she later confessed, that she was too good. If there’s a villain in ‘Pistol,’ it’s Malcolm McLaren.
punches and spits
The Sex Pistols only released one LP, ‘Never mind the bollocks’, and they barely lasted three years together, but their legacy of nihilism and destruction was etched forever. Danny Boyle’s series is not a documentary and takes some licenses, such as the character of Crissie Hynde, who appears as the great love of Steve Jones. The leader of Pretenders has been the first surprised by her role in the future of the group. A casting of unknown actors helps the veracity of the series, which, in addition to the combo’s themes, boasts a lavish soundtrack with songs from the time: Bowie, T-Rex, Otis Redding, Shirley Bassey, Pink Floyd…
Maisie Williams plays an employee at Malcolm McLaren and Viviane Westwood’s Sex boutique.
Beyond biographical truths, the best thing about ‘Pistol’ is how it captures the atmosphere of the time. The fury of the concerts with blows and spitting. The swear words, like the mythical ‘fuck’ that they released on British television. The transgression that punk symbolized, such as the wonderful scene in which an employee of ‘Sex’, played by Maisie Williams, the Arya Stark of ‘Game of Thrones’, takes the train to go to the King’s Road store with a transparent trench coat with nothing underneath. I wouldn’t be here without the Sex Pistols.
says Danny Boyle. “They were the source that changed everything for so many people who came after them. They gave timelessness to music, to fashion, to a lifestyle. What was different about them is that they let you do whatever you wanted. You can waste your life, be futile or not, you decide. Nothing was ever the same again, especially for the working class.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.