“It was October 1964. Malcolm McLaren, then a few months shy of his nineteenth birthday and going by the name of Malcolm Edwards, found himself looking on in surprise as the Rolling Stones, laughing and puffing away on cigarettes, appeared in front of him. He was perched on Chelsea Bridge with an etching pad, looking over at Battersea Power Station, its four iconic chimneys pumping white smoke, and outlining its imposing presence on the south bank of the Thames.
He knew who the Rolling Stones were, of course; but it was only here that he was struck, seeing them out on the street, in the daylight, by the way they looked and how unlike pop stars – how un-rock’n’roll – they actually were. The way they dressed, they could have been Beat writers, or young French existentialist poets and philosophers.
Bill Wyman, the least star-like of the group, was dressed in a knee-length black leather mac, and standing in front of a wooden hut selling tea and hot dogs that was plonked on the Battersea side of the bridge. He spoke to Charlie Watts, as Keith Richards and Brian Jones ordered cups of tea. Mick Jagger was prancing around, posing for some photographers. Together, with their long hair and slightly unkempt appearance, they looked bad – they looked mean, dirty, and possibly dangerous. It was an interesting look.
But all that – pop music – was something that belonged in the past. He once had time for the Rolling Stones, and others like the Pretty Things, but in the year or so since he had first started taking art classes at St Martin’s School of Art, he had more or less lost interest in it all. When the Beatles and the rest of the upbeat pop music that swept through the sixties took over, something had been lost. The action was to be found elsewhere – possibly in art, and living the life of an artist.
Why bother being some kind of spectator of this popular culture, he thought, when you could – as an artist – reshape the future by your own actions.”
- J. Scanlan, Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine
My work on the aesthetics and cultural history of popular music has a number of strands, but all reflect an interest in the development of popular music as an art form within certain time and place contexts.
Recently, these interests have been directed towards a number of film and TV projects (both factual and dramatic), and research on a book about time, art and money in rock’n’roll (in development).
Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine (2016), 272 pp + 52 illus. [Buy: UK & Europe | North & South America]
Easy Riders, Rolling Stones: On the Road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock (2015), 248 pp. + 38 illus.[Buy: UK & Europe | North & South America]
Van Halen: Exuberant California, Zen Rock’n’roll (2012), 224 pp. + 29 illus.[Buy: UK & Europe | North & South America]
Record Collector, 2016The Dying Scene, 2016The Guardian, 2015Record Collector, 2015PopMatters, 2015Classic Rock, 2015Choice, 2015Boston Globe, 2012Los Angeles Times, 2012Dagens Næringsliv (Norway), 2012KCET TV, Los Angeles, 2012Classic Rock, 2012
PRODUCTIONS (in development)
‘TRASH’ – A television drama series about Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood and the Sex Pistols, partly based on Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine.
Road Music - a documentary by Alex Harvey, drawing on my book Easy Riders, Rolling Stones.
Series Editor, Reverb, Reaktion Books. A series of books about music and place. Reverb publishes cultural histories by leading researchers and scholars.