This article appears in the new October 2007 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe to our monthly print edition, click here.
IT’S A REALLY SAD THING when a 14-year-old boy is a head taller than you, but for me, it’s not just sad, it’s a reality. My nephew Garrett, whom I haven’t seen in six months, has experienced a growth spurt that has relegated me to a pudgy Smurf in his presence. He also has a girlfriend, and listens to “emo.” I can deal with the former, but not the latter. If you’re not familiar with “emo,” and as a reader of this magazine, I would be worried if you were, it’s short for “emotional,” which really means “crybaby, self-involved tripe.” Nearly all modern pop music lately is awash in whiny boredom derived from idle luxury. What happens when your parents get you everything you want? You hate them and get your nipples pierced.
It’s for that reason that when Garrett’s birthday approached, I purchased “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” as his gift. I don’t think he wanted it, but I don’t care. When I got the Sex Pistols’ debut album nearly 30 years ago, I was only 15 or so, and the LP scared the hell out of me. Johnny Rotten, the lead singer, seemed a street urchin shot straight out of hell’s inner circle, and the enormously untalented Sid Vicious appeared nothing more than walking sewage. But that amazing rock record, in a matter of months, changed the way I looked at the world, the notion of “phoniness” or more importantly hippies — the phoniest people on earth.
I am now walking with my wife Elena along the Santa Cruz boardwalk in California, and it’s a beautiful day. The shore’s amusement park is jammed with happy families, busloads of rambunctious teens, and — with an exception of me — no drunks. We’ve decided to walk toward the pier, lined with restaurants and gift shops, so we head to the street. When we come to a bar on the corner, we notice there aren’t as many families as there were only a few blocks earlier. And here’s why: We are suddenly hit with a stench so powerful, we start gagging and covering our mouths. It’s as if a cesspool broke wind.
And now I see the culprits — a group of hippies — filthy and wasted dancing to a portable radio. Some of them are pouncing on tourists for change, while others simply slump on picnic benches, glaring. Some of the hippies now look a little like punks — lots of piercings, tattoos, and shaved heads — but in my book they are not punks, they’re still scummy hippies. They advocate peace and love, but these greedy liars just want your money for drugs and, sadly, never antiperspirant. And they’ll rip you off if possible… something that makes them the most dishonest group of people alive. At least suicide bombers are truthful about their intentions. Hippie culture was always the most evil and false kind of lifestyle — laziness, selfishness, and emotional violence wrapped up in “why can’t we get along” claptrap. Hippies loved fascists, and would kill you if possible — Charles Manson proved it.
Johnny Rotten understood. It’s why the Sex Pistols mattered, and why every song he wrote contained what he calls “value.” I am back in New York, and he’s now sitting next to me at a bar, and we’re getting drunk with his buddy Rambo, my wife, and a few of my co-workers. I had Johnny on my show, Red Eye, and he may be a far cry from the wild-eyed dervish from the '70s — the frontman of the only band (outside maybe the Ramones) to single-handedly make socialist intelligentsia appear irrelevant and intolerant — but he can still intimidate the hell out of you. When he smiles, his mouth reveals a huge gap. “I spend twenty grand on these teeth — and the sad truth is I lost this one on a cherry pit!”
Johnny and his good friend Rambo are obsessed with American history, primarily the Civil War and black Confederates. Rambo lectures me that the war wasn’t about slavery, but sovereignty, and that the South treated blacks far better than the North ever could. I tried to follow, but I was on my sixth double vodka.
Johnny Rotten might be the most honest person in music — unafraid of saying things that send the left into epileptic seizures. Don’t get him started on Nelson Mandela, in Rotten’s mind a terrorizing thug romanticized by the ignorant left and glamorized by a stint in jail. He said as much on a British talk show, and it got him banned for years, he tells me. To him, Mandela is only equaled in idiocy by Bono, who Rotten believes has done nothing to help the poor in Africa — those starving millions he keeps soliciting money for. “All I ask is, where is the money! It’s a bloody simple question! Bono has done no good.”
ROTTEN HATES EVERYTHING intellectually lazy, from the fat and stupid editors at Rolling Stone to the Hollywood liberals he encounters everyday back in his Venice Beach community. “You wouldn’t believe the idiocy,” he tells me on his umpteenth beer or vodka drink. “Imagine me at a parent/teacher conference trying to explain to them how to speak proper bloody English!”
How can I not admire a man who believes Americans are the most honest people in the world, and America is the greatest place to live (I am almost positive he said that, but I was drunk). He’s lived here now for 30 years, and has no intention of leaving. Truly a Yank — he prefers Steve Miller over Sting.
And he also believes, like me, that the real cause of terror is not religion, but lack of fun. These nutty extremists just need a more active social life. He wanted the Sex Pistols to play in Iraq, not just to troops, but to the people of Iraq. “I don’t care if they hate us, but we have to do it. But no one would sponsor us. Not even Rolling Stone.” Rotten may be the only rock legend who understands the threat of Islamofascism and is willing to go there and face it, without security and not behind a barbed wire fence. You don’t hear Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen volunteering to do the same. And you never hear your basic sensitive and outspoken Hollywood celebrity — the ones mouthing off about Bush and right-wing religious nuts — speaking out against the way gays and women are treated in Islamic countries. Because they’re cowards. Rotten isn’t. He wants to change the world, despite having done a lot of that already.
I am probably nuts — but I always sort of thought that the punk movement made Ronald Reagan more than a bit possible. The punks may have been rude and snotty, but they were just so much more real — so much less delusional and besotted — than the hippies were. It’s no secret that the punks happened because the hippies failed. By killing the silly, bucolic, utopian hippy ethic, the punks allowed for a sober reassessment of all that '60s crap. And the result was a restoration of America’s faith in itself, a new embrace of genuine reality and not some Shangri-la over the horizon somewhere. Like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, conservatism was realist, urban, and tough. And that got us Reagan, and ended the Soviet Union.
I wouldn’t be surprised if deep down, some of those musicians were (or are) conservatives (even if they don’t realize or admit it). Because they had no illusions. If you were to take, say, Jeane Kirkpatrick, circa 1982, and sit her down with Johnny Rotten — I’m pretty sure they would agree on more than they disagree on. You certainly could not say that about Kirkpatrick and Simon & Garfunkel or Joan Baez or any of the rest of that unwashed crowd of dippy boneheads.
In that sense, Johnny Rotten — the thinking Sex Pistol, as opposed to the nihilistic Sid Vicious — is really nothing more than a louder and more musically talented Reagan. With one less tooth.
Greg Gutfeld, former editor of Maxim (UK), Men’s Health, and Stuff, is host of Red Eye on Fox News. This article appears in the October 2007 issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe to the monthly print edition, click here.
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H/T to National Review Online