Sunday, April 14, 2013

Old Punks "Salute" (?) Maggie

A life as an electoral politics party hack is hardly very punk rock of me. But as longtime readers know, the first-wave British punk bands were a big part of my formative political experience.

The Clash/Sex Pistols era faced political choices of bad - the decaying shell of old Labour - and worse - the privatization fetish of Thatcherism. Maggie didn't actually take power until after the Sex Pistols went supernova, but her shadow was already looming large over the landscape, one of the few things the punks and the old guard classic rockers agreed on.

Last night, longtime Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisen offered his own punk take on Thatcher's demise.

The joke, of course, is that "Ian Rubbish" - a thinly disguised Johnny Rotten even though the vocals sound more like Joe Strummer - is anti-authoritarian on everything but adores Thatcher. You'll have to watch the clip to the end to get the punchline - which takes the sting out of the satirical lyrics ("when I'm with you I feel alive/when it's over we'll privatize") as does the tribute card.

But to REALLY appreciate the sketch you have to love punk rock as much as I do and as much as Fred Armisen clearly does.

First off, that really is ex-Pistol Steve Jones, which had to be a thrill for Fred. Sid Vicious couldn't play for shit, but Jones re-invented rock guitar on Never Mind The Bollocks. And the Bill Grundy interview segment is a dead-on replication of the actual infamous Grundy interview where Jones - NOT, Rotten, NOT Vicious who wasn't even in the band yet - dropped a pair of F-bombs on live TV. "THE FILTH AND THE FURY," screamed the tabloids, giving title to the band's posthumous documentary.

Armisen, who at 46 is pretty old for an SNL cast member but just the right age to have been exposed to early 80s hardcore and explored back from there like I did, had shown his punk side a few times before. In 2010 he played dead-on Kennedys in a wedding band (which included Dave Grohl!), and his drag impressions of a cockney Queen Elizabeth have ended with brief snatches of punk and Two-Tone ska.

And it wasn't for nothing that for years the opening credits showed him flipping through used records - in the Sex Pistols section.

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