David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 110: The Sex Pistols (E.M.I.)

August 14, 2020

Today is the day. I finally go f*ing punk.

I thought I might be able to go a long stretch, maybe even up to two weeks, with songs preaching love, or peace, or kindness. I got through two days, and then I need my punks.

At the beginning of this week, I, ironically, went post-punk with The Alarm to deal with frustrations with individuals. Now I need so much more. And I need it from a a true punk. Not heavy metal veering into punk. Not New York, twinge of humor, punk. Certainly not even L.A. punk masquerading as mainstream. No, basically either The Sex Pistols or The Clash.

I need diatribes against institutions, against the powerful, against those in ivory towers. The Pistols have to be the choice. Do I honor the vicious representations of England, whether through figurehead ("God Save The Queen") or through overall historical perspective ("Anarchy In The U.K."), or do I focus on the vitriolic attacks on the music industry that used the Sex Pistols like a cheap condom?

I go the latter with "E.M.I.," which even Johnny Rotten admits is one of his favorite Pistols' song.  "I recommend a lousy record company every time you run out of songs," he has said. Apparently it was written entirely within the studio because he so got into the groove, for good reason. There's an organic nature to the song that was prevalent in the better half of their only album. Jones, Cook, and Matlock do pretty well for, well, a bunch of punks.

For those who don't know the back story, E.M.I. signed The Sex Pistols and then dropped them 6 months later, after the release of only one single, because of ostensibly the negative backlash from Pistols' t.v. appearances.  E.M.I. is a microcosm of the music industry for the Pistols, equally turned away by multiple record companies and towns on their English concert tour. It is no surprise that someone as acute as Rotten was at converting his anger into vicious lyrics would jump all over the pinheads who ran E.M.I.

"There's unlimited supply/and there is no reason why/

I tell you it was all a frame/they only did because of fame/

Who? E.M.I. E.M.I. E.M.I."

In the middle of the song is Rotten's assertion that they would never sell out:

"We are an addition/We are ruled by none/

Never ever never."

They would never sell out but they would spectacularly flame out, in San Francisco with Rotten saying one of my favorite quotes of all-time to the audience: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" a statement equally to a crowd watching 4 drunk misfits stumbling about on stage as well as to himself as he thought back to the music industry that was the "only reason/we all had to say goodbye."

Even before the punks, which the lyrics so directly reference, this song is an anthem for every young band bought and manipulated by record executives, who sign acts to make money off of their fame. "E.M.I." is a sobering indictment of a whole record industry, with Rotten even taking down A&M in the final line, "Goodbye A and M" (snarled in the best Rotten voice). A&M signed the Pistols for an even shorter amount of time than E.M.I.

So, by the way, for people who want to look deeply into these blogs, don't worry, the institution is not SMC. I continue to be very proud of the way we are trying to approach the COVID-19 situation. No I won't name the institution, as there really is no purpose. You all will have to be satisfied with an acronym.

"E.M.I." The Sex Pistols. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols. Virgin. 1977. Link here.

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Day 111: The New Pornographers "We End Up Together."->

See full unfinished list here.