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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. .
T o my frustration, society.con-
tinues to refer to certain mem-
bers of this human race as "half
white ard half Black." Not only
does this terminology make no
sense, it's also a retention of the old
American racism which makes life
harder for so many people, like a
friend ofmine, The Tragic Mulatto.
That title probably sounds quite
mean-spirited to you, but not to
worry. TheTragic Mulatto lovingly
refers to himself in such terms. It's
an expression of irony which, I'm
sure, nobody appreciates more than
he does. I'm also sure that, to the
racial purists who came up with
such a concept, the joke couldn't be
any more offensive.
Butit's the so-called TragicMul-
attos all over the planet who can
laugh freely, knowing that all the
precious boundaries, amenities and
secretlies which make the issue of
race so controversial add up to a big
Ironically, the concept of race
means something different to every
as "half Black and half white" cal-
lously ignore the fact that Black
people have been supposedly
"mixed-up" for centuries. So what
purpose does it serve?
Black people retain Blackness
out of a sense of cultural pride and
reverence, as well as necessity -
not because each of us holds some
vaunted percentage of pure African
mitochondria. One lesson that
)V04 F"0, #J
Green li 4'
Americans need to learn is that the
concept of race has no scientific
Personally, I define true Black
consciousness as living and ex-
pressing, fearlessly doing what
needs to be done, and not worrying
so much about getting concessions
from the powers that be. That's my
Of course, there's a hidden
agenda for all of this. Sure, white
supremacy isn't as blatant as it used
to be, even if Black people still
have a legitimate need for texts
such as The Cress Theory of Color
Confrontation and Racism (White
Supremacy) by Frances Cress
Public Enemy's Chuck D., who
hitme to Welsing, attacks apiece of
American legislation which I've
never seen but still should be men-
tioned here. The legislation, passed
circa 1961, says that anyone with a
single drop of Black blood is auto-
matically Black This law serves nb
purpose other than to set the de-
scendants of slaves apart from
whites, effectively celebrating and
legitimizing the iniquities of the
It's legal traditions like this
which ensure that in many small
towns across America, men will
continue to be their own fathers.
And until such white suprema-
cist legislature is exposed for what
it is and as Chuck D. suggests, we
"kick that Apartheid shit out of
here," ludicrous concepts like the
Tragedy of the Mulatto will con-
tinue to be accepted with a nod and
Is there fear of a Black, or un-
afraid, planet in 1992? You betcha.
What's my slant in all of this?
Well, I'm not a Tragic Mulatto, per
se. Besides what I see as an aberrant
crease in basic notions like equality
and i ustice. the status auo makes
Overture . .
March 19, 1992
Annette Petruso:."Such short spans
of time in punk had such massive
Jon Savage: "Well, everyone, was
the Atlantic? Why did the music take to learn about pop culture. We had to
you by the balls and throw you learn popular culture. It's not an in-
around? Savage's book reveals the digenous form. To us, fashion is al-
roots of punk - boredom and dis- ways an important part of pop cul-
satisfaction with life. ture because that was part of our
... Ther.e is no future! In England's "While to Americans, it seems
Dreaming" really inauthentic and fake, it's very
- "God Save the Queen" real to us Brits. So; we have a com-
The Sex Pistols plete, if you like, emotional authen-
AP: "Why write the book in the first ticity expressed in highly inauthentic
forms, i.e. the fact that fashion and
JS: "The first motivation really was music get involved with one another
the sense that I had, and a lot of is part of the whole thing. That's the
other people had, of unfinished busi- way that English pop music works."
ness in punk rock. And I think there AP: "Where does the music fit in?
was a lot of unfinished business ... The fashion seems to me to become
"It has to do with collapsed ideals more important than the music."
and the fact that a lot happened very JS: "You see, one of the good things
quickly. And there was also a lot of about England is that nobody really
very good ideas that were never thinks in terms of these distinctions.
taken up, and there was a very pow- Basically, a group has to come up
erful feeling that became dissipated with a great look if it's really going
and yet remained in people's minds to mean very much, even if it's an
and took people quitea long time to anti-look. Every English group
deal with." comes with a hook, or they did in the
"I tell you it was a frame ... ... they only did it 'cause offame"
The fashion in England's
Dreaming comes from one very spe-
cific source: Malcolm McLaren.
Though his companion Vivienne
Westwood physically did most of
the designs and helped create and
run the many forms of McLaren's
King's Road shop, it was McLaren
who foisted his unique point of view
and hunger for public outrage on to
the world in his forming of the Sex
Savage's research explored many
angles of punk, but, he can carefully
discuss McLaren's strengths and
shortcomings without judging them.
"God save the Queen/ She ain't, no
human being ...
Jon Savage's book England's
Dreaming - Anarchy, the Sex
Pistols and Beyond reads as a thor-
ough popular social history of Brit-
ish punk, focusing on the Pistols.-
Covering a mere three years of
one music genre seems deceptively
simple. But the subject's complexi-
.ties require that Savage write at least
600 pages (reduced from the approx-
imate 900-page original draft) to be-
gin the exploration: punk rejected
the past, present and future, while
ironically exerting a heavy influence
on later generations.
England's Dreaming is not mere-
ly an "objective" (a farcical idea if
there ever was one) retelling of the
evolution of punk. Savage kept a di-
ary at the time of the, movement's in-
ception and quotes himself through-.
out the text. As the quotes indicate,
Savage himself followed punk from
its early days. In Dreaming he tries,
and I would submit, succeeds in
getting close to the "truth" about
what really happened.
Savage's extensive use of inter-
views from those that had a hand in
punk's creation give his text a depth
unprecedented in music writing.
Such consultations ma not reveal
"Fashion/ Turn to the left/ Fashion/!
Turn to the right ...
As, Savage writes it, British
punk's roots lie in the fashion, per-!
sonal obsessions and political goings1
on of the era that came before punk
ever-became the music of the Sex
Pistols. A lot of musical movements
probably began this way, but have
never been explored in the method
that Savage uses.
The whole idea of the Sex Pistols
(and other punk bands) as a con-
struction - something Malcolm
McLaren shaped by introducing
people to one another via his cloth-
ing/curiosities shop - is not as arti-
ficial as it seems. Yet, the power of
punk lies inits awkward self-aware-
ness. Self-conscious posing draws
more attention than unconscious fit-
... We're the goon squad/ and we're
coming to town- d
AP: "To oversimplify, the thesis of
the first 'half of -the book seems to be
a co-option of music by fashion."
JS: "Well, that presupposes that that
co-option is bad, you see. I don't
think that argument goes far enough.
"I think it's obvious that the
whole point of the book-is basically
about the struggle that's enacted by a
particular generation in the media to
beat the media at its own game. The
great lesson of'the book is that it is
sixties, you know one group had the
guy with the weird haircut, another
had a girl drummer ...
"And it's not something anybody
gets hung up about. Everyone ex-
pects everybody to have the hook, to
The Sex Pistols
AP: Where does McLaren fit then?
JS: "He starts the book and that's
very deliberate because I think in
some ways, McLaren undersells
himself. He's quite a serious person,
but he's become sort of a media
"And if there was one start to the
Sex Pistols - I mean I had to make
the decision - if I had to choose
one person and one place that was
the start of the Sex Pistols, I would
have to say Malcolm McLaren.
"And so the sticking with him is
very important at the start of the
book because the Sex Pistols proba-
bly wouldn't have been successful,
as successful without Johnny Rotten
and the other people in the group,
but if there hadn't been a Malcolm
McLaren, there would be no Sex
The whole idea of the Sex Pistols
as a construction isn't new (check
out the other seminal work on the
Pistols, Greil Marcus' convoluted
Lipstick Traces), but Savage makes
the concept accessible. Savage's pre-
cise, compact style doesn't waste a
, 2 .
it , ' her
- ,----; LL.
the whole truth and nothing but the
truth, for the real truth (whatever
that is) passed with the moment -
but there's more to the facts than
"what really happened."
Where did punk come from?
What did it mean to the musicians
and their co-conspirators? What did
it say about society on both sides of
possible to beat themedia attits own
game, but if you do it, y%'re only
going to be able to do it for a short
AP: "In the second half, image again
JS: "What I'm trying to say is that in
England - which is. quite different
from America - in England we had
have the gimmick. I quite like that,
'cause it's very pop. And a lot of the
book is to celebrate pop ... "
AP: "Then where does the music fit
JS: "The music is what gets every-
body interested, is what makes it
work. 'Cause you can have all the
hype in the world, which the Sex
Pistols had, but if it's not in the mu-
sic, then it won't matter. You can't
persuade people to buy things if
"If the music is true, which the
Sex Pistols' music was - a lot of
punk music was - i.e. if itexpresses
real emotions and it interacts with
the emotions of the listener, .and
makes them feel things and makes
them feel things in a different way,
then that's what the music is there
for. And that certainly happened
"People are really saying what
they feel within forms that appar-
ently inauthentic. But that doesn't
mean people aren't saying real
El10 Joe, Been anywhere lately
Nah, its all played ahtBill
All rnhrntnc ndI the T-s~hirt illiim,tratirnr riallpri frl'm rrinanr',
Prior to the formation of the Sex Pistols, McLaren strove to shock