MICK O’SHEA – The Sex Pistols Invade America – The Fateful U.S. Tour, January 1978
The skilled author that is Mick O’Shea published this excellent account of the legendary Sex Pistols’ 1978 trek across the US not that long ago via McFarland & Company Inc., and this is most definitely a must-read for anyone with an interest in both the aforementioned band and punk rock in general. The Pistols were a sensation in the UK and made headlines in their home country, so how and why did their eccentric (and occasionally brilliant) manager Malcolm McLaren decide to bring the mayhem and chaos associated with the act to such conservative states as Tennessee, Texas, and Louisiana as opposed to much hipper and more musically (and culturally) diverse cities ala New York or Los Angeles?
What works in favor of this thorough and well-researched 196-page opus is that it focuses on one specific thing, i.e. the infamous outfit’s rather dismal journey to North America in early January 1978 and how the band fared in Tulsa, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Memphis, and San Francisco among others. Although that may sound somewhat one-dimensional on paper, the truth is that "The Sex Pistols Invade America" does a marvelous job at unraveling the entire mystery surrounding this particular event in a clear, concise, and compelling manner. There is a wealth of information contained within the pages of this engaging literary piece, but more importantly, it is incredibly balanced with respect to offering various points of view and opinions on certain matters relating to the tour. As this book perfectly illustrates, there are many perceptions of what went down and why things turned out the way they did during those bleak days in early 1978, but all the myths, rumors, and half-baked truths associated with the tour are dissected and discussed in detail, and there are some startling revelations in store for you there. The best parts are the ones highlighting how the American youngsters responded to the explosive sounds and messages conveyed by the band from the stage. Did "Anarchy in the UK" or "God Save the Queen" even remotely connect with the US audiences given that the lyrics and themes covered by the pioneering act were deeply rooted in British society (and everything that was wrong with said society)? "The Sex Pistols Invade America" also offers some interesting perspectives on the tragic story of Sid Vicious and his cursed drug habit, the troubled relationship between McLaren and John "Rotten" Lydon, and the massive frustrations that gradually crept into the entire camp and eventually destroyed the Sex Pistols.
O’Shea has done an amazing job with respect to interviewing the people who were actually there at the time and who either witnessed one or more of the band’s shows, met or hung out with the members of the ensemble backstage or in bars and motels, worked for them in some capacity, or simply encountered them out and about on the streets of whichever city they were in. Perhaps the greatest testimony to how powerful and riveting the narrative is at times lies in the good flow of the story and the fact that O’Shea succeeds in making you believe that the year is 1978 and that you are either in the front row bearing witness to the musical carnage on stage or riding along with the Pistols on their tour bus. The vibe and feel of the piece is that intimate at times.
"The Sex Pistols Invade America – The Fateful U.S. Tour, January 1978" chronicles a pivotal and exciting moment in (music) history when one of the most notorious British acts of all time wreaked havoc on American soil and caused either delight or moral panic to those who witnessed the spectacle back then. For a fascinating and thought-provoking insight into the inner workings of the band and why everything had fallen apart by the time they reached San Fransisco, look no further than this enthusiastic piece on how British punk rock ethics clashed with American culture more than forty years ago.