Monday, January 04, 2010

Book: 12 Days on the Road; The Sex Pistols and America

Although readers on Amazon give this book at least 4 stars, I have to be a true punk and go against the mainstream and say that this book was kind of, well, boring.

How can a book about the Sex Pistols be boring? How can a book written by the Sex Pistol's tour manager be boring? That there takes real talent.

Written by Noel Monk, who was there every step of the way on the Pistols' 12-day disastrous American tour, this should have been a pretty good time (watching the god-awful bad time these poor guys all had). However, it reads like a couple of dumb, drunk frat boys decided to write an epic tale about their trip to Mexico over the summer.

It's also very confusing, as it skips between present tense ("We are all on the road to Tulsa. Johnny looks out the window and makes yet another caustic remark.") and various other tenses, as the authors see fit. I also didn't like how there are entire conversations transcribed as if someone had had a tape recorder at the time, complete with "yeah" and "um" and so on. If the band and crew were as drunk as they say they were on the tour, there is no way they could have remembered the conversations 15 years later. That sort of thing annoys me. Especially when it's written in present tense, which should have some kind of excitement pushing things forward. Instead, the entire text is dead boring.

The author(s) are also omniscient, which bothers me in a nonfiction text. How could they know what ALL the band members and crew are thinking? In present tense? Annoying.

However, terrible storytelling style aside, the actual event of the Sex Pistols American tour is a pretty fascinating thing. The Sex Pistols as a group are totally fascinating. Were they a real band at all? Or a twisted version of today's formulated boy bands? Was Malcolm McLaren really as much of an asshole as history seems to present (I say yes)? Was Johnny Rotten a genius or a puppet? How in the world did four street kids come up with enough talent and attitude to pull off such a stunt as to spark an entire music revolution? The entire history and mystery surrounding the Sex Pistols is so interesting. Nobody seems to know exactly what happened for the entire two and a half years they were together. One amazing album and a whole lot of mayhem and destruction. Upon reflection, if that's not rock and roll, I don't know what is.

I first heard the Sex Pistols when I was a sophomore in high school. I knew NOTHING about them, except some vague idea that they were a punk band and kind of important. However, once I heard their album I had to have my own copy, and I've loved it ever since. Although I've never exactly been an uber-punk-rocker, I've always loved punk. It makes me happy. It sparks creativity and gives me energy, and wakes me up. When I'm mad or frustrated or feel like the whole world is stupid, punk is there to say, "Hell yeah! Now go break some stuff!"

Interestingly, Sex Pistols music does not translate well to ones' car stereo. It only sounds good (to me) blasted at home in the living room or through headphones. Somehow it loses something in the car (which is where I listen to most of my music, except for when I'm doing art). I wonder why that is? Perhaps the juxtaposition of listening to raw Pistols whilst driving in a little tame Corolla proves to be too much of an insult and the music sags under the weight of embarrassment?

No matter. Even if it was a bad book, it was still fun to look at some of the pictures and to ponder the incredible contradiction that is the punk rock music industry. And to feel sorry for Sid Vicious, a tragic image of stupid self-annihilation if there ever was one. That is one point over which I agree with the book's authors: poor kid should have gotten some help, instead of being pushed off on inept handlers.

So, if you are a Sex Pistols fan or interested in punk rock history, you might as well read this book. But it's not exactly worth your time otherwise.


Stefanie said...

Too bad teh book turned out to be boring. Who'd a thunk it? My favorite part of your post is

When I'm mad or frustrated or feel like the whole world is stupid, punk is there to say, "Hell yeah! Now go break some stuff!"

I can't really picture you breaking stuff, but the idea that you might tickles my funnybone for some reason :)

Tammie said...

i love it when you review a book you dont love. i find it so entertaining.

now i have to go break some stuff.

Daphne said...

Stef: yeah... I'm not really the 'breaking stuff' kind of person... but I like the reminder that I *could*.

Tammie: go to it! (it is fun to review bad books)

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

Talk about a blast from the past, I haven't heard of this band in ages (I don't really want to date myself). Anyhow, I'll probably pass on reading it since I never was a fan and your review wasn't glowing -- but it makes me recall the music that blasted from my brothers' rooms. I sure don't want to relive that!