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Johnny Rotten is a Cave Artist and Other Silliness

A tempest in a teapot has erupted over the proposed preservation of some graffiti drawn by members of the band The Sex Pistols in the 1970s that was recently found in a central London flat.

That’s right.

The drawings, mostly done by Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) were discovered behind a cupboard in a flat the band rented on Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley) around 1975. At debate is whether the property should be “blue plaque-d” as a heritage site and marked for its cultural significance.

My opinion is, why not?

We should move to preserve, note and bring attention to moments of our collective cultural heritage so that they are not lost as time treks on.  It is my opinion that we should allow future societies the chance to judge and re-judge our times for themselves. How often do we archaeologists and cultural historians wince at something that was thoughtlessly destroyed in the past that we’d like to know about today? Often.  The archaeological profession is a bulwark against the shallowness of today’s culture and it allows us to see the profundity of the past….and I don’t think we should be judging now what a culture 200 years in the future may consider profoud.

So, preserve them.

But there is some serious silliness here.

I, for one, never liked the Sex Pistols. Sorry guys. I thought they sucked.  That said, they had a significant impact on our culture at one time and what they stood for matters in the space of public ideas.

That said, comparing the Lydon’s graffiti with the art of Lascaux, as one archaeologist did in the journal Antiquity, is silly. Dr John Schofield, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York makes a mockery of himself and the science of archaeology by suggesting these are of the same importance as 40,000 year old cave paintings – or even the Beatles lost recordings!

That is astoundingly goofy. And embarrassing.

John Lydon himself wrote seriously against taking the Sex Pistols too seriously.  The weighty tomes analyzing the radical anti-cultural cultural impact of the band enraged him.  For Lydon, the whole movement of Punk was of one off individualism (reminding me of the goofball Ayn Rand devotees of current American politics) and disposability – a statement on the culture that gave the movement its birth.  Sticking up the blue historical plaque quite possibly violates everything that Punk stood for.  Lydon might be horrified.

And so what?  When you blaze your philosophy across the public sphere you lose ownership.  Your philosophy becomes larger than you and takes on a life of its own.  Lydon nor anyone else can claim ownership of the Punk ethos now.

Stick the blue plaque on and stop the silliness.








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