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Anarchy in NYC vs. the U.K.

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Nancy and Sid, Patti Smith, and Richard Hell.   

Legs: It felt extremely similar. I mean, because there was no guitars, I was kind of … But I thought for the first time, white guys probably influenced black guys.

Jon: I loved that Afrika Bambaataa and those guys ripped off Kraftwerk. It was like they could take one thing and make something totally different. It is one of the greatest stories of the twentieth century, I think. Things change. The last guitar band I really, really, really liked was Nirvana. I interviewed Kurt Cobain in ’93. He was really sarcastic and funny. When he died, I just thought, I’m going to have to close the book on all this. I was nearly 40. I think you come out in the world and you have the rock music that suits you. When you get past that age, it’s a bit of a problem. I don’t want to listen to a rock group going on about twentysomething courting rituals. I just don’t.

Mark: What about stuff that’s punk-spawn, like hardcore and all those different -cores?

Legs: That was just the next generation coming up, going faster. In matters of taste, there is really no dispute. I mean, there’s some kid in the garage right now with green hair and strumming his guitar, singing, “Fuck you, Mom, fuck you.”

Jon: The continuation of punk is valid because of what people get out of it. I go back to being in a room with the Sex Pistols and 100 people. I thought, How the fuck did that happen?

Mark: To hit this note about England and New York again, here there was this kind of cartoon sense, which of course Legs’s magazine was the epitome of. I remember us talking about this, Legs, that we felt that the Brits—don’t they get the joke?

Jon: I think one of the things that people don’t understand about punk—and this in a way is my regret about British punk—is that there was a lot of humor at the start of punk.

Legs: Yeah! Just listen to any Ramones album. They’re hysterically funny. We thought Punk magazine was the new Mad magazine.

Jon: Initially, Sid Vicious was a really funny name. He was just really ­fucking goofy. Then he started taking too many drugs, and he became the kind of stereotype, he became the cartoon.

Legs: I’ll tell you, it’s hard not to become the cartoon.

Mark: You ought to know.

Jon: It goes back to the difference between Britain and America. In Britain, you have centralized media. It’s much easier to make an impact. You can put out your first record and be on the national-TV pop show, which is seen by a third of the whole country. When you get a rock-and-roll scene being on the news agenda, being taken seriously by journalists, then it’s a whole different ball game, and people got all sorts of sociological ideas about it. What happens is that it gets assimilated even quicker, so punk in Britain was actually over pretty much by the end of ’77.

Legs: The Ramones hardly got any radio airplay. I mean, “Sedated” got a little bit but kind of as a joke. More like, “Here are those crazy punk rockers.” Punk kind of accelerated everything. I don’t think America was ready to be that accelerated yet. I thought that the Ramones were playing the most commercial pop songs in the world. I didn’t realize people were as stupid as they are.

Mark: You always hear that, but for a band that never made it, the Ramones sure got pretty well known.

Legs McNeil is co-author of Please Kill Me; Jon Savage is the author of England’s Dreaming.


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