The Great Rock and Roll Swindle

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Given its guttersnipe handle, you might expect to hear Johnny Rotten’s cheeky parting shot, “Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?” somewhere in this 1979 Sex Pistols swan song. Well, you don’t, since including any part of the band’s shambling final show in San Francisco would be tantamount to a confession from mis-manager Malcolm McLaren that he didn’t create the Sex Pistols out of Plasticine and Richard Hell safety pins, and they weren’t, as he puts it, “my canvas ... my little artful dodgers.” McLaren gave the Pistols a venue to be themselves but that’s all. The paucity of ideas he had after Rotten quit (having Sid Vicious sing the hits of Cochran and Anka, Steve Jones impersonating Sam Spade and giving cross-dressing dwarves gainful employment) litter this Julian Temple film, much of which was recycled to better and more truthful use in Temple’s 1999 documentary The Filth and The Fury, which had the full cooperation of all the surviving Pistols. You don’t replace Rotten, no matter how many members of Tenpole Tudor you audition on camera. All right, getting exiled Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs to fill Rotten’s vacated slot was a great headline-grabber but “The Biggest Blow” was no “Belsen Was a Gas,” and the only worthwhile exclusive footage you see here is Sid Vicious ambling around in France. The lone “extra,” outside of the trailer and director’s commentary, is a static interview with Julian Temple that I defy you to get through without someone poking your ribs every couple of minutes. In a word, “Boooring, Sidney.”

Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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