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A Guide, Gossip, a Glimpse of Glory : MIXED MEDIA: A SPECIAL BOOKS EDITION : Rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic). : "12 DAYS ON THE ROAD: THE SEX PISTOLS AND AMERICA" By Noel E. Monk and Jimmy Guterman William Morrow & Co . ($19.95)

October 28, 1990|STEVE HOCHMAN

Sex, drugs and anti-rock 'n' roll: Here are the sights, the sounds and the smells of a rock tour more disastrous than even Spinal Tap's. The story of the Pistols' sole, brief 1977 American trip, as told by tour manager Monk and rock journalist Guterman, revolves mostly around Sid Vicious' inevitable spiral toward self-destruction. To a lesser extent we get Johnny Rotten (sneering, nose-picking), manager Malcolm McLaren (manipulative but spineless), Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook (childish) and a host of colorful punks, punk wanna-bes and other ugly Americans.

Opening with a vivid account of a Pistols concert, capturing all the exhiliration, release and violence of punk at its most intense, the book then mirrors the punk era itself as the rush wears off, returning only intermittently. Still, the story--already familiar to those who saw the movie "Sid & Nancy"--is well told with equal amounts of perverse fascination and weary revulsion, and offers considerable insight into both youth alienation and the music business.

Monk (curiously referred to in the third person, despite the journal-like format of the book) is the disgusted baby-sitter who thought he'd seen it all, but learned quickly that he was quite mistaken. Also mistaken were those associated with the jaunt who thought it would forever change the face of popular culture. The inescapable conclusion is that for all its celebrated importance, the most lasting aspect of the Pistols' moment of anarchic glory was its futility.

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