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216 × 138 mm
240 pages
45 illustrations
02 Nov 2016

Sex Pistols Poison in the Machine John Scanlan

The explosive story of the Sex Pistols is now so familiar that the essence of what they represented has been lost in a fog of nostalgia and rock’n’roll cliché. In 1976 the rise of the Sex Pistols was regarded in apocalyptic terms, and the punks as visitors from an unwanted future bringing chaos and confusion.

John Scanlan considers the Sex Pistols as the first successful art project of their manager, Malcolm McLaren, a vision born out of radical politics, boredom and his deep and unrelenting talent for perverse opportunism. McLaren deliberately set a collision course with establishments, both conservative and counter-cultural, and succeeded beyond his highest expectations. Scanlan tells the story of how McLaren’s project – designed, in any case to fail – foundered on the development of the Pistols into a great rock band and the inconvenient artistic emergence of John Lydon.

Moving between London and New York, and with a fascinating cast of delinquents, petty criminals and misfits, Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine is not just a book about a band. It is about the times, the ideas, the coincidences and the characters that made punk, that ended with the Sex Pistols – beaten, bloody and overdosed – sensationally self-destructing on stage in San Francisco in January 1978, and that transformed popular culture throughout the world.

‘It’s a fast read, with clean writing and little editorializing . . . He uses quotes and rare photos to give the reader a sense of the time and place, which is as important to the Sex Pistols as the people involved in their rise . . . Great book for fans of the band who need a little more ammo in the face of trite dismissals, or punk history buffs alike – Poison in the Machine is a fascinating read.‘ – Dying Scene

Sex Pistols: Poison in the Machine dares to be different. Why? It is not another regurgitation of the history of the Pistols. It aims to place the reader back in the 1960’s & 70’s and explore the Sex Pistols phenomenon as it was experienced in the era that spawned it; one of scant information, sparse news outlets and very little access to the music. It reminds the reader how different the world of today is, where Pistols’ footage, audio and even the Grundy show can be accessed in an instant on the internet. Back in the day, if you didn’t see it yourself, you didn't see it. Importantly, the book helps define how the myth, controversy and enigma of the Sex Pistols was given oxygen by, ironically, this very vacuum.’ – SexPistols.net

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John Scanlan is a writer. His previous books for Reaktion include Easy Riders, Rolling Stones: On the Road in America, from Delta Blues to ’70s Rock (2015), Memory: Encounters with the Strange and the Familiar (2013) and Van Halen: Exuberant California, Zen Rock’n’roll (2012).