Thursday, August 18, 2011
1977: Flowers in the dustbin
Of course I never heard this record at the time. You wouldn't have heard it on any radio station and I knew no one who owned it because most shops refused to stock it. I remember being in Acorns, the local record/gift shop, and a man thumbing through the singles chanced up on it.
'I see you've got this in,' he said.
'Well,' mused the woman behind the counter. 'We sort of had to.'
I knew what she meant. What sort of record retailer would she be if she didn't stock it? Not for her to kow-tow to newspaper hysterics and the Mary Whitehouse brigade. But if only I'd bought it. It was the rare, super-valuable A&M version too. That man didn't buy it, but someone probably did and now they're sitting on a goldmine. Story of my life.
Because neither I nor anyone I knew had never heard the song, there was a lot of speculation about its content. Someone said it was banned because the words were 'the Queen's a fucking bastard' to the tune of Remember You're A Womble. It was perfectly plausible.
But then I saw the lyrics in Record Mirror, with talk about fascist regimes, morons and H-bombs. I was unsure as to what it was all about, but there was no swearing in it. No future, yes, but no rude words. What a disappointment.
So once I let it slip that I knew the words to this major secondary school talking point I was inundated with enquiries and was asked to recite them to anyone who asked. I couldn't really remember them so I just layered it on - at 12 I don't think I knew what a fascist was, but I knew it was bad. Even the single school would-be punk sought me out. I was terrified but I got away with it. There were no real punks in our town and if there were a mother wasn't doing her job properly, so I was told.
Those of us who remember this magical Silver Jubilee-tinged time (with my 12th birthday slap bang in the middle of it), will recall how much of a stir this record caused. Even in my small corner of southern England people were up in arms, and everyone was convinced there was a move to pretend Rod Stewart was number one rather than the Pistols who were actually outselling him, but nothing was going to take the shine off the nation's street parties. These dreadful people! The country's going to the dogs. Even my granny - the prudish one - had heard of Johnny Rotten and had it in for him. And the fact that they had the word 'sex' in their name. Gasp! TOTP and Radio 1 called them 'the Pistols', because clearly the sex bit would offend. The filth and the fury, eh?
When it all died down - which of course it did, with everyone of a certain age declaring that the establishment had won out in the end - I saw an ad in Record Mirror for their new single Pretty Vacant. We were in the car when I spotted it, and I remember thinking, good for them for weathering the storm and coming out the other side, not allowing themselves to be beaten down by a few maniac naysayers.
I had no idea how the world worked.