I got to watch a little television recently, and I saw a commercial for the Acura TLX. It is apparently a car. But what struck me was that the music for the commercial was “My Way” performed by Sid Vicious. About a year ago, I wrote, Commence Conformity Protocol, about the Infiniti Q50 commercial. I think it is pathetic the way that advertisers try to convince people that buying their products will make them “cool” and “dangerous” or (most laughably) “nonconformist.” But in this case, the song is entirely appropriate.
It makes me crazy that many, even most, people think that Sex Pistols somehow invented punk music. Far from inventing it, I don’t even consider them a punk band. Punk is not really a kind a music so much as it is an approach to it. And I’ve always found the band to be kind of a joke. It’s all too packaged and intended to offend. It’s no surprise that Sex Pistols are now considered the prototypical punk band: that’s what they were sold as. None of this is to say that some of their work wasn’t really good. (So was some of The Monkees!) And I think that John Lydon is one of the greatest rock singers ever.
The ultimate expression of everything that was bad about Sex Pistols is found in “My Way.” Vicious stumbles up to the mic with all the practiced disregard of a seasoned con man. He then does a childish parody of Sinatra, I guess — including rolling his eyes. And then the pop heavy metal music comes in and Vicious goes on to show that he can’t sing like John Lydon any more than he can Sinatra. But the main thing is that he’s there posing for the folks. He is Punk Rocker™. It’s just offensive.
I understand that there is a posing aspect to all forms of rock music. But to embrace that is exactly to abandon the philosophical core of punk music. It was always a do-it-yourself movement — a rejection of the polished, substanceless music of the time. (Actually: of all times.) The idea was never to be bad for the sake of being bad. And if you listen to Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, you’ll find the band is fairly good. Of course, it helps that Vicious doesn’t play on the album.
So I think it makes perfect sense that Sid Vicious being used to sell cars to insecure middle aged corporate cogs who fantasize about being paradigm-breaking rebels. If Malcolm McLaren were alive today, he would be so proud. Because that was exactly what he had in mind all along.
Since you were good enough to read my rant, he’s some of the best punk music ever made — “I Felt Like a Gringo” off Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat: