Remembering The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle

The Dissolve looks back at the Sex Pistols movie that was released two years after the band broke up.

The Sex Pistols movie The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle was released in 1980, two years after shooting began, and not long after the band split acrimoniously. In that same year, The Clash recorded and released its triple-album Sandinista!, on the heels of making what’s widely acknowledged as one of the best rock albums of all time, London Calling. In The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle, punk rock is depicted as a sham, a marketing gimmick… a way to sow chaos for fun and profit. One way the movie mocks its own heroes is to have a band play a handful of Sex Pistols songs as disco, to symbolize the ultimate degradation of a musical form that used to be rude and radical. Yet withSandinista!, The Clash tried out disco, hip-hop, dub, kiddie-pop, and a smattering of other non-punk genres—all mostly without irony. The Clash rejected the Pistols’ nihilism, finding fertile musical ground in the remnants of a broken scene.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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