I suppose there are still some aging punk purists who will tear their last tufts of spiked hair out over John Lydon’s gleefully crass and pandering ad for Country Life butter. (Watch it here.) What an utterly shameless sell-out for the antiestablishment icon who used to call himself Johnny Rotten! Still, I think if you look closer at the Sex Pistols’ (tiny) body of work, you’ll see that the impulse to sell out and cash in on their fame was present all along, from the take-the-money-and-run ethos behind the song “EMI” to the self-congratulatory movie title The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (we self-destructed quickly, but we suckered everyone and made a bundle along the way), to the Filthy Lucre reunion tour a few years ago. Besides, what could be a more defiant gesture than spitting in your fans’ faces by doing an ad for a product this prosaic? Anybody can sell out, but to sell out with such deliberate, stubborn banality? Now, that’s punk rock.
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