Tim Chaplin's Reviews > Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century

Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus
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's review
May 07, 2012

really liked it
Read from May 07 to 16, 2012

At the time of writing the Country is getting ready to celebrate the impending Olympics and 60th Jubilee. Union Jacks are everywhere and everyone is getting ready for a public holiday. For some of us it will be an escape from the boredom and austerity measures of the current government. In 1977 another Jubilee was being celebrated and a song came out that encapsulated the feelings of all of those people who felt alienated from the patriotism and nostalgia for a Britain that no longer existed. This book is a history of The Sex Pistols and the various Punk movement that originated at that time but it is also a secret history of the art movements that preceded the Punk explosion of the late 20th Century,

Greil Marcus focuses on the rage of the young Johnny Rotten singing 'I am the antichrist'. He is fascinated on how a band like the Sex Pistols could create such anti-music in a pop song. He follows the history of the Sex Pistols and the emerging punk movement to the decline of the Sex Pistols in their infamous US Tour. There is a tenuous link to a young girl who is enraged at not getting tickets for a Michael Jackson concert to try and explain where this alienation came from. How could a pop song be influenced by the anti-establishment religious movements like the Brethren of The Free Spirit of medieval England, the Dutch religious reformer John Of Leiden and the Seventeenth Century Ranters? Why did Punk and the Sex Pistols have so much in common with the failed Spartacist uprising in 1919 and the German Dada movement and anti-art in the Cabaret Voltaire? How could the works of Isidore Isou and the Lettrist International and Guy Debord and the slogans of the Situationist s have been revived in a pop song in the late 1970's?

The revised edition includes a foreword by Nicky Wire from Manic Street Preachers. This book was a huge influence on Richie Edwards who wrote about the 'boredom, alienation and despair' that had been included in the writings of the SI many years earlier. The Situationist s tried to build a Marxist and Avant-garde alternative to Capitalism in what Debord called the 'Society of The Spectacle'. People would create situations as an alternative to the capitalist system. They were influential in the General Strike and student protests in May 1968 and their writings are as Marcus argues a huge influence on Malcolm MacLaren and Jamie Reid who had both been in the radical group King Mob. Marcus features the bands that came out of the Punk era like The Raincoats, Gang Of Four, Mekons, Wire, X-Ray Spex and many others who shared a similar outlook. This was an enjoyable and informative book but sometimes Marcus tends to ramble in his narrative.

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