December 1, 2011
Preserving the Sex Pistols' graffiti is an archaeological swindle | Art and design |

They try to get their message (that the past is magical) across to a superficial world. They dress up as Vikings to take school groups around a dig. They write books bubbling with matey phrases and contemporary comparisons. But still the relentless juggernaut of stupidity rumbles down the motorway, and archaeologists flip their lids.

I am just trying to understand the thought processes that have led archaeologists writing in the journal Antiquity to call for Sex Pistols graffiti in a London house to be preserved and cherished in the name of “anti-heritage”. They compare the wall drawings, mostly by John Lydon, with Paleolithic cave art.

The argument is bizarre for several reasons. When it comes to preserving the history of punk, how is that an innovative or provocative idea? Ever since Greil Marcus and Jon Savage wrote serious tomes on the Sex Pistols, the band have been recognised as fodder for cultural analysis and reverence. Lydon got so fed up with the pretensions of critical writing on the Pistols that he wrote his own memoir, giving his more down to earth version of the story.