“The Anarchy Tour” a wonderfully illustrated, frighfully tedious book
If a book consists mainly of quotes from other books, documentaries, articles, and other source, and contains minimal-to-no new interviews, revelations, or the like, it’s essentially a research paper or graduate thesis stretched out with photos and illustrations. Such is the case with Mick O’Shea‘s chronicle of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In the U.K.” tour in the wake of their appearance on Bill Grundy’s talk show.
While a complete chronicle of the tour has never been so thoroughly presented, the documents from which O’Shea draws are newspaper articles from the time, and books written by all of the participants long after the fact. If you’re a fan of any of the acts involved — the Pistols, the Damned, the Clash, or the Heartbreakers — and of a literary bent, you’ve most likely read or seen I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, 90 Days at EMI, Rotten, The Last Gang In Town, The Filth and the Fury, et al.
Having everything laid out in chronological order, and presented with a view to the punks’ side of things, the reader does get the idea that the whole “swearing on TV” thing was a bit of a surprise to all involved, and it became a much bigger thing than it really ought to have.
That being said, it’s not a particularly entertaining read once one gets past the whole sordid television affair. The entirety of the tour is a series of tedious stays in hotel rooms and encounters with people in positions of power, be they college deans or city council members. It’s travel, rejection, travel, rejection, concert, repeat for the majority of the book. While one gets the impression that some of the members might have been more culpable than others (Mr. Rotten, for example), it’s more of a historical document than entertainment. The book can be dressed up with safety pins and faux stains and tears, but it’s really quite sedate.
The pictures, though, are worth having. Crystal clear images on every other page do a superb job of demonstrating just how young and inexperienced all of the bands on this tour were (Heartbreakers excepted, of course). If nothing else, Omnibus Press spared no expense in printing The Anarchy Tour on high-gloss paper with plenty of color. While the words might be a trifle dull, the pictures are anything but.