The following is an excerpt from Chapter Four of “The Jason Zodiac Files”, Jamie Carter’s biography of Jason Zodiac.
If the psychedelic movement of the late Sixties was a revolution of the head, then the Punk movement of the middle Seventies was a revolution of the body. Piercing with safety pins, scarification with razor blades, Sid Vicious mutilating himself on stage: these transgressive and transformative rituals were a direct challenge to the dominant culture of the United Kingdom. This was a self-administered rite of initiation for British youth, in a society that lacked any meaningful transition from child to adult, and lacked any credible role models to guide the youth into a spiritually aware world in which they meant something.
– R J Black, “The Mad Parade,” p. 234.
There are still a few people who remember exactly where they were when they heard JFK had been shot. There are many of us who remember exactly what they were doing when they heard Princess Diana had been killed. For me, I can remember with absolute clarity where I was when I first heard the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen.
I was in a tiny record shop in Sheffield, blowing my student allowance on vinyl like I usually did. The crashing drums and the sawing guitars bawled out of the shop’s loudspeakers, and when Johnny Rotten snarled the first line, I froze, breaking out in a cold sweat.
You know in the movies when soldiers walk across a battlefield and step on a landmine, there’s an audible click? They stop moving, because they know that within the next few seconds, their world is going to explode, rip them apart, and spread their body parts over the surrounding area. That’s how it felt. I couldn’t move, because I knew I was in the presence of something utterly explosive and dangerous. By the time the band had got to their final chorus of “No Future”, the land mine had gone off and I’d been blown apart. I was about to be picked up and put together again with the parts fitting in new, unexpected, ways.
It’s easy to be cynical about Punk now, but nobody at the time had any doubt about the movement’s sincerity. The UK had sunk into mass lethargy and despair, riddled with unemployment, and inflation. Britain was culturally and politically bankrupt.
At a time like that Jason Zodiac was busier than ever.
My name is Jamie Carter, and I work for Fugue magazine. The first three installments of Whatever Happened to Jason Zodiac? had so far got a pretty good reaction from the readership, and – more to the point – a thumbs-up from the editor-in-chief.
So here I was, on an April Wednesday night, London switching between hours of sunshine and rain and blustery wind as if the British Isles suffered from multiple personality syndrome, on my way to a meeting with an old colleague, someone who’d met Jason Zodiac on several occasions back in the day. Back in the heady days of Punk, when for a brief while music was actually subversive again. Robert James Black was the founder of the notorious Queer Street fanzine, writer for the NME during the late Seventies, and author of The Mad Parade, perhaps the best work on the subject of Punk after Jon Savage’s seminal England’s Dreaming.
Not to mention being an occasional drinking buddy of mine.
Of course, with 1977 being the year of the Royal Jubilee, the Empire tried to put on a show of glory and tradition, pomp and circumstance. Bunting and Union flags and pictures of Her Majesty hanging outside Brutalist post-war council houses. To maintain the façade of grandeur, the lie that Britain was still a country worth living in, the Empire had its defenders. The police. The Sun and the Daily Mail. The BBC …