The band Keith Richards said was designed for “mass media consumption”

Keith Richards

The punk wave began in the late 1960s with hard rock, but it truly came in the mid-1970s. Aside from the raw, basic sound, the genre was crucially outfitted with chains, leathers, and a ton of attitude. But hadn’t Keith Richards, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop formed this hedonistic mindset years ago?

When we consider the early rumblings of punk, we think of the Ramones on one side of the Atlantic and the Sex Pistols on the other. Of course, other, far superior punk bands existed at the same time, but these two groups nailed it with ripped jeans, leather, anarchy, and heavy drugs.

Johnny Rotten née Lydon, with his growling voice, was at the center of the British punk movement. The archetypal anarchist, he enjoyed nothing more than slamming fellow artists – and possibly Queen Elizabeth II. While the music captured the spirit of the times authentically, figures like Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren actively orchestrated this punk rock explosion. Hitting the proper formulas, the group rode a media frenzy to the pinnacle of success in two years, with only one studio album to show for it.

During his numerous contentious interviews, Rotten minimized the impact of popular bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. He once stated Mick Jagger and Keith Richards should have given up in 1965, just as they were embracing pop music and abandoning R&B covers entirely.

Well [if Johnny Rotten said we should have given up in 1965], then he should definitely retire next year,” Jagger stated, replying to the remarks in 1977. “He appeared on Top of the Pops in England, which was a cop-out for the Sex Pistols. It’s tough for Americans to understand what Top of the Pops is, but it’s the only pop music show on television – and I mean pop – and the only place for Top Twenty records, and it’s the most bland – it’s aimed at a small demographic, people with neat hair and all that. They are now featured on the front cover of Rolling Stone. That’s a complete sham.

After calling the Sex Pistols a sell-out, Jagger fiercely offered Rotten some advise. “If I was Johnny Rotten, I wouldn’t do either,” he added. “I would not do Top of the Pops, and I would tell Rolling Stone to go fuck themselves. I do not care what Johnny Rotten says. Everything Johnny Rotten says about me is solely because he likes me and thinks I’m so good. It is true. [Smiles]… Johnny Rotten is badmouthing me, and I’m not happy about it. I know he feels compelled to do it because, together with the Queen, I am one of England’s greatest assets.”

Around the same time, Keith Richards chimed in on the Sex Pistols, criticizing their status as pioneering artists. “I don’t think that Bowie or Johnny Rotten or all the Zeppelins are anywhere in the future, let alone the present,” he went on to say. “Jagger believes that punk is currently relevant. It is unrealistic to believe that you must try something new simply for the sake of trying. It’s comparable to when many Dixieland bands added electric guitars and renamed themselves R&B to keep up with the times.”

Continuing, the guitarist stated why The Stones would never follow the punk movement. “For a band of The Stones’ position to do that would have been ludicrous,” he went on to say. “The Stones’ attempt to do that is fatal. Why the heck do we have to sound like the Sex Pistols? What is the point of listening to that shit? “It’s for mass media consumption.

Keith Richards actively dismissed the Sex Pistols, but punk didn’t completely disillusion him. He discusses punk in the interview footage below from June 1978.

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