Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chris Gray

Stewart Home notes the passing last week of Chris Gray: 'Chris is probably best known for his brief membership of the Situationist International and being one of the key figures in the Notting Hill (west London) based King Mob. Chris was the editor and translator of the first English language anthology of French Situationist texts Leaving The 20th Century: The incomplete works of the Situationist International (1974), a book that over a long period was to have an enormous impact'.

Gray is sometimes credited with an unintentional role in the conception of The Sex Pistols. According to The End of Music, a text written by former King Mob members Dave and Stuart Wise, 'Chris Gray had the idea of creating a totally unpleasant pop group (those first imaginings which were later to fuse into The Sex Pistols)'. The Chris Gray Band never seems to have got any further than some graffiti around London, but arguably this notion may have been one of the influences on Malcolm McLaren and Jamie Reid in their involvement in punk.

I tend to agree with Stewart that the notion of The Sex Pistols as situationist prank or recuperation is overplayed, although both Reid and McLaren were involved in the late 1960s London radical milieu in dialogue with the situationists and American groups like Black Mask - a scene in which King Mob were the most significant pole. What is certainly true is that the idea of punk as a straightforward 1976 year zero revolt against the previous 'freak' counter culture is a myth - with many of the key players previously involved in the harder edge of the pre-punk underground (not just Reid and McLaren - think about Joe Strummer and the Elgin Avenue squatters). In this sense at least punk did owe something to the likes of Chris Gray and the other late 60s/early 70s malcontents of Notting Hill and elsewhere.

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