LONDON — Joe Corré’s plan to burn his collection of historic punk memorabilia — amassed because his dad was Malcolm McLaren and his mother is Vivienne Westwood — is wrong.
Corré says he will light a bonfire of
rare Sex Pistols recordings and old clothing belonging to Johnny Rotten on Saturday at a location to be announced, either Camden, Brixton or Chelsea. He is ostensibly doing it as a protest to the way that the legacy of punk has been co-opted by the establishment. He is disgusted, he says, by Punk London, a year-long retrospective of vintage punk paraphernalia and culture sponsored by various museums and the city. He thinks the Queen now endorses punk.
The incineration of these collectables is the reprehensible act of a millionaire whose most significant achievement was choosing parents who were also millionaires. Corré is also the founder of Agent Provocateur. He sold the lingerie chain in 2010 for £60 million. He founded that company with money he made by selling his collection of punk stuff, a collection which only existed because of his mum and dad. He bought the collection back after he became rich(er), and now plans to destroy it. Corré’s mother, Westwood, has endorsed the fire.
I contacted Corré to tell him what I thought of him and to offer him the opportunity to comment. He said he would get back to me but then … didn’t.
He told The Guardian: “You know what? Punk is dead. Stop conning a younger generation that it somehow has any currency to deal with the issues that they face or has any currency to create the way out of the issues that they face. It’s not and it’s time to think about something else.”
His statement is delusional. No one in the “younger generation” thinks punk is currently a solution to “the issues they face.” And why is arson the preferred alternative?
This is history. Punk’s influence on Western culture has been massive. It is worth understanding where it came from. People should be able to see its founding documents and holy artefacts.
The fact that the collection has twice been transacted by Corré — it’s worth £5 million — tells you that it does have value. These aren’t meaningless objects.
They are meaningful to me. I write as someone who played a very small part in the history of punk: My first published byline, written from Liverpool, was in MaximumRocknRoll, the US punk fanzine, in the late 1980s. I learned to type when I published my own printed ‘zine from Merseyside (it was called “Terminal,” circulation 1,000). And, bizarrely in hindsight, I was thanked in the liner notes of Napalm Death’s first LP, “Scum,” in 1987. The Sex Pistols inspired me as a teenager and, indirectly, got me into writing as a career. I don’t want to see their creations destroyed.
Corre had no role in the creation of punk — he was 10 in 1977. He has lived in the shadow of his parents’ legacy all his life. The fact that he now wants to incinerate his dead father’s creations as the flames reflect off his mother’s face seems … disturbing. It says more about Corré’s personality than it does about punk. What kind of person burns history? What kind of person destroys their parents’ work?
Corré and Westwood are encouraging publicity for the event — they will probably enjoy this article — which tells you something about their motivation: Two millionaires who want attention for a destructive act. If Corré’s motivations were genuine, if he really believed the collection was in some way harmful to the yoof, he would dispense of it quietly without alerting the press. He could give it to a charity or a political cause, and let them sell it.
There is a punk response to this, of course.
I am not encouraging violence against Corré or his mother. But if a mob of protesters were to show up at the burning and somehow liberate the collection before the first match is lit, then I would not be unhappy.
This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.
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