London’s Burning: Joe Corré’s Punk Collection and False Anarchy in The UK

Matty Owen


I’m quietly confident in saying that anyone reading this will probably know what “punk-rock” is, or at least what it looks like, in a stylistic sense. If you’ve honestly not heard of punk (Maybe brush up on your pop-culture, ey mate?), it can be summed up as a rock ‘n’ roll derived music genre and way of life born in New York/London in the 70’s. Essential punk bands any music fan should know include The Clash/The Ramones/L7/Dead Kennedys/Bikini kill/Discharge/Chaos UK/Black Flag/Disorder/X-Ray Spex/Bad Brains/Misfits/Blondie/The Minutemen/Suicidal Tendencies. This is about one tenth of the bands I originally wrote down!

In mid-seventies London, punk was stylized by two influential characters: Malcolm McLaren- a London born artist, boutique owner, and, most notably, manager of The Sex Pistols and Vivienne Westwood – another Londoner famous for her jewellery/clothes, political activism, and running a shop with McLaren. And let’s not overlook the original ideas and help of everyone involved in the scene, like everything else I’ve ever read has done; after all, punk was and is built on the active involvement of those who are a part of various small “scenes” across the world.

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John Lydon at the opening night of the Roxy in Covent Garden 1977. Photograph by Erica Echenberg

In ‘67 Westwood and McLaren had a child, Joe Corré. Corré went on to found the lingerie brand ‘Agent Provocateur’, which is now mainly owned by the private equity multinational ‘3i’, in fact, he was offered an MBE for his services to the fashion industry, however he declined. Today, Corré is the brand director at Illamasqua, a British cosmetics company. In November 2016, he made headlines for controversially burning £5m worth of punk memorabilia on a boat in the river Thames, this includes effigies of politicians (Cameron, May, Osborne), Sex Pistols vinyl, old posters, and clothes. It even included some original Vivienne Westwood garments. Though there is no definitive list of what was burned, and henceforth no way of ‘Joe Public’ truly valuing the items, the general impression of it is that most of it was one of a kind.

Mr Corré made a blog post claiming that he’s going to expose, “…the hypocrisy at the core of the hi-jacking of 40 years of Anarchy in the UK”, and he’s also said that, “Punk was never meant to be nostalgic”. And fair play Joe, as an active member of the UK punk scene, I can totally understand why the Museum of London doing an exhibition on our community, and getting the mayor and the queen to endorse it without putting back into it would rub you up the wrong way. But, when it comes to speaking out against hypocrisy, Corré is totally “Out Of Step” (badum-tsscchhhh!). Speaking to the LA Weekly, Henry Rollins – the notorious singer of Black Flag, turned spoken-word artist/comic – said “Corré sold a lot of the pieces, took the money and created an underwear line called Agent Provocateur, which he sold for $74m. He took some of that money, bought back the items, then set them on fire… so he might be against nostalgia, but he’s obviously making a profit [out of it]”. After all, punk is all about the profit, right? So, if you read between the lines a teeny bit, the man who claimed that, “Punk is a marketing tool to sell you something you don’t need. Conformity in uniform”, essentially used punk to make a boatload of money, then used that money to make more money out of stuff that people don’t really need, and then staged a public event which obviously, and predictably, brought attention to his brand, and then claims to hate on both nostalgia, conformity and hypocrisy. If anyone can explain how 1+1 makes 2 there, be my guest.

Joe Corre Burns His Entire £5 Million Punk Collection

Joe Corré burns his entire £5 million punk collection on November 26, 2016. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

Tim Sommer- former Atlantic Records A&R representative and one of the bass players of Hugo Largo, an NYC slowcore band- really hits the nail on the head regarding the pointlessness of Corré’s actions. Speaking to observer.com he writes that, “Corré is worth £50m [so] this is an empty gesture…if a non-famous punk rock fan… wanted to protest the distortion of punk by igniting his collection of [rare] Misfits 45’s worth $1,200, that’d be truly meaningful. That fan would be going, “I am so pissed off, so I am sacrificing something of real value to me! I could sell those Misfits 45’s on eBay and buy a new computer, or put money aside to send my kid to [college]… but no!…” . Frankly I agree with Sommer, the fact that this is a minor ding in his otherwise bulging bank account just emphasises the fact that he’s merely an out of touch member of the bourgeoisie indulging his ego; as Sommer goes on, “[this] burns down no palace and feeds no hungry, but it will photograph beautifully.”

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After the Sex Pistols and their art-school esque pranks on the Queen’s image, punk rock grew up, realised what ‘anarchy’ actually means, and gave birth to bands with political and social messages worthy of inspiring thousands and thousands of children and adults alike to make long lasting lifestyle choices, encompassing anti-racism, anti- sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, environmental consciousness, community ethics, veganism/vegetarianism, straight edge, PMA, squatting, and general political consciousness.  Bands like Dead Kennedys, The Clash (Although they were a first wave punk band, still deserve credit.), Cro-mags, Los Crudos, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Włochaty, Leftover Crack, The Minutemen, Subhumans, Fifteen, Aus Rotten, xRepentancex, Bad Brains, G.L.O.S.S, and Crass have inspired ethics in people that have made a genuine impact in today’s society. Even long after punk is truly forgotten, and provided that Trump and Putin don’t murder us all, these ethics will continue to make an impact in generations to come.

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Minor Threat – Image credit – Glen E Friedman

Today punk is underground, but strong. Regardless of what you may see written in the display in the Museum of London.

Oh, and in typical punk fashion: big up the boys n girls in The Migraines, Volatile Idea, SHOT!, The Dub Righters, Public Order Act, Skinners, Flowerwolf, Mercurius Rising, 2 Sick Monkeys, Nuke on Route, Gurgle, Flowers of Flesh and Blood, Gunpowder Plot, Riggots, Atterkop, Pot Pourri, Double Cross, The Domestics, Dis-Tank, The Blue Carpet Band, Butcher Baby, GYB, Utlinks, Jawless, Miserable Wretch, Wonk Unit, FUK, Rash Decision, Perma War, SickPig, Pints, Overload, Who Cares?, Cydernide, Trees of Rage, Plumknee, Rotten Foxes, The Babes, BKS, The Restarts, Inner Terrestrials, Abandon Cause, Obscene Revenge, Vapour, Threads, Crows, Boycott the Baptist, Easydread, Pizza Tramp, Grand Collapse, Hunters Moon, Raw Poo, Piss On Authority, Regret, Risky (the man, the ledgend), Carnival Punks Crew, Fuk Reddin Crew, the Reknaw lot, TNS Records, Riotska Records, Kibou Records, Pumpkin Records, A World We Never Made Records, Made in the Meth Lab Records, Never Fall Into Silence Records, T-Chances, The Birds Nest, The Red Lion, The Chelsea, DSI Studios, Overdrive Studios, and THE WORLDWIDE PUNK COMMUNITY.

 

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