Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die:
Punk Graphics, 1976-1986
and conversation with John
Museum of Art & Design
Punk Lust: Raw Provocation 1971-1985
Museum of Sex
New York, NY
April 14 & 15, 2019
Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die gallery
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976-1986
“explores the visual language of punk through hundreds of its most memorable
graphics, from the shocking remixes of expropriated images and texts to the
DIY zines and flyers that challenged the commercial slickness of the mainstream
media.” So says the Museum of Art & Design.
The opening celebration of the show consisted of a two parts; a convo with
John Lydon from 2-3PM then a view of the exhibition followed by a members only
opening reception with another convo with Lydon from 7-9PM.
We went to the 2-3 convo followed by a walk through of the exhibition. It was
a sold out event for press and ticket holders only. We had to attend the conversation
with John Lydon first, then see the exhibition after. We snagged a seat right
upfront and waited to see him...John Lydon (!!!!) Wow to finally set eyes on
Johnny Rotten….so exciting!!!
At 2PM there were opening statements by the director of the museum then out
comes John with Gillian McCain, (co-author of Please Kill Me) who was supposed
to lead the conversation, but ya know, John’s a one man show really, but
she did get to throw a few questions his way.
Dapper as usual he wore black baggy harem pants and a black vest over what
looked to be a Japanese designer billowy shirt (maybe Issey
Mayaki???), along with a red tie. One of the first questions Gillian asked
“What are you wearing?” was because the outfit did look
like designer wear. John just screamed “Clothes!!!!” with a smile.
He carried a black leather tote with red handles that matched his outfit. We
wondered what was in the bag since he usually brings along his own booze and
The convo rolled along at a good pace and John was very convivial. He started
out trying to prove the point that he and the Pistols never made any money,
and that he still hasn’t seen any money. “I don’t think Malcolm
ever cashed a check.”...um, come on John, really? We don't believe that
for a minute!
Other points were about how the Pistols were
an active band before McLaren got a hold of them.
“We were packing places long before Malcom” and “"The
Sex pIstols were never a gimmick!! We were not a punk band!! We
were a band playing the music we wanted and then punk came along.”
but he later adamantly pointed out that “You wouldn’t
have a punk movement if it weren’t for Johnny boy!!!”
as he poked his thumb into his chest. He shared that he thought
the New York punk artists were too self-conscious and too serious
about themselves. “You know they were ‘ahhhtists’
and art has been buggered up by artists!!” And “They
all became lemmings and moo moo cows.” And what about the
Ramones? “They were do do do wop without the wop.”
When asked about his influences he said he was allowed to play
the DJ at his parents parties so he was influenced by their music
and later by the Kinks and Ska
Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die
If you’ve read any of his books you know his bout with meningitis as
a young boy had a deep and lasting affect on him. He still talks
passionately about it and how it scarred him for life and shaped
what he became later. He also was adamant that the Sex
Pistols were all about the culture around them in England
growing up. He mentioned being kicked out of school at a young
age because he was labeled disruptive since he asked too many
questions. “In the Catholic school you just shut up and
listen, you don’t ask questions. Don’t bother because
you have no future! No future!! You see we were all about the
culture.” Also, as in his books, he mentioned that there
was a huge garbage collector strike in the mid-70’s and
“there were brightly colored trash bags piled high lining
the streets. So what did we do? “Well we’ll take a
garbage bag and cut a hole for the head and two holes for our
arms and there you go!!””
Fanzines in Too Fast
Someone in the audience asked a question about the recent and now infamous
run-in with Marky Ramone and Henry Rollins. That brought out some big news!!!
He admitted to being obnoxious and over the top...and drunk...at that Punk
series panel discussion. He spread his arms wide and proudly announced “I’M
OFF THE BOOZE!!!” hinting that he had learned something from that experience:
how there’s no need to be an asshole to that extent and how alcohol can
help him get to that point. He also talked about drugs and how they are just
boring and stupid. He really emphasized heroin "It really is a terrible
terrible drug!!....But of course we had Sid." and continued with "You
know how he got his hair to stick up? He'd hold his head upside down in an oven
to dry his hair!!! That's how stupid Sid was." Poor Sid!!!
Buttons from Too Fast
Gillian asked him “What is your secret to a long and
successful marriage?” John said “Well you’ve
got to put it out there, be honest really….”
And when asked about whether he is doing music now he explained that his wife
is ill and he has two brothers with cancer. So his attention is elsewhere at
the moment. But he did add that when things settle down he’ll get back
to it. He also mentioned he’s had problematic illnesses himself and the
medication has made him gain weight. So, there ya go... the answer to our questions
about his weight.
All in all, like I announced to my row-mates afterwards, and they wholeheartedly
agreed, “I think I love him more now that in 77!!” Mr. Lydon was
open, honest, funny, entertaining and brilliant...and kinda self-effacing for
someone with such an immense ego.
The exhibition was on two floors. It was pretty much sterile and unpunk feeling.
There were lots of album covers, record store posters and promo
items like buttons. Though there were fanzines and some gig posters
exhibited it mostly felt kind of corporate. Most of the imagery
was created by the record companies. Not a lot of DIY stuff which
to us really represents Punk. One nice touch was an area with
two turntables and an array for punk albums to listen to! The
typical bands you’d expect were represented Sex Pistols,
The Clash, Joy Division, 999, The Damned, Pretenders etc. There
are a lot of images out there on the web of this show. We only
took a slim few. Too Fast runs through August 18, 2019.
Punk Lust - Raw Provocation
Down in Midtown was Punk Lust: Raw Provocation: 1972-1985
at the Museum of Sex. This show felt a lot more punk!...and a couple Boston
people were represented which was pretty awesome.
It's set up a long dark space on the third floor. Against the backdrops of
pegboards and chain link fence there is an extensive collection of great stuff...the
real punk stuff: Ripped t-shirts, DIY gig posters, fanzines, photos, punk outfits
on manequins, videos etc, all with commentary.
Rita (Daniels) Rat's Dolls t-shirt
As the name implies the focus here is on Punk and Sex...or lack thereof. Huh?
The theory put forward in this show was that Punk wasn’t
about having sex but about using sexual imagery, attire and language
to shock and say “fuck you”. But YES punk was most
definitely about having sex and people saying “Let’s
fuck” too...the whole thing happenened not too long after
the birth control pill became widely used and before anything
like AIDS reared its ugly head....and punks were having sex…anywhere…and
everywhere they could!! And it was about the freedom to have sex
and be open about it and even transgender punks came out and did
There's a LOT represented in his show: The Plasmatics,
Janye County, Cherry Vanilla,
Stiv Bators, Rita Rat, Mark
Morrisroe, The Dolls, Sex Pistols,
Buzzcocks. Ha!! they even have an awesome life-size
stand-up cut-out of Iggy holding 'his own".
In this show they also talk about the importance of the DIY aspect of punk;
making your own t-shirts (like Rita Rat’s
New York Dolls t-shirts on display), making your own gig posters,
making your own fanzines (among others they had a couple of Dirt
magazines but NO BGN!!).