Malcolm McLaren blanked me Part 2

For the benefit of younger readers, I must tie off some loose ends from part 1. Glen Matlock was the original bassist and main songwriter for the Sex Pistols. He was said to have been sacked for “liking the Beatles”. A talented man, he has had a successful career over the last 45 years, despite his ejection from the most iconic of punk bands. He was replaced by a homicidal non-musician, Sid Vicious. The band went steadily downhill from then on.

John Lydon made much more interesting music in his second band, Public Image Ltd. He now lives in California, where lately he has been a Trump apologist. The Pistols guitarist, Steve Jones, and their excellent drummer, Paul Cook, have had fairly conventional rock careers. Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose in 1979, some months after he stabbed his girlfriend to death.


My account of the birth of punk rock in suburban Kent was rejected by the editor of the Oldie, who commented that it was not quite right for his magazine. In a funny way, I was pleased about that, as it suggested I am not quite as old as I thought. Rather than trying again with Mojo magazine, I decided to take the opportunity to revive Khrushchev’s Shoe after a four year pause.

Last year, Catherine Robinson and I wrote a chapter for Mind, State and Society: Social History of Psychiatry and Mental Health in Britain 1960–2010, edited by George Ikkos and Nick Bouras. It has recently been published by Cambridge University Press and it is available on-line free of charge. George and Nick have done a great job, and I am proud to have contributed. It is a really excellent book and my involvement has encouraged my interest in history. Lately I have made several contributions to projects where events that I witnessed or participated in have been examined as social history. This has provoked me to write about experiences from my early adulthood. Old people are prone to see their earlier lives as history rather than mere reminiscence, and I am no different in this to anyone else. The results will comprise the blogs that follow.

Whilst this explains why I have resumed blogging, it does not explain why I stopped four years ago. The main factor was that I had run out of measured and rational ways to comment on what was happening in the world. A backdrop of Brexit-fuelled xenophobia, the election of Trump and the incompetence of the Theresa May government made it difficult to write anything other than inchoate ranting or “I told you so”, neither of which make for entertaining reading.

After a while, the Tory party chose Alexander “Boris” Johnson as its leader and he purged the Parliamentary Conservative Party of everyone who had any integrity. The trouble with BJ is that, like Trump, he seems to have been elected because of precisely those qualities that make him so obviously unfit for office. On becoming Prime Minister, Johnson proved the point by immediately appointing Nadine Dorres to the post of Minister of State for Mental Health,  Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety. In the light of her long backbench record of support for bigotry, it seemed best not to comment. I stopped trying to resume the blog.

A minor factor in the silence from Khrushchev’s Shoe was a confusing shift in my professional sense of self. This occurred when I first learned that I was to receive the 2017 Royal College of Psychiatrists Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was entirely unexpected. In addition to sheer astonishment, I was touched and pleased. It was a huge honour. Nonetheless, in the months between been told about it and the public announcement, two well-known aphorisms nagged at me reproachfully.

One was from AJP Taylor in a 1953 New Statesman review of a book about William Cobbett:

“The Establishment draws its recruits from outside as soon as they are ready to conform to its standards and become respectable. There is nothing more agreeable than to make peace with the Establishment – and nothing more corrupting.”

As a former Communist who had become Britain’s most famous historian, Taylor may have been referring to himself.

The other was one of John Lydon’s more memorable utterances. At his last gig before leaving the Sex Pistols, he ended the show by sneering at the Californian audience:

“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

He was probably talking about his relationship with Malcolm McLaren, but it stands as a commentary on the band’s inauthenticity.

In a brief interview published in the RCPsych Insight magazine about the award, I alluded to earlier events in Bromley. I said that the award had surprised me because I had “always regarded myself as a Sex Pistols kinda guy”.

Shortly after the article was published, I received an angry email from a retired consultant psychiatrist who had read it. More than 10 years earlier, acting in a professional capacity, I had been critical of the consultant’s management of a case. This Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggested that I deserved alternative recognition, a “Lifetime Utter Cunt” Award. In a rare moment of humility, I did not feel that I had really done enough to deserve such recognition, but I could immediately think of quite a few people who had.

The thing that appeared to have provoked real rage was my reference to the Sex Pistols. “Fuck off, Glen Matlock!” wrote the aggrieved psychiatrist, “From a true punk”.