It’s been a big year for classical rock music. This month will see Danny Boyle’s Pistol series, about the rise and fall of Sex Pistols, land on Disney+. Dirty and fury, as the Daily Mirror front page reported in 1976, would sit alongside Toy Story, Captain America and the Fuzzbucket parody of ET 1986 in Mickey Mouse’s hometown.

They’re not the only legacy act to retell their story in a flashy fashion in 2022. Late May featured Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, starring Austin Butler as Presley and Tom Hanks as curator. singer’s agent, Colonel Tom Parker. Midas Man, a biopic about The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, is also scheduled for this year and more in the making.

Timothée Chalamet spent some time during the first summer of the pandemic breaking out around Greenwich Village and Woodstock with a copy of Bob Dylan’s memoir in hand, preparing to play him in the delayed biopic. many times Going Electric. Kiss, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Grateful Dead and Joey Ramone are all said to be receiving treatment for biographical illnesses.

But what could the Sex Pistols mean to a generation that is likely to know John Lydon as Johnny Rotten as they know him as the guy from the avocado commercials? And why are they and their Mojo-approved brethren suddenly drawn to the huge, famous, prize-worry biological works?

Austin Butler to play Elvis Presley in new biopic by singer Baz Luhrmann

/ Warner Bros

Part of it is money. Traditionally, the way studios introduce legacy works to new generations has been with new formats: the moments when cassettes replaced vinyl, CDs replaced tapes, and CD streaming replaced all. all pretext for a huge marketing push. It’s a win-win for the labels: they don’t need to download any new music or spend time building an artist’s profile; they just put vintage albums on a new, usually more expensive technology and started putting champagne in the rock.

However, that’s only a fraction of the people who still buy music today. So how does a studio or manager sweat for an asset like legacy when your play can’t tour anymore because they’ve broken up or died and when you can’t rely on your fans? Existing graves to buy back things? A biopic. It’s the best way to get young people involved in your action while reminding fans who first remembered them for why they’re so great.

Make an old (or dead) star look young, sexy and fresh again – look, Elton John isn’t seventy yet; he’s Taron Egerton! – is a reliable booster for streaming numbers. Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody fueled a spike in Queen streams in the final quarter of 2018 – No artist has more songs in the top 200 most streamed chartsand 70% of Queen’s streams come from fans under the age of 35.

After Rocketman, John’s stock was rarely higher. In 2021, his collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa earned him two number-one singles, the first time he had two top 10 singles in a calendar year since 2002.

Pistol director Danny Boyle

/ hand out

But there’s something else going on here, too, and a quote Boyle made about Pistol points to why we’re seeing so many biodevices these days.

“It was the tipping point for British street culture,” he said in a statement when the film was announced, “where ordinary young people have the stage and vent and their fashions… and everyone one must see and listen.”

That makes it seem like Pistol will curb the band’s nihilism and abrasiveness as just part of punk’s innovative, creative, and effective average revolution. They weren’t just the stupid mutiny of Sid Vicious slashing himself with a broken bottle; they embody rebellion and individual expression, with a skepticism towards resilient corporate cultures and mindless acceptance of class rigor.

It is not the future for you, and many of England’s dreams. Suddenly, the Sex Pistols felt a lot less time-trapped as a phenomenon.

That Pistol is on Disney+ and not any other streaming service that’s also relevant. After hitting huge success with The Beatles: Get Back, the gripping wall-flying documentary turns the most familiar and popular of all classic rock into a one-off magical Furthermore, Disney has found a sub-branch that matches the profile of its platform.

Brian Epstein

/ PA Archive

According to Nielsen, Disney+ audiences tend to be younger — as of last summer 23% of all streaming service users were over 55, but only 9% of Disney+ users were in that group. That is exactly the younger base that Pistol, Elvis and Midas Man will try to exploit.

Correcting longstanding shortcomings in the stories of bands and movements is another. Aside from Vivienne Westwood, women are rarely given multiple roles in the punk story. But in Pistol, Maisie Williams will play model and actress Pamela Rooke, and Chrissie Hynde, Siouxsie Sioux and Soo Catwoman will also appear.

Judging by its trailer, Luhrmann’s Elvis will attempt to do something similar. In America, rumors that Presley was racist and said in an interview that black people were only fit to “buy my plate and polish my shoes” spread during the 1950s, though not true. The idea that Presley became incredibly rich and successful by using rock ‘n’ roll, built on the innovation of black musicians and producers, and made it all the more palatable for white audiences still exists.

In 1989, Public Enemy’s Chuck D bluntly dismissed Presley’s suspicions in Fight the Power: “Elvis is a hero to most people, but he never meant anything bad to me – you see – let’s get that racist out loud, plain and simple.”

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Official Trailer

Elvis would tacitly rebuke all of that. We’ll see a young Presley sneak into a black church service and discover the power of music, plus it’s hinted that Presley isn’t pleased he’s not allowed to talk about Martin’s death Luther King and a black figure point out that “they could put me in jail for walking across the street, but you’re a famous white boy”.

In combining King’s music and life with the black communities he lived with growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and emphasizing his connection to King-Presley cried while watching the video of the king’s funeraland emphasized that he ended the TV special back in 1968 with the King-inspired song ‘If I Can Dream’ instead of ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ – while acknowledging the dish Presley’s debt to artists of color, Elvis will try to reorient him as a sincere advocate of civil rights.

Meanwhile Rocketman shows John having fun, sexy, fun sex with his then-manager John Reid, while Bohemian Rhapsody gives Freddie Mercury a smack of sex. A brief scene in which Mercury goes to the bathroom with a man, presumably having casual sex, makes the odd parts of Mercury’s life look grotesque and amusing while Rocketman is celebrating.

All of this means it’s no longer enough to just tell the story of an artist’s life, capture critical attention with a superb central performance, and wait for the streams to air. .

Now, a biopic has to put through the ideological lens through which an artist focuses: Presley becomes seriously, empathically politically conscious; Elton John finds happiness encompassing his sexuality; The Sex Pistols showed young people just how powerful they were (it’s anyone’s guess what Kiss was going to do. The story of the battle of an unlucky-multinational-licensed band. -the machine to win the right to open a Kiss themed minigolf course in Las Vegas can be a tough sale).

There is a profound change happening here. Active biological substances renew as they memorialize. Rebooting a legacy act is more likely to succeed if you can convince newcomers not only that an artist is really good, but that the artist fits their worldview and mean something other than themselves.

What we’re seeing is the process by which baby boomers’ musical heroes are gently being appreciated out of their hands and passed on to Generation Z, along with a series of new stories that make them resonate again. on an emotional level.

It’s easier to imagine being in an England where young people aspire to break a system that doesn’t serve them, as in Pistol, than to hear a bunch of other talking heads going on about a Britain. with three TV channels and still see … marked with bomb sites from the Second World War.

Stop your cheap comments, as Rotten used to sing. We know what we feel.

Pistol premieres on Disney+ from May 31


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