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Reviews for ANARCHY IN THE YEAR ZERO: The Sex Pistols, The Clash & The Class of ’76 by Clinton Heylin

Longlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize 2017

‘A speed read that mirrors the tempo of the times, an oral history from protagonists to punters. For those who weren’t there, but swear they were, now you are.’
– Richard Boon, former Buzzcocks manager

‘Clinton Heylin has finally released his own personal Sgt Pepper – a book about the birth pangs of punk rock itself with every twitch and every breath and every distorted fibre of 1976 noted and put into a thorough context, trying to make sense of just why this most wonderful moment happened. Heylin has pared the narrative to the bone for this dense and condensed speed read through the battlefield and frontline of 1976 culture that totally explains just why this happened and how it happened.’
– John Robb, Louder Than War

‘[Anarchy in the Year Zero] is excellent, sharp, and lays its agenda bare from the off. It’s anti-revisionist. It also does not seek to court favour; those guilty of changing views over time into a falsehood are exposed, with evidence. Shaped by an array of input, both new and historic from a vast number of individuals and sources, Heylin guides us through the birth of punk as it evolved; situations, events and individuals interacting and creating something life changing and remarkable along the way. He leaves you wondering how it was possible for so much to have taken place in ‘year zero’. Leaving the over-intellectualising at the door, Anarchy In The Year Zero provides a welcome, much needed balance. And does so at a lively, digestible pace, with a welcome humorous air blowing through making it all the more enjoyable, oh & readable. Call it a refreshing refresher.’
– Phil Singleton, God Save The Sex Pistols

‘Most accounts of the Punk Revolution restrict themselves to recycling the same, over-familiar sources. Enter Clinton Heylin … [his] fastidious research and forensic examination of many previously unutilised original sources … moves quickly through the year, his pace matches the speed at which the scene develops. Peter Lloyd’s colour photos are equally fresh. The whole book is a glorious reminder of the romance of the pre-internet era, when it was possible to go a gig with no idea of what you were going to see or hear.  Clinton and Route are to be congratulated for putting these thirteen months under the microscope and observing the fascinating creatures scurrying around.’
– Simon Wright, It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll

‘If you want to drink in that brief twelve-month period where the Pistols, The Clash and the Damned represented a rebellion against the forces of Chinnichap, Genesis and 10CC, in the sweltering hot summer of 1976, before it all went horribly wrong, let this tome be your guide.’
– James Gent, We Are Cult

‘The Sex Pistols are one of the most significant bands in the history of modern music yet so few were witness to their brief lifespan, particularly in 1976. That year they gigged relentlessly and developed from Malcolm McLaren’s post-May ’68 Situationist/New York Dolls/Richard Hell wannabe conceit to a band that truly did manifest a ground zero for rock’n’roll that continues to permeate not only every aspect of underground music but as a constant in mainstream culture. It wasn’t just the polarizing reactionary affront of scoundrel urban youth mixed up with a Svengali, it was outstanding songwriting and, by mid-year, an ability to perform as an incendiary lightning rod of inspiration. Heylin has done a masterful job of mapping the when, where and who’s who in the Pistols pied piper saga. He connects the dots and draws the lines from one gig to the next elucidating an atmosphere of England where the future of intelligent rock’n’roll heeds the call of punk in a dismal environment of bedraggled hippie/prog boredom. Key players from the inner circle of Vivienne Westwood, Jordan, Chrissie Hynde, Pete Perrett; to the Bromley Contingent of Siouxsie, Severin, Billy; to the Manchester art school of Buzzcocks, Fall, Morrissey; to the London mob of the just forming Clash, Damned, Gen X et al; to the outliers Pauline Murray, Mark Stewart, Steve Strange; to Sniffin’ Glue’s Mark Perry; to a host of NME/Sounds/MM letter writers – they all enter the maelstrom in the heatwave of 1976 UK as active witnesses and Heylin traces it via any and all available archive, finding order in the sometimes chaotic memory banks. Myths and legends are sorted out (Pistols and Clash had a gig the very same night as the Ramones at the Roundhouse … sorry Please Kill Me) and Heylin, while consistently studious, voices it all with a tone both fun and biting, and with enough quickie obscurant references to keep all us punk rock geeks in chortle mode. But where he really scores is by examining the extant audio documents from the slew of Pistols shows tracking a band whose value was, and still is, debated by audiences and journalists alike. With serious critical facility, Heylin hears undeniable and visionary greatness from a band that truly did turn the industry on its ear, set it ablaze and, with a very real dynamic of group psychosis and tension, compose a catalogue of brilliant music. And, for the lucky few, a host of whom are present in this book, a life defining experience. After the post-Bill Grundy media exploitation, the impossible relationship between Rotten and McLaren (and Matlock and…) and the post-76 Sid Vicious on bass/USA debacle, the Pistols, of course, go off the rails. But from November 1975 to December 1976 they were, by Heylin’s fine research, progressively phenomenal and the author, with a palpable excitement in recapturing such an extraordinary time, offers the Sex Pistols and their fans a well deserved dignity.’
– Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth

Anarchy-in-the-Year-Zero

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