Culturally for me, the past few days have consisted of watching two related films: the documentary Inside Deep Throat and the newly released Linda Lovelace biopic titled simply Lovelace. I’ve also been reading Young Flesh Required, a book that actually has nothing to do with porn unless you include Malcolm McLaren’s attempts to entice Russ Meyer into directing The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle – this being co-written by Alan G. Parker and Mick O’Shea and subtitled Growing Up with The Sex Pistols.
Around forty years ago the movie Linda Lovelace was a phenomenon, described as ‘the trendsetting film that brought pornography into pop culture’ while its eponymous star was hailed as ‘the Poster Girl for the Sexual Revolution’. The biggest Hollywood celebs of the day like Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty went to see it, Jackie Onassis even went to see it, swathes of Americans must have taken in a screening because it’s still claimed to be the most commercially successful independent film ever made but before too long a backlash from the religious right and radical feminists had sprung up and the movie tried across the USA on obscenity charges.
Inside Deep Throat charts these important cultural shifts in Nixon era America and is the more highly recommended of the two. Lovelace is very watchable but its somewhat tricksy screenplay can’t quite escape the whiff of a misery memoir adapted for a made for TV daytime movie.
Certainly its stars Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard both deliver fine performances and there’s a very strong supporting cast too that includes an almost unrecognisable Sharon Stone, Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire’s Gyp Rossetti) and one of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars, Juno Temple, who is coincidentally the daughter of Julien Temple, who eventually replaced Meyer as director of the aforementioned Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle.
And maybe this nugget of trivia triggered my subconscious to make connections, as I read Young Flesh Required, between the moral hypocrisy of Glaswegian councillors back in 1976 towards the prospect of the Anarchy in the U.K. tour visiting their city and their greater tolerance towards the films being shown at porn picture houses in the city at the time.
Glasgow never had a Times Square or even a Soho back in the 1970s but there did exist a thriving little network of seedy cinemas, the best known of these in 1976 being the Tatler Club on Sauchiehall Street, the Curzon on Charing Cross and Jamaica Street’s Classic Grand – which is only a few minutes walk down from the old Glasgow Apollo, where the Pistols, Heartbreakers, Damned and Clash were scheduled to play.
Occasionally politicians (and religious spokespeople) would hit out against these pornos but I don’t remember any of them ever being as vocal as they were about the supposed misbehaviour of The Sex Pistols, which at this point, before the arrival of Sid Vicious into their ranks, was relatively tame.
OK, encouraged by a hack, some potted plants were thrown around a hotel in Leeds earning the headline PUNK ROCK GROUP WRECK HOTEL but that’s probably as bad as things got on the delinquent-o-meter and remember this was an era where actually wrecking hotels was considered de rigueur among many rock acts – there were good reasons why Led Zeppelin’s favourite LA hotel the Continental Hyatt House was nicknamed the Riot House, so it’s safe to assume that the main problem with the Pistoleros was their ‘bad language’ on LWT’s Today Show.
Back then, swearing on television was considered by many to be utterly abhorrent while nowadays, for example, a man born in Johnstone, Gordon Ramsay could make anything Steve Jones said to Bill Grundy sound tame by comparison – fast forward thirty years from Grundy and the Queen was awarding Ramsay with an OBE at an investiture ceremony held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and today Jonesy puffing away openly on a ciggy inside a TV studio might strike many as more outrageous than his choice of language.
The times have a-fucking changed; and to further prove this point, here’s a couple of ads placed on the same page of a local newspaper on the 2nd of December, 1976, the day after the Pistols gained instant notoriety throughout the land and by which time the possibility of the band being banned in Glasgow was already under discussion in the Scottish press.
And here’s another ad for the for a pair of films shown the following summer around the time that Pretty Vacant became the second single by The Sex Pistols to make the top ten of the British singles chart.
Perhaps The Younger the Better is a film that examines when the ideal age is to learn a foreign language and School Girls For Sale, like Young Flesh Required, could conceivably have been given a misleading title but I doubt it and I’m not going to do any research into either film for obvious reasons.
I’m told too that the films being shown in these cinemas were all pretty much softcore but nevertheless, surely their content merited closer attention than the presence at the Apollo of Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook (I won’t go into Malcolm McLaren’s Naked Boy T-shirt here).
The single Glasgow Anarchy date was, of, course not allowed to take place; the screenings went ahead, seven days per week.
Anybody crusading against porn flicks being shown in Glasgow or any other British towns or cities would achieve an entirely hollow victory over the next decade or so; the demise of the porno picture houses, though, owed nothing to the success of campaigns against them but was down to a purely commercial reason – the videocassette boom, which went from being the preserve of the rich in 1976 to becoming commonplace in households throughout the country during the ’80s.
The Classic somehow managed to limp into the early 1990s as the Cannon Grand but by the time of The Sex Pistols’ first ever Glasgow show at the SECC as part of their Filthy Lucre Tour in the summer of 1996 every one of the pornos had gone.
Nowadays the Classic Grand has been refurbished and operates as a Rock club, while in the latest in a stream of incarnations, the Tatler is now Club 520, which features graffiti from local artists on its walls and apparently is very popular with students, who mostly wouldn’t have been born back in its Tatler Club days when it advertised itself as an ‘uncensored movie club’.
A Wee Footnote: Young Flesh Required again repeats Johnny Rotten’s claim that it was Glasgow’s Lord Provost who came out with the ‘I feel we have enough problems in Glasgow without importing yobbos’ line but in reality it was Robert Gray, the Chairman of Glasgow District Council’s Licensing Committee who said this. Anyway, I prefer Johnny’s version so feel free to ignore this.