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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 11:59 GMT
The legacy of punk
John Lydon, the man who led a "shock and awe" cultural assault on Britain in the 1970s as lead singer of the Sex Pistols, is to appear in the coming series of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

The legendary punk rocker will appear in the ITV series alongside glamour model Jordan, one-hit wonder Peter Andre, and old-time DJ Mike Read. Genius.

His critics will debate who is exploiting who in this scenario, and whether it is the final sell-out in punk's long line of sell-outs. But the legacy of punk reaches far beyond reality TV.

The "no future" philosophy of punk espoused by Johnny Rotten was only ever half the story. Many punks threw their energies into fighting one of the big political issues of the day: racism.

John Lydon, singing with the Sex Pistols (left) and today
The two faces of John Lydon
In 1976 Rock Against Racism was set up by a group of punk musicians and political activists, and was later supported by a number of acts, including the Clash. It has since mutated into Love Music Hate Racism - a charity supported today by mainstream acts such as Ms Dynamite, DJ Asha and Doves.

Its sister organisation, the Anti-Nazi League, was founded in 1977 and continues to play a major role in corralling opposition to racism.

Like just about everything these days, punk is either enjoying a revival or due for one soon.

Sex Pistols on tour
Attitude is still everything
Retching guitars and raw vocals have certainly been a recurrent favourite since the days of Sham 69 and Stiff Little Fingers, but it is the "do-it-yourself" ethic of punk that is its biggest legacy in music. Today, groups can mix an album in a laptop - no need to pay for pricey multi-track studios.

"Punk", the word, has also become a keenly applied suffix, generally denoting a rough, raw element to a type of music, such as skate punk, anarcho punk. Although quite why bubblegum trio de jour Busted warrant the label "punk pop" is anyone's guess.

It was clothes, not music, which first brought punk to mainstream attention. Songs were often banned, and bands played in underground clubs, but sullen youths in DMs and spiked haircuts were harder to miss.

Punks and Liz Hurley
Not as far apart as you think...
Out went the flares of disco and natural fibres of hippy chic; in came all things synthetic - nylon, rubber, lurid colours and black. This emphasis on image was no accident. Malcolm McLaren's then-wife, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, put much into the Sex Pistols' look.

Today ripped fishnets and stencilled leather no longer turn heads. But punk's influence lives on, in the sales racks jammed with bondage pants and striped tops, and in collections by Westwood and Alexander McQueen. Even the late Gianni Versace co-opted the safety pin for that Liz Hurley dress.

Energy. Attitude. Humour. A desire to shock. An enthusiasm for DIY techniques and found objects.

Sarah Lucas
YBA Sarah Lucas
Punk's visual language - typified by Jamie Reid's collage for the Sex Pistols' Never Mind... album - can also be found in work by contemporary artists such as Sarah Lucas and Gavin Turk (both at a formative age when punk was at its peak). Graphic designers, too, found a new edge in punk's rough-edged images.

But punk and art have long been closely entwined. Arts students were as crucial to the movement as working class concerns, and the New York art scene is thought to have helped sowed the seeds of punk.

Nor did punk pioneer the use of found objects and photo montage - cash-strapped art students have long used whatever is to hand in their works, as did the surrealists.

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

A truer legacy is the riots at the Battle of Seattle, the books Fast Food Nation and No Logo, and any of the growing underground musical scenes.
Andrew Davies, England

Punk in many guises is alive and kicking in the UK these days. There is a strong DIY ethic and bands/promoters/record labels communicate freely using the internet, which has opened up new opportunities to get messages across and create a sort of underground community.
Rich, Wales

Punk was a liberating movement. Anarchy is about freedom. Few, if any, laws. Freedom to speak your views, whether they be racist/sexist or whatever. Punk meant freedom/liberalisation via anarchy not music and clothes.
Simon Hickey, Stockport, UK

Weren't the Sex Pistols the first completely manufactured boy band?
Philippa Margaretson, Barking

The Monkees pre-date the Sex Pistols by quite some time.
Simon Gibbons, Luxembourg

Everything that punk stood for was already there and active. The anti-establishment, freedom to say, do, look however you want had been in existence since the 60s. The Sex Pistols knew that - that's why they named it the Great Rock 'n' Roll swindle. A triumph of marketing over substance.
Al, UK

As you read this, thousands of frustrated, creative individuals in all parts of the globe are communicating directly with each other. A tenacious underground network exists for the dissemination of ideas, information and self-produced materials. Punk is a state of mind and a way of life.
Stuart, Scotland

This all seems a bit highbrow to me. As a relic of that era, my main recollection is the endless 'gobbing'. Punk was just another version of youth taking delight in upsetting their parents and other old gits (which of course we are all now - Lydon included...)
Robo, UK

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