Lipstick Traces – A Secret History Of The Twentieth century

Greil Marcus


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  • Faber & Faber
  • 2011 (new edition)
  • ISBN 9780571277100
  • 496 Pages
  • Paperback
  • 23.3 × 15.6 × 3.5 cm

This book is about a single, serpentine fact: late in 1976 a record called ‚Anarchy in the UK‘ was issued in London, and this event launched a transformation of pop music all over the world. Made by a four-man rock ’n‘ roll band called the Sex Pistols, and written by singer Johnny Rotten, the song distilled, in crudely poetic form, a critique of modern society once set out by a small group of Paris-based intellectuals.

First organised in 1952 as the Lettrist International, and refounded in 1957 at a conference of European avant-garde artists as the Situationist International, the group gained its greatest notoriety during the French revolt of May 1968, when its slogans were spray-painted across the walls of Paris, after which their critique was given up to history and the group disappeared. The group looked back to the surrealists of the 1920s, the Dadaists who made their names during and just after the First World War, the young Karl Marx, Saint-Just, various medieval heretics, and the Knights of the Round Table.

‚My conviction is that such circumstances are primarily odd. For a gnomic, gnostic critique dreamed up by a handful of Left Bank cafe prophets to reappear a quarter-century later, to make the charts, and then to come to life as a whole new set of demands on culture – this is almost transcendently odd.‘ – Greil Marcus

‚Some people say a record or a film changed their life. In my case, it was a book. Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces did that back in 1990. It really was that important.‘ – Nicky Wire