Since year zero in 1976, Punk Rock has always courted major controversy with both the public and the press, and usually on purpose. Part of the “no rules” rule was that anything, no matter how shocking, was still ok. In both music and fashion, punk shoplifted all the best ideas, ripped them apart and stuck them back together. No symbol, or idea was out of bounds, because Punk meant that we were starting again, so everything was up for grabs.
The Slits were purloining dub riffs, the Pistols were swearing on live TV and the Clash were demanding a riot. All of which seemed perfectly acceptable, except to the TV and newspapers, who were seen by the punks as prudish, nit-picky fusspots.
Vivienne Westwood’s T-Shirts proclaimed Destroy, Jamie Reid was cutting up pictures of the Queen, Siouxsie, and Sid were seen wearing swastikas, or nazi armbands, and although this might have been controversial from a newspaper headline point of view, it still wasn’t considered, at least by the punk masses as going too far. So what, if anything was the benchmark? Was there anything in the Punk heartland that was considered to be too extreme? Too shocking? Too risqué?
In 1977, punk protege Soo Catwoman and punk fan and cohort Steve Strange, devised what was to be one of punk’s most underground, short-lived and most ill-conceived bands of all time. Originally just made-up for a photo-shoot for the German magazine Bravo, where the “band” wore hoods made from pillowcases to hide their identity, Strange, on a whim, decided to take the idea live, and booked the “band” a show.
“Steve Strange and Soo Catwoman had the idea for the group, and asked me to help them out on guitar” – Chrissie Hynde
With a borrowed line-up which also included Clash drummer Topper Headon, they allegedly supported The Slits for a benefit show at Holland Park School and then in January 1978, they played at The Roxy Club in central London. Even here, in the belly of controversy central, everyone just knew that the benchmark had now been located, and that this was the “too far” that the even tabloids had been warning of.
The problem wasn’t the music, the songs, or the style of dress, the problem was the name.
Steve and Soo had named their band The Moors Murderers, which was a direct reference to child killers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, the two most reviled and hated people in the entire country. This was precisely the “too far” that we’d been wondering about, and its limits had just been reached.
Within a month of their Roxy appearance, and an ill advised attempt at a single, the band disappeared…never ever to be mentioned again.
Except by a mortified Chrissie Hynde in full on back pedaling mode…