Artist News Awards

Sex Pistols graffiti granted listed status

By | Published on Wednesday 23 March 2016

John Lydon self-portrait

Graffiti drawn by John Lydon has helped two houses in London’s famous Denmark Street gain the highest form of listed status from the Department For Culture, Media And Sport. Which, I’m sure, is the legacy everyone was hoping for when punk bounced into action 40 years ago.

The outhouse of a seventeenth century townhouse at 6 Denmark Street that was once occupied by the Sex Pistols still bears graffiti drawn by Lydon. The house and its outbuilding were actually already listed, but have now been granted further protection, upgraded along with the house next door from Grade II to Grade II* listing. Only 5.5% of listed buildings are in this category.

Between 1975 and 1977, the band used a downstairs room in the outhouse, originally thought to have been a silversmith’s workshop, to record demos, while guitarist Steve Jones and bassist Glen Matlock lived upstairs.

“These seventeenth century townhouses not only exhibit well-preserved architectural detail but helped nurture Soho’s influence on the global music industry during the 1960s and 1970s”, says Heritage And First World War Minister David Evennett. “As we celebrate 40 years of punk, I’m delighted to be granting further protection to these buildings which acted as a home and studio to the Sex Pistols”.

Emily Gee, Head Of Designation at Historic England, adds: “Numbers 6 and 7 Denmark Street are some of the very few surviving late seventeenth century town houses which still have their original character, fixtures and fittings. For this reason they deserve to be listed at Grade II*. The outbuilding at number 6 also features one of the few physical traces of the importance of Denmark Street to the music industry, with graffiti by John Lydon still on the walls. Cultural phenomena can be difficult to capture in the historic environment, yet here we have an imprint of one of the country’s most famous bands. These houses chart the history of Soho, and we’re delighted that they’re being given such important status”.

Speaking to The Guardian, listings adviser Posy Metz explained: “The purpose of listing is to flag things which are of historical and cultural importance and I think punk is a really important part of our cultural history and including it in the listing is a way of recognising that. The alternative is saying: let’s forget all about punk because they don’t want to be remembered as part of our history”.

“Punk can teach us a lot in our modern lives in terms of freedom of expression and not conforming”, she continued. “It is really important these things are understood and valued. Punk was not the clincher [to upgrading the listed status of the buildings] but it certainly adds a layer of interest”.

No word yet on whether Malcolm McLaren’s son Joe CorrĂ© will burn some extra stuff in November to protest this latest establishment move to mark the 40th anniversary of punk.

In other graffiti-listing news, as previously reported, Lambeth Council announced earlier this week that it plans to protect a mural of David Bowie that became a shrine to the musician following his death earlier this year.