The Great Rock n Roll Swindle

the great rock n roll swindle

The Great Rock n Roll Swindle

The Great Rock n Roll Swindle (1980) is a fictional “documentary” (a “mockumentary”) film directed by Julien Temple and produced by Don Boyd and Jeremy Thomas about the British punk rock band Sex Pistols. The Great Rock n Roll Swindle starred guitarist Steve Jones playing a Detective investigating the ‘Swindle’, listed as “The Crook” in the credits, bassist Sid Vicious as “The Gimmick”, drummer Paul Cook as “The Tea-Maker”, and the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, as “The Embezzler”. Train robber Ronnie Biggs also made appearances.

The Great Rock n Roll Swindle footage was filmed in early – mid 1978, between singer Johnny Rotten’s departure from the band and their subsequent split. The movie was finally released nearly two years later. Notably, Rotten (who was listed in the credits as “The Collaborator”) only appeared in archival footage and as an animated character due to his refusal to have anything to do with the film. Original bassist Glen Matlock also appears only in archival footage and briefly in an animated segment.

The Great Rock n Roll Swindle tells a stylised and fictionalised account of the formation, rise and subsequent breakup of the band, from the point of view of then-manager Malcolm McLaren. In the film, McLaren claims to create the Sex Pistols and manipulate them to the top of the rock and roll industry, using them as puppets to both further his own agenda (in his own words – “chaos”), and to claim the financial rewards from the various record labels the band were signed to during their brief history – EMI, A&M, Virgin, and Warner Bros. Records. The 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury, also directed by Julien Temple, retells the story of the Sex Pistols from the perspective of the band, thus serving as a response to and rebuttal of McLaren’s insistence that he was the driving creative force of the band.