99% Is Shit – Fred Vermorel And The Cash Pussies

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“I’ve no interest in pleasing the general public, I don’t want to, because I think largely they’re scum, they make me physically sick”

In April 1979, some time after Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols were dead and gone (save for Malcolm McLaren’s necrophile activities), The Cash Pussies released their one and only single – 99% is Shit – featuring Sid on the front cover, and peppered with quotes like the above from him on the actual song. The track is a cynical dig at the music industry and the fans, with lyrics like “souvenir edition, coloured vinyl – there’s a lot of collectors” having a well-aimed stab at the way punk rapidly became as money hungry, corporate and greedy as the industry it ostensibly aimed to shake up.

This cynicism is explained by the fact that the puppet masters behind the Cash Pussies were Fred and Judy Vermorel, two controversial (to say the least) journalists who write ‘anti-biographies of pop culture figures, where the legend is always more interesting than the truth. A quick search online reveals that Kate Bush fans are still raging about the book the pair authored on their idol back in 1980.

The couple had been commissioned to write the first book about the Sex Pistols, and The Inside Story was cranked out in just three months, appearing in January 1978. Later that year, the pair wrote the screenplay for a punk rock movie, Millions Like Us, that originally had Throbbing Gristle attached to write the music. By November, Throbbing Gristle were out and Alex Fergusson, formerly of Alternative TV, began working with the Vermorels’ new project, the Cash Pussies. Fred Vermorel in particular seemed to see himself as another McLaren – or perhaps the anti-McLaren… who knows? In any case, The Cash Pussies were a manufactured band, much like the Sex Pistols, but they came with a less anarchic, more sarcastic approach, less about cash from chaos as pseudo art happenings that included a ‘Nancy Spungen Fundraiser’, taking place the same night as The Clash’s Sid Vicious Benefit show – a dubious affair that Judy dismissed with concerns about where the money would actually go and claims that “The Clash are a bunch of clapped out old social workers” (not, some might say, too far from the truth) – and a ‘Showbiz’ exhibition that included ‘Elvis Presley’s Coffin’ full of manure and a barbed wire and concrete display titled Margaret Thatcher’s Cunt.

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These art happenings – possibly inspired by Throbbing Gristle’s former incarnation as Coum Transmissions – rather got in the way of actual gigs, and resulted in various line-up changes as the original band tried unsuccessfully to break away from the Vermorel control machine, foolishly not realising that they were just employees on a greater project. But after Sid’s death, the band – now comprising model Diana Rich (who appears on the back cover), Alex Fergusson, Alan Gruner and Ray Weston – issued their one and only single on The Label, produced by Dave Goodman (who would later issue assorted Sex Pistols bootlegs on CD).

99% is Shit is rather catchy and foot-tapping stuff, and is best approached as another art project than a punk single – though as a pop single, it’s pretty wonderful. I have it on most of my playlists. Sid’s world-weary commentary – taken from a Vermorel interview – adds to the sardonic feel of the whole track. B-side Cash Flow is less interesting, but still worth a listen. Unfortunately, Millions Like Us was never made, though Fred Vermorel has been as busy as ever, writing biographies that continue to outrage fans of the subject (we very much recommend his outrageous Vivienne Westwood biography Fashion and Perversity). In 2011, he was awarded a PhD based on his body of work by Kingston University. And rightly so.

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