3 PUNKS (extract)


Tom O’Brien

A bare stage. A bar with some stools stage left. Some drinks scattered about. A screen to back with images of Punks etc. Spotlight no 1 on JOHN LYDON. Spotlight no.2 on SHANE MACGOWAN. Spotlight no. 3 on JOE STRUMMER.  All three acknowledge the audience. Hold the spotlights for a few moments, then they all step forward and sing a verse each from 3 songs. John sings ANARCHY UK, Shane sings IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE, Joe sings LONDON CALLING. All are dressed in the punk styles of their generation; Lydon wears an I HATE PINK FLOYD tee-shirt;  Joe carries a guitar.  It has a label which reads – THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS ; Shane has a pint and a fag in his hands.

JOHN:            I consider myself working class. And we, the working class, we’re lazy good-for-nothing  bastards. We never accept responsibility for our lives – that’s why we’ll always be downtrodden. We seem to enjoy it in a perverse sort of way; we like being told what to do, led like sheep to the slaughterhouse, as it were.

JOE:               I was born John Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, in 1952. My father worked for the Foreign Office, with the result I had a life moving around different places when I was young; Cairo, Mexico City, West Germany, before we finally settled in the UK. My parents were still posted abroad though so at the age of eight I was packed off to boarding school, along with my elder brother David. That was our home for the next nine years, seeing our parents just once or twice a year. I suppose that’s why I became so fucked up.

SHANE:      I grew up in Puckaun. Back of beyond Tipperary. On a farm. My mother’s people. My uncle Jim used to sleep in the haystacks, ya know? He’d get pissed off about how overcrowded it was because there were about fourteen people living in the house.  You’d be playing in the haystacks and you’d suddenly realise Jim was asleep in the hay, under the tarpaulins. It was either that or sleep in the same bed as uncle John – and uncle John used to fight in his sleep. ‘Fock yez, I’ll fockin kill yez, ye conts’. So uncle Jim got so sick of it he would sleep in the haystacks, and in the end he never slept in a bed again.

JOHN:              I loathe the British Public School system with a passion. How can anybody have the right to a better education just because their parents have money? I find that vile. They talk with this sense of superiority , the upper classes, and they have it. They have all the right connections once they leave school, and they parasite off the population as their  friends help them along.  You never see that with the working classes.

JOE:               Our school’s initiation rite involved a choice of being beaten up or lying in a bath of used toilet paper. I got beaten up! I guess it toughened me up, taught me to be independent, but there was always this sense of abandonment; having to pretend your parents didn’t exist. There was this ‘Lord Of The Flies’ feel to the all-male dorm and bullying was rife; it was a really brutal school and they filled you with crap.

JOHN:              Because with the working classes, if you have any kind of success your friends, your neighbours, will turn round and hate you instantly.

SHANE:           I know. “You’re not working class anymore!”

JOHN:            That used to worry me when I was younger, but I couldn’t give a toss now. I regard myself as working class and that’s all that counts. It was similar if you managed to read a book – and actually understand it! Then you were a snob, a poof, or a sissy. Labels, that’s all they were. Meaningless fucking labels.

SHANE:        (to Lydon) I remember the first time I saw you. You had long hair and wore a bovver hat. You were quite fat.

JOHN:            Fuck off you seldom fed culchie.

JOE:               That’s a Brendan Behan line.

JOHN:            And you can fuck off too, Strummer.

SHANE:         The next time you had blue hair. I’ll say this; it took some bottle to wear blue hair in Finsbury Park in those days. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            If you don’t accept me as I am then don’t accept me at all, that’s always been my motto. I was practically unlovable most of my early life. I wouldn’t even let my parents go near me. From a very early age it was – “get off! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!”

SHANE:         I bet you fondled yourself.

JOE:               Well, isn’t this cosy. Three old punkers livin’ it up.

SHANE:         More like the three stooges, fuckin’ it up. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            Wait a minute! What are you doing here, Strummer? What’s he doin’ here? He’s fuckin’ dead. (He looks around)       Where is this place?

SHANE:         Yeah, Joe, what are you doing here?

JOE:               I thought you believed in re-incarnation, Shane.

SHANE:         Yeah, I do. But you can’t come back as yourself, can you? A dog, maybe. Or a chicken. Chee…chee.

JOE:               Maybe it’s all a dream.

JOHN:            The question is – whose dream?

JOE sings a few lines from Bruce Springsteen’s THE RIVER  and glides away

Now those memories come back to haunt me,

They haunt me like a curse.

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true,

Or is it something worse?

JOHN:            Yeah, I fondled myself. But I never screamed as a youngster. That shocked my mother when she first heard the Sex Pistols. I had always been so quiet. She’d never seen that side of me. She probably thought she had raised a lunatic.

SHANE:         And you proved her right. Chee…chee.

JOHN:            Yeah. Had I not had my family I would have turned into a psychopath or something. Looking at how other people behaved I was definitely weird. I always had this sense of detachment…isolation… even when I was part of the Pistols this continued. I was never part of the group in any meaningful way. I came and sang my songs and then went home alone. I was never invited to any parties or get-togethers; I never felt really belonged.

Joe returns.

JOE:               It’s Tuesday today. Just another I-wish-I-could –get-this-monkey-off-my-back fucking day. Have you got a smoke?

JOHN:            We were the very first people – as a band I mean – to call each other cunts. We just didn’t like each other, simple as that. Steve Jones was probably the most important member of the group. He was our procurer. Instruments, mics, speakers, you name it he would acquire it. He was a thief – a very good one – and had been since he was six years old when he watched his parents steal from the local Tesco’s. It was all he knew to do. He managed to get us great gear. (laughs) We still couldn’t play properly  even when we had great gear. One of our best sources was the Hammersmith Odeon where rock stars would be regularly playing. Steve knew his way round the back and when all the roadies were asleep or whatever, he’d sneak in and get us what we needed. The Pistols could never have come into being without nicked gear ‘cos none of us had any money. I was invited to Join the band and become the lead singer by Malcolm. Malcolm McClaren. I was down the Kings Road every week, looking absurd, and Malcolm’s shop ‘Sex’ was the place to hang out. It had a jukebox and you could play music and have a chat with Malcolm. I had green hair and one evening Malcolm just said ‘would you like to be in a band?’ I said ‘I can’t sing. Just let me sing out of tune. Would that be alright?’ I knew every Alice Cooper song upside down, backwards and inside out so I did my version of ‘EIGHTEEN’

Johnny throws him a packet of cigarettes.


JOE:               A proper fucking smoke. A spliff.

JOHN:            I don’t fucking indulge.

They all sing Lydon’s version of EIGHTEEN (c Alice Cooper)


ALL:                          Lines form on my face and my hands
Lines form on the left and right
I’m in the middle
the middle of life
I’m a boy and I’m a man
I’m eighteen and I LIKE IT
Yes I like it
Oh I like it
Love it
Like it
Love it


SHANE:         It’s election day today. Have you even voted?

JOE:               Have you?  Where I live it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.

SHANE:         Oh yeah, Somerset isn’t it? Bit middle-class for you. But I forgot,

you are middle-class aren’t you Joe. Chhh…chhh…

JOHN:            Nah. That was John Mellor. Son of a Foreign Office diplomat, private-

school boarder, art student , and all that fucking crap. Tell me Joe, has John Mellor been buried under so many years of being Joe Strummer that he no longer exists?

JOE:               You’re a two-faced cunt Lydon. You’re more establishment than any of us.

JOHN:            Nah, you got me confused with somebody else.

JOE:               What about that butter ad? You …a country gent! You sold out early.  (he points)  He used to be Johnny Rotten


                                    God save the Queen. She ain’t no human being.

There is no future in England’s dreaming…

Hypocrite. And you, McGowan, you went to Westminster Public School.

SHANE:         No  I fucking didn’t. I won a scholarship there, yeah, but did I attend? No fucking way. It was full of toffee nosed bastards like you. I went on a shoplifting spree my first week. I never looked back after that. Drink, drugs, you name it. I didn’t just get kicked out, I was fucking catapulted out. Chee….cheee    (he drinks copiously from bottle)

     JOHN:        I think the first words Steve Jones said about me were “I can’t work with that fucking cunt. All he does is take the piss and moan’. There was rarely a time when the four of us were friends. Right from the start – at rehearsals –  I’d tell them I was going for a piss then listen at the door. And I would hear them;  “That cunt! Fucking hell!”  Then they’d go off in someone’s car, probably Malcolm’s, leave me standing behind. I’d go home by myself on the train. That would be it night after night. Me, the outsider. Malcolm said it was because he wanted me to be the ‘mystery man’. Bollocks!

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