It's not often that punk rock and Norman Mailer cross paths, but Gary Gilmore brought them both together. Gilmore robbed and murdered two men in Utah, and was sentenced to death for his crimes. The first American executed after a ten year period when the Supreme Court had halted the practice, Gilmore became doubly famous because he fought so hard to be executed. At the time Utah had two methods of execution: hanging and the firing squad. Gilmore worried that hanging could be botched, so he opted to be shot to death. On January 17th, 1977 - six short months after he committed the murders - Gary Gilmore was strapped to a chair and shot to death. His last words: "Let's do this!"
Norman Mailer wrote a masterpiece of American literature, The Executioner's Song, which examined who Gilmore was and why he killed those men, as well as what drove him to die. It's a powerful, beautiful and insightful work. The Adverts, one of the earliest UK punk bands, wrote a song about how Gary Gilmore donated his organs to science and how fucked up it must be to end up the person getting his eyes.
The Adverts are, in a lot of ways, the most overlooked band coming out of the late 70s UK punk explosion. They were right there in the heat of it, playig shows with Generation X at the Roxy in its fabled first 100 days. They released two albums, at least one of which - Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts - is absolutely briliant. Their music was tuneful but raw, and they boasted of knowing only one chord (the first track on Crossing The Red Sea is called One Chord Wonders).
Gary Gilmore's Eyes, with its sick concept, was controversial on release - but it was also The Adverts' biggest hit. The song is absolutely perfect, a real earworm, which is rare in punk. It's funny and snotty and also smart, a sideways glance at the fucked up nature of the modern world.
The Adverts broke up in 1979, never having quite gained the status they deserved.