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Anarchy on ‘American Bandstand’: When Public Image Ltd. met Dick Clark, 1980

John Lydon confronts America
American Bandstand with Dick Clark was a staple of American TV. Beginning in 1956, the clean-cut Clark hosted the program, staying at the helm for over thirty years. The show featured teenagers and young adults dancing to pop music, as well as musical acts. As previously acknowledged by Dangerous Minds, Clark had a fair amount of interesting up-and-comers appear on his show, including the Syd Barrett-fronted Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, and a young man by the name of Prince.
Dick Clark during PiL's performance
After the Sex Pistols imploded in early 1978, singer John Lydon would soon shed his “Johnny Rotten” skin, reinventing himself with a new band, Public Image Ltd. In April 1980, PiL were touring America for the first time, supporting album #2, which was a double LP. For Second Edition (originally released as Metal Box), the group abandoned the rock found on their debut, producing a sprawling post-punk opus that was both weird and danceable (think Can meets Chic). It’s an innovative and unique work—in other words, not exactly the kind of stuff that normally makes it onto American television.
Second Edition
Public Image Ltd’s appearance on American Bandstand aired on May 17th, 1980. Moments after “Poptones” begins, the camera catches Lydon sitting off to the side of the Bandstand podium, seemingly unsure what to do. Soon he’s up and dancing about, trying to involve the studio audience.
John Lydon and the audience
But the crowd ain’t cooperating, so Lydon takes the next step, heading into the throng (ala Iggy) to force the issue.
John Lydon in the audience
The timid audience, largely consisting of teenagers, seem both excited and scared by the singer, and they take even more encouraging to break TV protocol, with Lydon physically pushing, shoving, and finally pulling spectators onto the platform. All the while, the former Rotten isn’t even bothering to keep up with the lip-syncing—a very punk thing to do, right? Well, there was a reason for it and all the anarchy, which Lydon later explained in his autobiography:

It all got off on the wrong foot when we arrived and they suddenly informed us that it would be a mimed thing. Our equipment hadn’t arrived in time, apparently, but we soon got even more upset when they said, ‘Oh no, you couldn’t play it live anyway, just mime to the record.’

They’d made up some edited versions of “Poptones” and “Careering,” and gave us a cassette to check it out beforehand. ‘Oh my God, they’ve cut it down to that? I don’t know where the vocals are going to drop. What are we supposed to do?’ None of us knew. Just thinking about trying to sing it like the record was…aarghh! You can fake it with an instrument but you can’t as the singer. ‘Okay, so you’ve cut out the point and purpose, it’s like removing the chorus from the National Anthem, just because it makes for an allotted time slot on a TV show. That’s arse-backways!’

PiL backstage
The calm before the storm: PiL backstage

More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘Lou Reed part 2’: Little-known Public Image Ltd. footage from 1982
11:55 am


John Lydon
Keith Levene
Public Image Ltd.

When I was a kid, more than any other group, Public Image Ltd. were my band. As a teenager, I was a major acidhead who hated religion and PiL suited that state of mind better than just about anything. They were demented dada geniuses, doing more to move music away from the three chord blues-based rock and roll that had dominated popular music since the days of Chuck Berry than anyone else. It wasn’t as if John Lydon’s previous outfit had done much to musically challenge the status quo. The Sex Pistols may have shown that the prevailing rock acts of the day were all “dinosaurs,” but their music really wasn’t anything all that “new” was it?

Who would say that about Public Image Ltd.? With their second album, Metal Box, they changed the state of modern music the way Picasso and Georges Braque had changed the act of perception itself with the advent of Cubism some seventy years earlier. After PiL, everything was different and nothing was too weird. A hundred years from now those first three PiL albums will still be revered the same way they are today, except that by then they’ll considered classical music or something…

I was lucky enough to see PiL in 1983. I’d run away from home and PiL were playing a few days later on Staten Island at the horrible, decrepit and just downright shitty Paramount Theater (a venue that should have required a tetanus shot to enter). Jah Wobble had already been kicked out of the band, but that didn’t bother me (I’m probably just slightly more partial to The Flowers of Romance than I am the first two albums) and this was a few months before Keith Levene and Lydon had their famous falling out.

Without Wobble you still had PiL, but as Lydon would soon prove beyond all argument, he was only as good (or as bad) as his collaborators. When Keith Levene fucked off, forget it, after that it was Public Image Ltd. in name only. Not that Levene did much of anything—for years decades—without Lydon anyway, but Lydon without Levene was hopeless, a fucking joke from 1983 onwards if you ask most fans of the original group.

I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I have a pretty decent collection of PiL bootlegs on vinyl. Truly “oldschool” boots produced over thirty years ago, most of them pretty primitive pressings. When I got rid of most of my records ten years ago (keeping collectibles and signed pieces, plus my Jeannie C. Riley albums) I still retained them and as a percentage, they comprise a good bit of what’s left of a once ridiculously huge record collection. One of them is a boot of the actual show I saw called “Where Are We?” taped on March 26th, at the Paramount Theater.

The title comes from a song PiL had been playing in their sets around that time that was originally called “Lou Reed Part 2” and then later rechristened “Where Are You?” (the spiteful lyrics are about departed PiL video maker Jeanette Lee). It came out on both Lydon’s “official” This is What You Want, This is What You Get album and Levene’s less official version on the Commercial Zone bootleg.

This 1982 report from Canadian television about PiL’s first performance in the country, at Toronto’s Masonic Temple Concert Hall, features a short excerpted performance of “Lou Reed Part 2/Where Are You?” and during it someone spits right in Lydon’s face. He’s not happy. At the end of the piece there’s a bigger chunk of a live “Public Image.” With so little decent footage of PiL around—I’ve seen very little video of the post Wobble group—this is a real treat. Lydon’s sporting a hospital gown and looks, as he often did in his youth, like an escaped mental patient.

I don’t know exactly what he means by this, but if you click over to Keith Levene’s website, he’s trying to raise the funds to “finish” Commercial Zone 2014. For a guy who was so, er, quiet, throughout most of the past three decades, for the past few years, Levene seems intent on making up for lost time, recording and gigging with Jah Wobble, releasing solo material and writing his life story, the nicely titled, This is not an Autobiography: The Diary of a non-Punk Rocker, available soon as an e-book.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Lydon’s rallying call to youth: ‘Learn how to beat this system intelligently’
09:48 am


Sex Pistols
John Lydon
Public Image Ltd.

It started with a look.

John Lydon was wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt that he had modified to read “I Hate Pink Floyd.” It was this piece of anti-fashion that brought him to the attention of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, owners of the King’s Road boutique SEX.  Malcolm and Vivienne were conjuring up plans for a new band that would fuse fashion and music, and Lydon’s tee-shirt suggested the right kind of attitude the pair were looking for. Lydon was asked to audition for the band, so he mimed to an Alice Cooper number and won the role of lead singer with The Sex Pistols. He looked the part, you might say.

It may have started with a look, but for John it was never about the image, as he later explained to Melody Maker in 1978:

”The rest of the band and Malcolm never bothered to find out if I could sing, they just took me as an image. It was as basic as that, they really were as dull as that.

“After a year of it they were going ‘Why don’t you have your hair this color this year?’ And I was going ‘Oh God, a brick wall, I’m fighting a brick wall!’”

We all know The Sex Pistols, they were “a damned good band,” as Lydon recalls in this interview from That Was Then This Is Now in 1988, ten year’s after the band’s demise.

“And to be quite frank, how right it was we ended when we did, because it would have been really futile to have continued with it. We all knew that…

“When you feel you’re running out of ideas you must stop, and go onto something else, which is precisely what all of us did.

Lydon went on to form Public Image Limited with Keith Levene (guitar), Jah Wobble (bass), and Jim Walker (drums). PiL was “different,” and “experimental without being arty-farty about it.”

Their first release “Public Image,” partly written while Lydon was in the Sex Pistols, dealt with Lydon’s frustration at being only seen for the clothes that he wore. Lydon has always been aware that he is an individual, and as can be seen from his interview on That Was Then This Is Now—love him or loathe him—he has always been consistent in being true to himself, and saying whatever he thinks.

Such honesty makes Lydon good for quotable sound bytes, which fits well with the format of That Was Then This Is Now, where information was served up like the ingredients of a recipe.

For example, he tells us how he moved to America because of police harassment. His home was raided on four separate occasions, his belongings damaged or destroyed, his pet cat killed by overzealous police dogs.

While next, Lydon tells us how he considers himself to be an Englishman, and resents paying his hard-earned cash in taxes to pay for Fergie’s (Princess Sarah Ferguson) frumpy tents.

However, no matter how funny, amusing, insightful and inspiring the answers, having them all cut together, one-after-another, reveals the problem with That Was Then This Is Now: information is arbitrarily doled out as sound bytes, signposted by graphic captions, with no connective structure other than the answers given by the interviewee. It’s a nice research tool, and certainly one for future biographers and archivists, but the form lacks any sense of engagement between the audience and Lydon, as there is no possibility of knowing how rigorously he was questioned about his life or his beliefs.

Of course, there are plenty of highlights, including Lydon’s rallying call to the teenage viewer about intelligence:

“All kids should learn this in school—this is the weapon the Tories use against you.

“They want to keep you stupid. They want to keep you down.

“If you do not learn how to beat this system intelligently, you never will.

That is the only lesson really in life to learn. Period.”

Recorded in 1988, That Was Then This Is Now presented the great, the good and the oh-no of Punk, New Wave and the New Romantics, discussing their musical careers in entertainment.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
PiL rarity ‘Steel Leg Vs. The Electric Dread’ is the missing link between ‘First Issue’ & ‘Metal Box

The folks at Light in the Attic Records were kind enough to send me their nicely packaged recent reissue of PiL’s landmark First Issue album—the record that was thee line of demarcation between punk rock and post punk music—and I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. It also caused me to go dig up some PiL stuff I haven’t listened to in a while.

When I was a kid, PiL were probably my main group (tied with Throbbing Gristle) and I even ran away from home, in part, so I could see them play in New York (it’s a long story). Along the way, I have collected a lot of PiL bootlegs and I still have every one of them, despite getting rid of 99% of my vinyl many moons ago. One of my favorite PiL rarities, though, isn’t a bootleg at all, it’s the one-off 12” EP that was released by Virgin in 1978 under the title Steel Leg Vs. The Electric Dread.

The EP was recorded at Gooseberry Sound Studios (the same cheap reggae studio where PiL finished off their debut album after spending all the money) by Jah Wobble, “Stratetime Keith” (Keith Levene), Don Letts and Don’s pal Vince Bracken, called here “Steel Leg.” The hooded figure on the cover was long rumored to be John Lydon but he had no involvement with this record whatsoever according to the PiL fansite Fodderstompf.

Nothing earth-shatteringly brilliant here—it’s damned good, though, I’ll go that far—but Steel Leg vs. The Electric Dread‘s four free-form, anarchic numbers most certainly point the way for what was to come next with the deliriously dumbfounding dub-heavy genius of 1979’s enigmatic Metal Box.

“Haile Unlikely by The Electric Dread”

“Unlikely Pub”

“Steel Leg”

“Stratetime And The Wide Man”

Here’s what Seth The Man wrote in his inimitable way on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage website. Pure rock snob poetry, I love this guy:

It goes beyond mere punky reggae partying—it’s a PiL t-shirt worn by Syd “Family Man” Barrett with the words “D-U-B” replacing “P-i-L,” as the Finsbury Park crew’s ancestral memories of multiple Hawkwind records works its way through the mix with electronics like Dik Mik meets The Aggrovators.

Although long an impossibly rare item to find, the Steel Leg vs. The Electric Dread EP was released on CD in 2005 along with two PiL-related tracks by Vivien Goldman (see below) and (not PiL-related) tracks by Glaxo Babies, Les Vampyrettes (a Holgar Czukay and Conny Plank team-up) and This Heat’s 15-minite-long epic “Graphic Varispeed” as The Post Punk Singles Volume One.

And speaking of the new Light in the Attic release of First Issue, it is incidentally, the first US release of the album. (First Issue was so heavily imported at the time of its original 1978 release that Warner Bros. Records opted not to even bother releasing it here because they thought the market had already been tapped out for an album deemed far too uncommercial for most Americans). The packaging is quite nice and stays true to the original release. “The Cowboy Song,” the B-side to the “Public Image” single is included on a second CD along with an extended 1978 interview with Lydon conducted by Vivien Goldman that’s quite fascinating [In it, Lydon makes an obviously knowing aside about the horrific BBC sex predator Jimmy Savile.]

I compared the new CD to the older UK Virgin disc that’s been on the market for ages and found that they sound noticeably different, although it would be a matter of taste to say which is better. The older disc has more raw THUMP to it, especially in the drums, and there is slightly more distortion present than on the newly mastered version. The new CD, well, here the drums CRACK across your eardrums more, and the bass is tighter. Usually when I A/B CDs, there’s a clear winner, but I can’t say that in the case of the older 80s CD versus the newly minted First Issue package from Light in the Attic (which comes with PiL decals, too), because I like them both. If I had to pick one, it would be the new one, just for the attention to detail in the packaging and the extras.

“Death Disco” on TOTP, 1980

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
This Is Not A Tutorial: Keith Levene teaches you how to play PiL songs on guitar
11:48 am


Keith Levene
Public Image Ltd.

You have to love it when a budding guitar player can email a master like PiL and Clash co-founder Keith Levene—the Hendrix of the post-punk era—asking “how do you do that?” and get a reply like this one!

In 2010, Levene gave “Justin” advice on how to play “Annalisa” and “Poptones” by recording himself and uploading it to YouTube.

Keith Levene’s new release Search4AbsoluteZero is available now for download through his Murder Global website.

Follow Keith Levene on Twitter.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Raw footage of John Lydon and Keith Levene at MTV interview, 1982
07:49 am


John Lydon
Keith Levene
Public Image Ltd.

Fascinating unedited raw footage of a 1982 JJ Jackson interview of Public Image Ltd’s John Lydon and Keith Levene at MTV’s studio. Jackson’s questions are a lot better than you might expect them to be (he absolutely knew what he was talking about).

I’ve never seen Keith Levene more loquacious and animated in a vintage interview. He even talks briefly about his tenure in the Clash during the second part.

Lydon had just come off filming Corrupt with Harvey Keitel in Rome. Of course he tries to pull his patented obnoxious routine with Jackson, but the well-researched MTV VJ plays it cool and manages to get a good interview out of him.

At the beginning, and near the end, after a few minutes of silence, you can hear what they were talking about off-camera.

Part II is here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Public Image Ltd., live on Boxing Day, 1978
10:03 am


Public Image Ltd.

On Christmas Day, 1978, and on the following day (what Brits call “Boxing Day”) Public Image Ltd. played two legendary gigs at the Rainbow Theater in London. Their live debut had occurred just five days prior, in Brussels, Belgium.

Here’s a run-down of what happened by someone who was there at the Christmas show, as published on the PiL fansite, Fodderstompf:

When PiL announced the Christmas 1978 concerts I couldn’t get tickets fast enough. This was what it was all supposed to be about. The Pistols were over, punk was over, long live the new flesh. Who wanted to be associated with people with mohicans and ‘The Clash’ written on their biker jackets? Not me, strictly pegs and shirts, the new way…

A band playing a gig on Xmas day (and Boxing Day) was a big thing back then, no one ever played gigs at Xmas, there was never anything to do, I knew it was going to be special, the fact that it was PiL’s first UK gig and that Lydon hadn’t played London for so long added to the event as well. PiL, along with punk chancer (and later Pistols cash-in merchant) Jock McDonald, decided to promote the gig themselves which was another unusual step at the time. One thing was for sure, PiL were going to be different, this was the new way…

The Rainbow in Finsbury Park was normally seated, but if I remember rightly there had been trouble at a Clash gig a few weeks before so they decided to take the seats out and also brought in loads of extra security, in all I reckon it held about 1,000 people that night. There was no public transport , but me and my mate G-Man had sorted transport out. We loaded up with lager and copious amounts of illegal substances and off we went, leaving South London to travel to the wilds of Finsbury Park. By the time we got there we were half pissed. We polished the other half off, chatting to the various faces outside, then it was in…

Don Letts had a DJ box towards the back of the stalls and was belting out some earth moving Dub, so far so good… We sorted out a vantage point and waited. An early incarnation of Basement 5 without Dennis Morris were supporting, and I thought I remembered The Slits playing too, but apparently it was another all girl group called The Lous, I can’t remember them at all. Linton Johnstone also did some poetry, and all in all it was a good package, though I think it was lost on most of the senile animals who had turned up to see Johnny Rotten…

Eventually the place went black, Wobble’s bass shook the earth and the band launched into ‘Theme’ . They were on, and that’s when the shit really happened! Out strode Rotten/Lydon lagered up, fights started almost on cue. One side of the stage were Arsenal Skins, the other side West Ham, and in the middle the punks. Football chants were heard, the skins kicked fuck out of the punks, then each other. There were waves of people just steaming into each other. Rotten got involved verbally, then people started gobbing and canning stage.

All I can really remember was that the whole stage was decked out in green and black and that PiL looked fucking great. Wobble sitting on a chair throughout, dressed all in black with his bandit hat. Levene wired(?) for sound. Rotten in his checked suit strutting about the stage, slagging the punks off, but at the same time handing out beer. The band had to stop several times while all the mayhem erupted over and over again; it was getting scary.

They played fucking brilliant, I thought it was better than the album, which I loved anyway (and still do). They played the whole album, minus ‘Fodderstompf’. I remember that they never played any Sex Pistols songs, but that said, I know they played ‘Belsen’ the next night, so I could be wrong. I think not playing Pistols songs helped all the trouble erupt, lots of punks kept asking for them. Rotten slagged them for it, then they got battered by the thugs (Merry Xmas!).

One quote from Lydon I definitely remember while all the rucks were going off was, “You always use your fists in the wrong direction, you should take them down to Parliament”. I’m not sure if he meant the group or the place (only joking). We didn’t go back for the Boxing Day show, but I’ve heard the bootleg and I reckon it was basically the same set, though it certainly seemed a lot less eventful. Rotten eventually left the stage but the band still played on, he came back on and they encored with ‘Public Image’, then it was all over…

The fights continued on the way out and outside. I bumped into a mate who’d had his nose broken and was covered in blood. He wanted revenge, I just wanted to go home, he got his pals together and went off looking for vengeance. Me and my mate got a lift home from his big brother…

It was the best fucking Christmas I ever had!

George X

Another fan has a somewhat different memory than George X, but having seen PiL live myself back in the day, I’m inclined to go with George’s account: it was one of the most violent (and utterly mind-blowing) shows that I have ever witnessed (When they played “Attack,” my nearly brand new shoes were destroyed, even as they were on my feet. It was at this same concert that I decided to to go to college).

Here’s the audio of the entire 1978 Boxing Day gig.

1 Theme
2 Low Life
3 Belsen Was A Gas
4 Annalisa
5 Public Image
6 Religion
7 Attack
8 Public Image II

A clip of the group doing “Careering” on the Old Grey Whistle Test about a year later:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Riot at the Ritz: The infamous Public Image Ltd. ‘riot show’
05:27 pm


John Lydon
Public Image Ltd.

Although I was told by the guy who actually shot it himself that there was, in fact, a videotape of the legendary Public Image Ltd. “riot” show at New York’s Ritz nightclub in 1981, I’ve never seen it bootlegged anywhere. However there were at least a couple of different audio bootlegs of the show. The one I have is like the one pictured above, a 45 rpm record that came inside of a clear plastic sleeve. It’s chaotic, noisy and difficult to tell what’s going on, yet still really interesting.

The set up was simply that PiL were brought in to hastily replace Bow Wow Wow, who’d screwed over the concert promoters at the last minute. PiL, having no time to rehearse, offered to do a “video performance” using the club’s state of the art video projector, standing behind a screen mixing video, DJing with some live playing.

The following is a description of what actually happened that night, May 15, 1981, as told by Ed Carabello, who arranged the gig. The full article is at Perfect Sound Forever.

“So now it was PIL’s turn to go on. The crowd was really cranky and pissed by then, chanting ‘PIL, PIL, PIL!’ I was in the control booth with my headphones, nice and snug in there in the back of the club with a beautiful view of the audience and the stage: I felt like I was manning the Starship Enterprise. We felt that it would be appropriate to have a video of Lisa Yipp interviewing Keith and John in the trashcan she used for the show. Lisa gets on the headphones and says ‘I’m not going out there- they’re rowdy, they’re screaming!’ I told her ‘you’re a professional, go out there and do it.’ So one of the stage crew drags out the trash can she used for her show with her inside and with the lid on top. The audience looked at it like ‘what the hell’ and she pops out like Oscar the Grouch and says ‘HI, I’M LISA YAPP! I’M HERE TO TALK ABOUT PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED!’ So now the crowd’s really pissed and they start chanting louder. She starts to give an introduction about the band and we play this interview she did with Keith. In the interview, he’s saying ‘Rock and roll is dead. This is a new age of performance.’ The crowd had it by then. They turned on Lisa for everything that happened. They pelted her with beer bottles but Lisa was such a trooper that she kept going with her introduction. She fended off the bottles with the lid of the trash can like a gladiator shield. Then she says ‘AND HERE’S PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED!’

The whole band’s behind the screen and Keith starts playing and the drummer’s playing this celtic rhythm to start the show. Then Keith starts playing the record ‘Flowers of Romance.’ He cranked it up and took all the equalization out of it- it sounded so cacaphonous. I started pulsating the parcan lights. It was really eerie and screechy. The crowd just loved it- they fell silent. You just saw the glow and the lights flashing. Keith’s guitar was feeding back, playing off the record that was on and John was just silent throughout this whole thing. He just stood next to Keith. You could only see the silhouettes of them and the projections of them on the screen. The crowd is just loving this, thinking ‘what a great introduction.’

The first song ends and John starts to talk to the audience for the first time. He says ‘sil-ly fuck-ing aud-ience, sil-ly fuck-ing aud-i-ence…’ He’s slowly taunting the audience. Now the crowd’s not quiet anymore. They start chanting ‘raise the screen, raise the screen, raise the screen!’ John’s never been one who likes to be told what to do so he’s chiding the audience. He says what fuckers they were to pay 12 dollars to see this, just taunting the audience. The more they say ‘raise the screen,’ he says ‘we’re not going to raise the fucking screen!’

So the band goes into another song that was this kind of improvisational kind of thing. It seemed to be directed by the drummer! John and Keith were just doing their thing. John made those sounds with his voice, almost like a yodelling type of thing. Keith is doing this screechy, primal sounding thing with his guitar, almost like a jazz number. They go through this and it’s a ten minute number. The crowd is kind of liking it but you could hear them add their two cents by syncopating the rhythm with ‘raise the screen! raise the screen!’ At the end of this, John is really being abusive. So the audience starts pelting the screen with beer bottles. Even in the balconies, they were throwing bottles and some of it was hitting the audience down below. The more that they threw bottles, the more that John would chide them.

The manager of the Ritz comes to me then as I’m the only member of the band that was accessible- everyone else is behind the screen. Jerry says ‘you gotta raise the screen! There’s a riot happening right before our eyes!’ I felt like Nero watching Rome burn, seeing these bottles all over and I never realized how abusive John was to his audience. So I tell Jerry ‘No, I’m not raising it. You should have advertised and said that this wasn’t a concert. It’s a performance art show. That is what it is, that’s what they paid for and that’s what we’re putting on.’ I was guarding the remote control switch, not letting anyone touch it. Jerry kept yelling at me to raise it and I’d yell at him that I wasn’t going to do it.

Then Jerry turns to the crowd and sees something going on as they let out a collective ‘aaah.’ The front of the crowd started pulling on the tarp and I start getting scared because the instruments and amplifier were moving forward like they were going to go into the audience. So Jerry says ‘Are you crazy? Look at that!’ I said ‘you’re probably right.’ So I raised the screen just a little bit, enough to put on the parcans full blast so that we’re blinding the audience with light. For a minute, they shrink back from this huge flash of light. It looked like the screen from ‘Wizard of Oz’ where everyone sees the magical workings of the Wizard, like ‘pay no attention to the PIL behind the screen!’

After the jump, listen to audio recordings of what happened during this infamous performance…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Public Image Ltd: Live on ‘Rockpalast’ 1983

Choice clips of Public Image Limited, performing live at Zeche Bochum, Germany, for Rockpalast in 1983.

John Lydon was 5 years into his PiL experiment, and having either kicked out or split from the band’s original members, was now teamed-up with a band of session musicians (who acquit themselves admirably), and regular drummer Martin Atkins. Lydon seems happy that he is now in charge and gives a great performance of his “greatest hits”, a similar version of which would be released as the double EP record Live in Tokyo.

Track Listing

01. “Public Image”
02. “Annalisa”
03. “Religion”
04. “Memories”
05. “Flowers of Romance”
06. “Solitaire”
07. “Chant”
08. “Anarchy in the UK”
09. “(This is Not a) Love Song”
10. “Low Life”
11. “Under the House”
12. “Bad Life”
13. “Public Image”

More choice chunks of PiL on ‘Rockpalast’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Post-punk Britannia: ‘Public Image, you got what you wanted’
01:37 pm


Public Image Ltd.

If you haven’t seen the recent BBC4 3-part series, Punk Britannia, it’s pretty good, although I found my attention flagging during the well-trod 76-78 era in part two. Still the first and third installments, covering “pre punk” pub rock (Dr. Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz, Ducks Deluxe) and “post-punk” respectively, I liked quite a bit. Apparently The Weinstein Company is sending take-down notices to YouTube over some of the Joy Division content used in the series, but you can still find parts of the show streaming online (and on the torrent trackers, natch).

The “post-punk” entry, which we watched last night, had some great footage of The Pop Group, Crass, the Gang of Four, The Fall, Siouxsie and The Banshees and Orange Juice, but inevitably the centerpiece in any “post punk” piece would have to be Public Image Ltd., without question the greatest, most influential band of the era.

I was lucky enough to see PiL on Staten Island at the absolutely decaying and decrepit Paramount Theatre on March 26th, 1983 (also the final Mission of Burma show). Sadly by then the band was minus Jah Wobble (Pete Jones took over on bass) and the set list featured percussion heavy numbers from The Flowers of Romance. Watching John Lydon onstage was like watching a fucking demon having convulsions. Alternately, he’d just glare at the audience or turn his back and sing (I was right up front, a new pair of leather shoes were destroyed by the end).

I thought Keith Levene was astonishing to watch as well, but not just what he was doing with his hands. He was obviously smacked out of his skull and for much of the show Levene stared slack-jawed directly into the bright white lights that illuminated the band, like he was staring at the sun, practically drooling. Still his idiosyncratic guitar playing was always perfect. It was, without a doubt the single best, most powerful concert I have ever seen in my life, although it’s worth mentioning that it was but a few months later that Lydon sacked his band mates and took up with that awful New Jersey bar band as heard on the horrendous Live in Tokyo album.

Never mind the Sex Pistols, that story has been told so many fucking times that no one really cares anymore. When will BBC4 commission a proper documentary on the first three PIL classic albums?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Savoy Sessions: Fenella Fielding vs. Public Image Ltd.

Legendary actress, Fenella Fielding takes on John Lydon’s “Rise” and wins.

This is one of the many brilliant tracks from the recently re-released Savoy Sessions, a fabulous collaboration between Ms. Fielding and David Britton, owner of Savoy Books, author of the banned comic (and novel) Lord Horror and “the last man in the country to be jailed under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act”.

Britton approached Fielding in 2002 to record extracts from J. G. Ballrd’s novel Crash. At first, Ms. Fielding demurred, but Britton’s persistence paid-off and a thrilling creative partnership began.

Fielding recorded Britton’s La Squab, as well T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, and selection of work by Collette - which Ms. Fielding had originally performed on stage in 1970.

Ms. Fielding is perhaps best known for her role as Valeria, the delightful, kooky vamp to Kenneth Williams’ Dr. Orlando Watt in Carry on Screaming, which tends to greatly over-shadow her legendary career in theater and revue. She was hailed by Noel Coward and Kenneth Tynan as one of theater’s greatest actresses, her performance as Hedda Gabler was described by The Times as “one of the experiences of a lifetime”. She was a versatile comedy actress and had performed in a series of successful comedy revues, including Pieces of Eight (co-starring Kenneth Williams, written by Peter Cook and Harold Pinter), and her celebrated one-woman show at Cook’s Establishment Club. Ms. Fielding also provided the announcer’s voice for The Village, in Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner. And if this weren’t enough, she was adored by Frederico Fellini.

In 2006, Britton invited Fenella to a studio in Rochdale, where she recorded a selection of popular hits - including PiL’s “Rise”, New Order’s “Blue Monday”, Kylie Minogue’s “I Can’t get You Out Of My Head”, and even Robbie Williams’ “Angels” - re-interpreting them through her own unique and distinct style, which Kim Fowley described in 2009:

Her Succulent/Velvet-Blue-Saloon vocal tones made me believe I was having Naked Lunch in a Berlin bubble-bath, next to Marlene Dietrich… Somewhere in Berlin, circa 1928–1932.
Hence, we have a message in an aural bottle, from a 21st Century, Axis Sally/Tokyo Rose: Fenella Fielding.

Bring on the smelling salts! Then give me the Silver-Spoon and Golden Needle, so I can blend into the Wonder-Word Void, where Ms Fielding must surely reside.

Fenella’s delivery of the following titles places me squarely at the foot of her bed, on my knees, in a position of worship!

Find your copy of Fenella Fielding’s The Savoy Sessions here.

Here then, for your delectation and delight is the beautiful Ms. Fenella Fielding and “Rise”.

Bonus video clip of Fenella in the Studio, plus taster clips, after the jump…
With thanks to Robert Conroy

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Blueberry Hill: Jah Wobble ‘betrays’ Public Image Ltd.
01:23 pm


Public Image Ltd.
Jah Wobble

Frustrated by the lack of activity in Public Image Ltd., the group’s original bassist Jah Wobble (apparently his stage name comes from a drunken pronunciation of his real name, John Wardle) decided to go into the studio that the band was paying for anyway and record a solo album. Re-purposing some rhythm tracks from the Metal Box sessions, Wobble made a trippy, dubby concoction out of the material—a common thing to do in reggae and PiL were all reggae fanatics—released in 1980 as The Legend Lives On…Jah Wobble in Betrayal!, and a 38-minute EP called Blueberry Hill. John Lydon and Keith Levene were thoroughly pissed off and Wobble was ejected from the group.

Betrayal provides as much insight into what Wobble creatively brought to the PiL sound, as the lack of his basslines would on PiL’s next album, the skeletal sounding Flowers of Romance. Listen to “Blueberry Hill” below, a cheerfully insane cover of the Fats Domino song, buoyed by Wobble’s ebullient bassline, the same one heard on Metal Box’s “The Suit.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘One Drop’: The first new Public Image Ltd. song in 20 years

DJ Steve Lamacq premiered the new PIL song earlier today on BBC 6.
Our John may have lost his upper register, but it is nice to hear him strain at it in such a raw way over the type of back-to-basics reggae-rock bed that’s screaming for a remix/dub-out…

According to the alt-‘80s blog Slicing Up Eyeballs:

The song will be released on a vinyl EP as part of Record Store Day on April 21 in advance of the release of the full-length This Is PiL in May or June.


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
PiL : Design
Public Image Ltd: The infamous riot at the Ritz gig

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Life First, Money Second: John Lydon interview from 1990

John Lydon must get fed up being asked the same olde questions year-after-year by interviewers who should know better. Just see how many interviews over the past thirty years have kicked-off with rumors of a Sex Pistols reunion, as if Lydon has done nothing since the summer of 1977, and then ask whether he’s still Punk and why isn’t PiL any good?

Understandable, therefore, that Lydon is often contemptuous of those who pose such dumb questions.

That said, I sometimes think Lydon’s aggressive behavior stems from a genuine shyness, as he displays a set of tics and mannerisms consistent form his first appearance on Bill Grundy’s infamous swearfest. You’ll recognize them - the mumbling, the staring, the dismissal of questions with the word “Next” - all used to deflect the more personal probing. Oo-er.

We can see examples of both here in this short interview with Jonathan Ross, from his chatshow The Last Resort in 1990.

It begins with Lydon antsy as Ross reels off cue card questions about The Sex Pistols. Lydon is dismissive, which is interesting in light of the Pistols reunion later in the decade.

When questioned about the rumors of a reunion for £6million, Lydon says he wishes such offers would be given to him direct. Even so, he wouldn’t reform the Sex Pistols at any price.

“I would never repeat myself. And I think everybody knows that about me. You may not like me, but at least I am damned honest.”

He is harsh on Sid Vicious, defending his comments as honesty.

“When you start messing with heroin, you’re kissing goodbye to your life, and good riddance too.”

Fair commnent, but I tend to agree with Oscar Wilde that sometimes honesty is not the best policy, and the truth is never simple.

As for Malcolm McLaren he is dissmissed as “an imitation alcoholic”.

He lightens up about his brief acting career in the Harvey Keitel film Order of Death, going on to tell how he was offered “the ratty little git” in Drugstore Cowboy, a part he would have taken but couldn’t because of commitments. Shame for it would have been interesting casting.

The end cuts off just as Lydon gives a 4-word summing up:

“Life first. Money second.”

A nice thought, which reminded me of Picasso’s line about wealth: how it was always best to be rich enough to live poor. O, that we should be so lucky.

Bonus clip of Lydon interviewed by Margenta Devine from Network 7, from 1987, where the same questions about Sex Pistols, Punk and what he’s been up to all come to the fore. Lydon sticks to his honesty and having fun routine.

Bonus interview with Lydon from ‘Network 7’ in 1987, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Keith Levene of PiL on why he quit The Clash
07:13 pm


The Clash
Keith Levene
Public Image Ltd.

As some of you reading this well know, and others will not, Keith Levene, later of Public Image Ltd., was an early member of The Clash. So why did he leave “the only band that matters”?

Taken from an Interview with Keith Levene on the Punk77 website:

“Anyway, my heart wasn’t in The Clash sound at all—I remember going to rehearsals and just being so depressed about their sound. They got it so wrong man, they thought I was depressed because I was having a bad amphetamine come down. So it happened like this :one day, I get to the rehearsal room which is this dark, damp room—the band are sitting around, playing tunes from The Stooges and The MC5 and King Tubby’s Hi Fi on their little cassette machine, waiting for me to arrive cos I’m late as usual. We plug in and start playing, and I remember Joe Strummer poking me in the arm and going, “Look Keith, just what is wrong with you man, are you into this or not”. I’m not into it, so I just leave my guitar up against the amp, feedback howling back like mad, like white noise, and I just walk out. I can still hear that feedback whine as I leave the studio and walk onto the street. Fuck them. And they thought it was a bad speed come down. You wanna know the truth? The truth is I hated their sound. Even though I wrote some of their first album, I can’t listen to it. That’s the truth. There is the printed version of what happened, and then there is the real version of what happened. It didn’t bother me when I left The Clash, not at all. I mean, how could I be in a band which played songs like ‘White Riot’! Fuck off! What did we have to riot about? Then there were the fucking stupid lyrics like “No Elvis, no Beatles and the Rolling Stones.” Fuck off! I didn’t want anything to do with it. Then there was some bullshit like Mick Jones told me he predicted the death of Elvis. Bullshit.”

Tell us how you really feel, Keith!

Below, Levene with PiL performing “Chant” on a TV show called Check It Out before the group storms out of the interview.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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