2 weeks ago
Saturday, November 22, 2008
PUBLIC IMAGE BELONGS TO ME: John Lydon and PiL
"ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
This was evidently one of Lydon's favourite rhetorical constructions, as can be seen in the Julien Temple-directed Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury, during footage of the ill-starred Thames riverboat party in the summer of 1977 celebrating the release of "God Save the Queen". Lydon, out-of-sorts and feeling harassed by the press attention, declares, in exactly the same ennui-withered, nasal-drone-tone as at Winterlands, "ever get the feeling you’ve been trapped?"
The Punk and His Music
mp3s of the show, in two parts, can be found here (in the right hand column)
transcription of the conversation between Lydon and his interviewer Tommy Vance here
The show took place on July 16th 1977, in the mid-evening. Rotten's interlocutor was Tommy Vance, whose husky baritone became famous later in the Seventies (and beyond) on his heavy metal/hard rock show on Radio One.
Tommy Vance slightly earlier in his career, when he was a pirate radio deejay broadcasting from offshore.
"you do feel cheated. There should be loads of different things"
During the Capital show, Rotten talked about going to see bands and being disappointed because most groups were homogenized products of a media feedback loop, their attitudes and performance utterly predictable. "That’s the trouble with most punk bands, you can predict what their next song's gonna be, and as soon as they start up you can sing along with the words without ever hearing it before. Which ain’t so funny, that's a real bad night out...". It had all gone horribly wrong. As he put it in a later interview, "One of the first things I was ever quoted as saying was 'I'd like to see more bands like us'. Right? When I said that, I didn't mean exactly like us. Unfortunately that's what happened. Imitations. Billions of them. And I wanted nothing to do with any of them. There were a few originals, but not many.""Cheated" is a pre-echo of his Winterland statement, suggesting either that the comment on that night wasn't spontaneous but planned, or that the sense of punk as a failure, a disappointment, a fraud, had hardened as early as the summer of 1977 and the "cheated" notion haunted his mind right up until Winterland.
records selected by Rotten
The Capital Show 'A Punk and His Music' tracklist
Tim Buckley - Sweet Surrender
(taken from: Greetings From LA, 1972)
The Creation - Life Is Just Beginning
David Bowie - Rebel Rebel
(single, also featured on: Diamond Dogs, 1974)
Unknown Irish Folk Music [not apparently The Chieftains as often cited)/ Jig
Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown
(single, also featured on: King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown, 1976)
Gary Glitter - Doing Alright With The Boys
Fred Locks - Walls
(taken from: Black Star Liner, 1976)
Yabby You aka Vivian Jackson and the Prophets - Fire in a Kingston
Culture - I'm Not Ashamed
(single, also featured on: Two Sevens Clash, 1977). With I-Roy on vocals. The version played is a rare dub, not the album version, to be found on Joe Gibbs & The Professionals compilation CD 'No Bones For The Dogs' (Pressure Sounds).
Dr Alimantado & The Rebels - Born For A Purpose
Bobby Byrd - Back From The Dead
Neil Young - Revolution Blues Neil Young - Revolution Blues
(taken from: On the Beach, 1974)
Lou Reed - Men Of Good Fortune
(taken from: Berlin, 1973)
Kevin Coyne - Eastbourne Ladies
(taken from: Marjory Razorblade, 1973)
Peter Hammill - The Institute Of Mental Health, Burning
(taken from: Nadir's Big Chance, 1975)
Peter Hammill - Nobody's Business
(taken from: Nadir's Big Chance, 1975)
Makka Bees - Nation Fiddler / Fire!
(single, 1977, the Congo label.)
Captain Beefheart - The Blimp
(taken from: Trout Mask Replica, 1969)
Nico - Janitor Of Lunacy
(taken from: Desertshore, 1970)
Ken Boothe - Is It Because I'm Black
(taken from: Let's Get It On, 1973)
John Cale - Legs Larry At Television Centre
(taken from: Academy in Peril, 1972)
Third Ear Band - Fleance
(taken from: Music from Macbeth, 1972 )
Can - Halleluhwah
(taken from: Tago Mago, 1971)
Peter Tosh - Legalise It
(taken from: Legalise It, 1976)
Along with Tim Buckley, probably Rotten's most dissident choice here was "Fleance" by the classic "head" band Third Ear Band, who recorded for Harvest and whose Medieval acid-folk came garlanded with oboe and recorder, "Fleance" is a courtly love song, all "thine two eyes" and "plight my troth", from Third Ear Band's soundtrack to Polanski's 1971 version of Macbeth; mimed, in the movie, by the young Keith Chegwin!
Also decidedly not with the punk rock/McLaren program were "The Institute of Mental Health" and "Nobody's Business", the two tracks by Peter Hammill from 1975's concept album Nadir's Big Chance. In the album's sleevenote Hammill claimed to have been taken over by the alter-ego Rikki Nadir: "this loud aggressive perpetual sixteen year old" playing "the beefy punk songs".
"Now's my big break - let me up on the stage,I'll show you what it's all about; enough of the fake,bang your feet in a rage, tear down the walls and let us out!We're more than mere morons, perpetually conned,So come on everybody, smash the system with the song,Smash the system with the song!"
For all Nadir's prescient proto-punk menace, Hammill was a progressive rocker: edgier than Genesis, for sure, but middle class, literate, musicianly, and signed to Charisma (alongside Harvest, Vertigo, Chrysalis, Deram, and Virgin, one of the archetypal prog labels of the Seventies). In the Capital Radio interview, Lydon raved: "Peter Hammill's great. A true original. I've just liked him for years. If you listen to his solo albums, I'm damn sure Bowie copied a lot out of that geezer. The credit he deserves, has just not been given to him. I love all his stuff."
Strangely Rotten skipped the chance to combine two of his great musical passions—Hammill and Jamaican music—and elected not to include Van Der Graaf Generator's "Meurglys III (The Songwriters Guild)", from 1976's World Record, a bizarre prog-rock take on reggae rhythm that runs for nearly 21 minutes.
More on Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator: link
More on Third Ear Band: link
Myth of the seventies as wasteland
If anything, in The Punk and His Music, Rotten attempts to deprivilege the Sixties: he says of The Rolling Stones "I've never liked any of those Sixties bands"
outing himself as an aesthete
As early as late 1976, the fledgling Sham 69 dismissed Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols as "fucking art students"—innacurate, maybe, but you can see right there the seeds of the disintegration of punk into Oi! versus postpunk, fundamentalist versus progressive, factions.
"the band's threat" "man of taste"—McLaren, NME 12/23/1978.
PiL feature Lydon in Sounds, March 4 1978, discussing the Capital Radio Show: "That really annoyed Malcolm. He complained about it to other people, and Vivienne [Westwood] too... about the records I played. Why didn't I play Iggy Stooge, the Dolls..."
McLaren, from the England's Dreaming Tapes talking to Jon Savage about Lydon as muso and trendy hipster:
"Rotten never had an ounce of musical ability. Whatever he said, he was just an arrogant little shit who thought he knew everything. He hated their music, he hated rock'n'roll. Literally hated it. He wanted it to be fairy-like, like the Sixties. Captain Beefheart. He wanted to be reggae, cos that was in that week. He was a fashion victim in the true sense, a musical fashion victim.
"He didn't have that focus that Jones and Co. had. They were going for the tradition of mutated, irresponsible, hardcore raw power -- Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, MC5, bits of the Faces… He hated all those groups. You can see it now: Camden Comprehensive, Captain Beefheart weekend, round the back with mum's brandy. Pathetic… Rotten had no sense of rock'n'roll, how could you when you went to Catholic church on a Sunday?"
"I love my music"
Some other Rotten comments from the Capital show that break with the McLaren vision of Sex Pistols as anti-music. "I've liked music since the first day I began living. I just like all music... I had a plastic Beatles wig... That's what started me buying records. I felt part of it."... "It's not all reggae, I can't bring down everything I've got, but if I could, you'd be surprised even more. I like all music."
"a constructive... lunatic"
—McLaren. NME 1/28/78. Pistols news story.
On the subject of McLaren’s being incensed by Rotten’s departure from the script."That was pathetic", Rotten retorted to the NME a year later (Dec 23 78), "it seemed to mean... I couldn't be half as ignorant, moronic, violent, destructive... as they wanted to promote me". In other words, it was his constructed lunatic/hooligan image that he was consciously attempting to dismantle on The Punk and His Music. To an extent, it worked: discussing the show, The Sunday Times described Rotten as coming across as "a mild-mannered liberal with a streets of Islington accent". But what really disturbed McLaren was that Rotten had become the darling of the left-leaning media, from NME to The Guardian to Time Out to New Society to ex-sixties types like Caroline Coon: that wet-liberal dream, the gifted working class kid looking to express himself. These had been precisely the sort of Sixties bleeding heart sorts in whose craws McLaren had wanted the Pistols to stick. He became increasingly suspicious that Rotten was a careerist, a closet art-rocker looking to go solo. In the script for The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle movie, McLaren’s name for the Rotten character was the Collaborator. And in the earlier Russ Meyer directed and Roger Ebert scripted abortive Pistols movie Who Killed Bambi? Rotten was to be styled as a hippie—both for viewer dissonance but also, one suspects, because that's what McLaren thought of him as"a sensitive music-loving type.Had Rotten in fact been a hippie? He had been a fan of Ladbroke Grove scene hairies The Pink Fairies; there was a rumor, which he denied, that he used to deal acid at the Sunday Roundhouse gigs, and another that he used to roadie for Hawkwind. Lydon also had long hair, but then again, that was the norm back then.
at a playschool during the summer Lydon taught children woodwork and was kicked out for his informal, imagination-oriented approach.
further education... Kingsway College
Kingsway College of Further Education, which was, as Wobble puts it, "the kind of place where kids who hadn't, shall we say, fitted in too well ended up" (The Guardian Weekend - September 7 1996). Although Lydon preferred hanging out with the teachers in the pub, discussing Shakespeare among other things.In The Filth and the Fury, Steve Jones says "Johnny was an intellectual". But he was the kind of intellectual who used "intellectual" as an insult and derided the practice of "intellectualizing" things, e.g. Lydon deriding Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces and dismissing Situationism as "mind games for the muddled classes".
heeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny talking about being a bookworm and autodidact:
"I advanced meself, didn't I? I took every exam that was ever available and I really, really enjoyed it, too. I found education to be not a thing you turn your nose up at and sneer at, but to be an absolute release. But then I always loved books, when I was very, very young I could read and write before I went to school. My mum always got me interested in that"-- Lydon speaking on John Lydon: A Culture Show Special, BBC4, January 5th 2010
Dr Alimantado's 'Born for a Purpose'
Key Lyric "If you feel like you have no reason for living, don't determine my life"
Lydon, during the Capital show: "Now this record, just after I got my brains kicked out, I went home and I played it, and there's a verse in it, where it's like, 'if you feel like you have no reason for living/don’t determine my life'—cause the same thing happened to him, he got run over cause he was a dread. It's very true." According to Alimantado, a bus driver had deliberately tried to run him over in the street, because he had dreadlocks.
Being beaten up Vance asks how many times he'd been beaten, and Rotten replies: "Loads. Loads. That's just London at the moment. That's the way it is—it's a violent town, gangs like in the summer, strolling the streets. It's very easy for a gang to pick on like one person and smash his head in—it's a big laugh for them, and it's very easy for them to say 'what a wanker, look at him run away. What a turd.' I mean, what's he meant to do?."He ultimately blamed the incidents that summer on McLaren, attributing them (June 16 1979 NME] to "all that sort of political manipulation. Well, no more. From now on if I get hurt it's because of a situation I've created and not some pseudo arsehole sitting in an office somewhere." Or Rolling Stone, May 1st 1980: "Malcolm and the press had a lot to do with fostering that image. I chose to walk away from it because otherwise you have all these people out there waiting for you to kill yourself on their behalf." He cited Sid Vicious as an example of someone who was killed by trying to live out a myth. "Poor Sid. The only way he could live up to what he wanted everyone to believe about him was to die. That was tragic, but more for Sid than anyone else. He really bought his public image."
the death knell came
Elsewhere there was a different response to punk's perceived failure and the accompanying desolation and bitterness. NME star writers and star-crossed lovers Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, two of punk's most fervent champions, penned the The Boy Looked At Johnny: The Obituary of Rock and Roll. Published at the end of '78 but written much earlier in the year (during a single amphetamine-fueled weekend that spring, legend has it), the screed captures the absolute nadir of post-punk disillusion in those first few months after the Pistols auto-destruct. The Boy Looked At Johnny concluded that the revolution was defeated: not only was the record industry intact, but it seemed positively rejuvenated and salivatingly eager to market the more tameable New Wave bands. (Indeed, in a Melody Maker mid-1978 feature on the state of the record industry and whither next for British music, John Fruin, managing director of WEA, enthused about the commercial potential of "a whiter, cleaner edition of punk" called power pop—a clutch of Beatles-copyist groups that some elements of the music press were desperately hyping as the Next Big Thing). Dripping with the acrid cynicism of the recently disabused believer, The Boy Looks At Johnny roundly dismisses rock in its entirety as a mere mechanism of social control. Its "illusion of youth rebellion" achieves the counter-revolutionary double-whammy of generating huge amounts of cash for the leisure industry while "channelling... the time, energy and psyche of young people" into a cultural cul de sac. The most crucial aspect of punk, in the Burchill/Parsons view, was its assault on rock itself, aiming to dismantle this safety-valve system and reintroduce youth to the Real (i.e. political involvement, struggle, class war). But the movement "born out of No Fun... ended as a product whose existence was No Threat." Parsons and Burchill's grim conclusion—a reductionist rewrite of punk history—was that the only worthwhile things to come out of the whole farrago were performers like Tom Robinson, who used music as a soapbox for left-wing causes. "The first band with sufficient pure, undiluted bottle to keep their crooning necks on the uncompromising line of commitment... Compared to the Tom Robinson Band, every other rock musician is wanking into the wind." This was the SWP/ANL line: "without a genuine declaration of commitment and the exertion of whatever influence a musician may have," wrote Burchill/Parsons, "...rock and roll is pointless, useless, worthless."
Burchill later recalled what the after-punk crash felt like in an East Village Eye interview (Summer 1981). The rush of History + Amphetamines "made the two years go by very fast; when it was over in 1978, there was a terrible tristesse about, a feeling of being jilted... No one who loved punk will ever be happy again, dear me no, but it was worth it. I pity the young people these days; I wish they could have some of what we had." The same metaphor recurred, with a cynical twist, years later in Burchill's Modern Review slag-off of England’s Dreaming: she compared Savage to Miss Haversham in Great Expectations, with punk as the rotting wedding cake.
"a regressive mod... point of reference"
—Lydon, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs (see bibliography). P. 204.
Mod meaning, I think, specifically, The Who's amphetamine-apoplectic, amped-up version of R&B, as in the cover of "Substitute" the Pistols did. The sound of teenage proles on pills, hoping they die before they get old.Lydon recalled in his autobiography ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS (page 158) that "Steve, Paul, Malcolm, Glen, Sid ... rarely mingled with music or the possibilities ... they would slag off bands and not know who or what they were talking about. Malcolm guided Steve and Paul into a regressive sixties mod band vibe ... I knew more of what I was talking about". He also remembered one incident where the boys in the band talked about doing a Kinks-style song, and him, being the aesthete know-it-all, saying "which one," meaning which of the many styles of Kinks song across their substantial discography, with which he was thoroughly intimate.
pinpointed Bollocks failure as a deficiency of dub Yet it's hard to imagine how it could really have taken on this quality (that said, 'Submission' has a subaqua feel, a doomy dubbiness and bass-heavy ponderousness; along with "Bodies" it's probably the most powerful song on the album). Legendarily Vicious and Rotten did do their own mix of Bollocks that was much more bass-heavy and proto-PiL.
Some like the Clash and the Ruts
The Clash, for instance, offered a rough-hewn skank on "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" (lyrically one of the most complex and interesting songs about white-on-black musical projection/identification/mutual misunderstanding) and on "Guns of Brixton"; they also hired dub wizard Lee Perry to sparkle up "Complete Control", covered contemporary roots classics like "Armagideon Time" and "Police and Thieves," and pulled off a convincing roots facsimile of their own with "Bankrobber" (Jamaican producer Mikey Dread at the controls). The Ruts had a subliminal reggae riddim feel in songs like "In A Rut" and referenced the Rastafarian worldview in "Babylon's Burning". Later they did a dub version of one of their albums.Analysts like Dick Hebdige have interpreted punk itself—the British version of it, at least—as partially based in white youth's yearning for a dissident tribal identity equivalent to the Rastafarians, who were highly visible on Britain's urban streets from the early Seventies onwards. From Subculture: the Meaning of Style: "the succession of white subcultural forms can be read as a series of deep-structural adaptations which symbolically accommodate or expunge the black presence from the host community". Hebdiges says that by tracking this dialectic of attraction-repulsion across race lines, as dramatized through the ever-shifting minutiae of style, music, dance, et al, "we can watch, played out on the loaded surfaces of British working-class youth cultures, a phantom history of race relations since the War."
"part journalism, part prophecy"
—James A. Winders (see bibliography). P. 19
Race Relations Act
"child of Irish/Catholic immigrants... Identification with Black British experience"
See the Capital Radio show and Lydon's choice of Ken Boothe's "Is It Because I'm Black," with its key lines "Something is holding me back /Is it because I'm black?"
"antimusic of any kind. I'm tired of melody."
(original source unknown, cited in later piece Rolling Stone, May 1, 1980)
Lydon in Jamaica
A piece on Johnny Rotten's visit to Jamaica as consultant for Virgin's reggae release
My own interview with Dennis Morris who accompanied Rotten on his trip, also looking at his carere as photographer and involvement in Basement 5.
Here is Lydon's list of reggae artists that Virgin should consider signing
The Front Line Whose logo—a black power fist clenched around barbed wire—potently conflated militancy and martyrdom to serve as a visual icon of radical chic. Reggae connoisseurs find this Virgin imprint's releases disappointing, the production being too "rock" and tidy. Still, the groups and artists were uniformly among the cream of Jamaican roots reggae, or at least, that portion of the cream that hadn't been already sifted by Island! The Prince Far I albums on Front Line, Black Man Land and Dubwise are pretty good as I recall.
John Lydon interviewed by Janet Street Porter in early 1978 while in post-Pistols and pre-PiL limbo
Wobble... reputation as thug
Wobble from an interview I did with him for The Wire in 1992 (full text in the footnotes for Chapter 14):"It was a very angry, neurotic scene, and it was perfect for me! I was engulfed in rage. There were a lot of fellow malcontents. I've got very happy memories of it, because I don't know what I would have done without that chance to express myself. I dread to think what would have happened... I can't talk about punk sociologically, only subjectively—I just wanted to live. Recently, I popped into a local boozer, and it felt like pre-punk again—a living death, everybody getting tanked up, and then it's back to work in the morning. There's got to be more to life than that. I was very against authority, against formularised structures, and I still am. I'm still very adolescent, without being boringly so. Seeing people in their thirties who haven't matured can be a sad sight. You can't just be against things, you have to offer something as well."
Keith Levene He characterizes his background as self-made middle class. He grew up in Southgate, North London. "I would say sort-of-middle-class was my background. I'm half-Jewish—my dad's Jewish. My dad used to be a tailor, and then he had a factory churning out these fur-fabric coats. So he wasn't really using his skill. He was a guy that was his own boss, employed people, and really worried a lot. I really inherited that!"
Levene roadied for them aged 15 and was awestruck to be in the presence of his hero Steve Howe but the gig didn't last long because he irritated the band by taking every opportunity to mess around on their instruments.
reasons he left the Clash
Mick Jones's tastes lay in a more traditional rock'n'roll direction, whereas Levene wanted a harsher guitar sound and less conventional verse-chorus-verse structures. Levene also claims that Jones was envious of his superior guitar skills and green-eyed about his youthfulness ("Mick was 21 and I was only 18—that really freaked him out") at a time when punk exalted the teenager and lambasted "boring old farts" a/k/a B.O.F.s. Then there was the fact that both of them were competing for the affections of Viv Albertine, Levene's squatmate and future guitarist of The Slits. "Mick got all weird when I started teaching her to play guitar."
Amphetamine After being voted out, Levene drifted through various unsatisfactory groups. With Viv Albertine, Sid Vicious, and Steve Walsh (later of Manicured Noise), he formed Flowers of Romance. During this period he helped Albertine develop her Slits guitar sound, "like a buzz-saw crossed with a wasp" as she later described it. Flowers of Romance split up in February 1977 when Vicious joined the Sex Pistols. After that Levene did the live sound for The Slits during their early days, and played in The Quick Spurts, the first incarnation of Ken Lockie's group Cowboys International.
Relapse into hard rock tradition Give 'Em Enough Rope got much flak for its hard rock American production by BoC producer Sandy Pearlman. But the flak it received was all in the UK; in America the album was critically well-received and set the stage for the canonization of the band with London Calling, in which the Clash embraced American rock'n'roll and roots music wholeheartedly. London Calling was later anointed Best Album of the Eighties by Rolling Stone. You could also argue that the Pistols greatest sonic legacy is in hard rock—its songs have been covered by Motley Crue, Guns N’Roses, Megadeth, Motorhead, etc.
the name Public Image Ltd
In a piece in Sounds (July 22 1978) Caroline Coon reported that the group had not settled on a name yet but the candidates included the Royal Family and the Carnivorous Butterflies!
"under a tight leash"
Lydon, from his autobiography: 'I formed PiL because I got bored with the extremist point of view that I'd had with the Sex Pistols... I attempted to move toward a liberal point of view and see if that could slowly but surely change society into something more decent... PiL (was) much more of a democracy... I got the name Public Image from a book by that Scottish woman, Muriel Spark... when I was in Italy, somebody introduced her writings to me. I checked out some of her other books when I went home. One of them was called The Public Image. It was all about this actress who was unbearably egotistical. I thought Ha! The Public Image Limited. Not as a company but to be limited—not being as 'out there' as I was with the Sex Pistols".
It seemed to tacitly acknowledge the truth of McLaren's contention around the time of the split-up in San Francisco: that fame and being feted had gone to Rotten's head, that he was now just like "Rod Stewart."
Acme Attractions Originally selling second hand clothing, the store was on the King's Rd, and perceived by Viv Westwood as a rival. Letts then became the DJ at the Roxy, which was started by Acme's accountant Andy Czezowksi.
a stealth campaign From Filth and the Fury, the Pistols movie, Lydon: "Look, I want to change the music business, right? I want to change all that... but it'll take years. I'll have to do it more skilfully this time. But it'll be with a vengeance. And they don’t know."
money-making as potentially subversive The Sex Pistols had of course been selected as Young Businessmen of the Year in Investors Review at the end of 1977, for their success in getting money out of a series of record companies. So you could draw a line between McLaren’s "Cash From Chaos" and PiL’s presentation of themselves as corporation.
guitar-wielding guerillas The Clash served for PiL, throughout its early years, as the symbol of what went wrong with punk—and they lobbed insults in their direction in almost every interview they did.
Anti-rock'n'roll image Dennis Morris, source unknown: "We all agreed it would be good to get away from the punk look with which John had been so closely associated. We went to Ken McDonald, who had a shop on the King's Road, to style John. He made all his suits—all those wicked, bright-coloured zoot suits. I designed and shot the first record sleeve with John on the cover with Italian Vogue lettering. The reverse featured Wobble in a sharp suit. On the inner bag Keith Levene was in a blue shiny jacket with Jim Walker, the drummer, and the Mad typeface." There was an ad campaign around the PiL debut with small ads going all the way up the tube escalators.
Keith Levene, from Jason Gross’s February 2001 interview at Perfect Sound Forever: link"This guy, Kenny McDonald, made his suit and all of ours and it made him look good to have the guys from PiL wearing his stuff. We'd wear it wrong and it looked even better. We didn't want the black leather jacket look like these punk bands. So John just decided to hate this guy—that's what happens and there's nothing you can do. He [Kenny] wouldn't be his lapdog and John thought he was a star and wanted that. John named him on our first album on "Low Life."If I recall correctly, it was Kenny McDonald who ran into Levene outside the tube station and told him "Johnny's looking for you, he's starting a band"
Not the Johnny Rotten Band Lydon in an interview with Kris Needs, ZigZag, date unknown: "In this band we are all equal. No Rod Stewarts. We all do equal amounts of work, we all produce equally, write songs and collect the money equally."Ah hah, echo of the McLaren "you're just like Rod Stewart" barb there!
Richard Branson's second cousin, Mr Music at Virgin, Draper did all the A&R, nurturing the artists, and the signings. But the Sex Pistols were Branson's choice—he liked mayhem more than music and could see they were going to create a lot of mass-cultural impact. Unlike, say, David Bedford.
key 'progressive labels' Virgin's roster also had Wigwam, Clearlight, David Bedford, Ivor Cutler, Hatfield and the North, Ashra, and of course, funding the whole operation, Mike Oldfield.
"Public Image" cover as fake newspaper
Just one example of a mini-tradition of record covers styled as newspapers, way too long to list here... Wishbone Ash did one in 1977 (a fake newspaper called Arista News, the headline "The Band Most Likely to Succeed in ’77"). And the most recent example: grime MC Lady Sovereign's 2004 single "Random"
"I hate love... It's bullshit"
— Rotten, quoted in Vermorel, Fred, and Judy Vermorel, Sex Pistols: The Inside Story (London: Star Books, 1978) P. 180
"Fodderstompf" and discofunk From a PiL feature in NME, 16 June 1979.
Danny Baker: "Well do you just reckon rock is dead, or all popular music?"
Lydon: "Oh no, only rock. I still love reggae and I like quite a lot of disco music. I mean you can DANCE to those, right."
"a church... farce"
—Lydon, NBC's Tomorrow Show 6/27/80
More info on Lydon’s confrontational encounter with Tom Synder the host in footnotes for
the Rainbow show
Support from Dennis Morris's PiL-like punky-reggae all-black band Basement 5 and from dub poet Linton Kwesi-Johnson, plus roots deejaying from Don Letts, shifted the vibe slightly away from rock convention.
"time and money down the King's Road"
An allusion to where the punks would hang out in their Mohawks and spraypainted jackets (for years and years to come) and also to McLaren and Westwood’s clothes boutique full of overpriced punk clobber.
"so what... That's history"
—Lydon stage comment quoted in NME, 1/6/79. PiL live review
LINKS AND FURTHER READING
Incredibly thorough and detailed Public Image Ltd. fansite Fodderstompf
John Lydon's site
Biography page of Jah Wobble's site
Unofficial Wobble fan site
All non-pictorial contents copyright Simon Reynolds unless otherwise indicated