Public Image Limited
A prelude to something… made of music-type sounds and moving-type images.
Everyone knows the Sex Pistols, but here’s some Public Image Limited, John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon’s post-Pistols’ self-destruction musical endeavour. The band name comes from Lydon’s assessment of deceased Pistols band-mate Sid Vicious, “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.”
In my humble opinion, PiL was Lydon’s songwriting and musical abilities at their best, well-supported by a changeable troupe of excellent musicians.
Do yourself a favour, and press ‘Play’ on these babies:
‘Public Image‘ (1978): lots of throwback to his recent (at the time) punk-rock journey, all on a heavy ‘dub’ base, with lashings of almost early-80’s new-wave guitar styling. Here you can see and hear that maybe something good has come of the Pistols’ pyre.
‘Death Disco‘ (1979): this is PiL and Lydon carving their output into something later called ‘post-punk’. It’s an over-used genre descriptor, but this song is, I think, what most true post-punk and a lot of electronica music leans on – it’s drawing on so many new and under-appreciated (at the time) musical styles that slot in seamlessly to build up a genuinely hypnotic aspect. It’s a watermark in the transition from the messy and anarchic to the skillfully arranged and crafted. And it’s dark and it says something, to someone.
‘This Is Not A Love Song‘ (1983): more subdued punk-rock affectations, with Lydon really holding on to that unmistakable Sex Pistols vocal style, but now much more evolved and polished – overlaid with unmissable synthesizer and sounding ‘poppy’, complete with lyrics taunting the punk fan-base: “I’m crossing over”… PiL copped a battering from fans and press for ‘selling out’… Somehow I don’t think Lydon cared.
‘Rise‘ (1986): this is probably PiL’s best-known track, heaps of airplay, and it was one of a fleet of ‘uplifting’ and anthemic anti-apartheid tracks coming out of the UK at that time. This track contains two of the most memorable lines in modern music, lifted and used elsewhere many times since: “the written word is a lie”, and the repeat-to-fade “anger is an energy”. Lydon is clearly still keen to provoke questioning of the accepted reality, and not leave us wondering where he has come from or who he is, only now with a very healthy musical pedigree of his own that is now cemented and still influential today.
Anyway, that was a little musical tour through what was born after the infamous Sex Pistols self-immolated. For no other reason than because I wanted to run a little musical tour tonight…
Crank it. No, really, I mean it. Enjoy!
NOTE: I’ve had a report or two from the fair continent of North America of non-visibility/failure to load for the video embeds. It may be a regional access control thing, or a ‘vevo’ thing, or both, or something different. Apologies if this has happened to you. Gosh-darn technomology…