Shortly after the Sex Pistols played their last show, until the 90s reunion, in January 1978 John Lydon found himself in Jamaica, courtesy of Virgin Records. He was there to help source some reggae acts and tracks for Virgin’s Front Line operation. At this point Public Image Limited was still a little way off. Richard Branson had some other ideas for the former Mr Rotten. He flew Devo‘s Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob Casales out to Jamaica to persuade them to take John Lydon on as the next Devo lead vocalist. Obviously that didn’t happen but PIL did and personally I find that quite a fascinating what if from rocks rich history.
Day 9 of our twelve day journey to Christmas 2017 and thank you for sticking with this largely non-Christmassy post. Anyway today’s famous person in a song is none other than one of the sexiest, smartest, sassiest and finest photo models there has ever been, Bettie Page! Born Bettie Mae Page in Nashville in 1923, Bettie left this world just over nine years ago aged 85. She made her way to New York via California to become an actress.
Something Christmassy for my readers 🙂
But she became a pin-up model and in 1955 as Miss January she became one of Playboy magazine’s first Playmate Of The Month. She posed for many photographers during the 1950s until in 1959 she converted to Evangelical Christianity and worked for Billy Graham. She spent many years of her adult life in a psychiatric hospital suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Minor planet 184784 is named after her and the luxury droid in ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’ from 2005 was inspired by her.
But the song for today has nothing today with Star Wars, but it does come from a true punk star. It is Public Image Limited with the song “Bettie Page” taken from their 2015 album ‘What The World Needs Now….’. This was the tenth studio album released by John Lydon’s Public Image Limited a.k.a. PiL. It reached number 29 in the UK album chart, the band’s highest placing since ‘Album’ in 1986. Sadly, in my opinion, it was never released as a single, but I still love it, I hope that you do too! Incidentally the latest rumour is that Lydon may be representing Ireland in next years Eurovision Song Contest!
To see a band like PiL is a great experience whatever the venue, however to see them somewhere as intimate as Fibbers is awesome. The crowd was perhaps mostly 40, 50 and 60-somethings including a couple of old punks that clearly haven’t moved on sartorially since 1977. But Lydon had all 600 of us in his hands whatever our age or fashion sense. He is a magnificent front man and someone who is impossible to imitate, although many have tried.
The show kicked off with the two opening songs from the new album “Double Trouble” and “Know Now”. The band also played “The One” and an incredibly powerful version of “Corporate” from that same album. The band played supremely well and great credit must go to Lu Edmonds, Bruce Smith and Scott Firth. John Lydon himself was also on his absolute top form. He comes across like a punk librarian spliced with the genes of a Dalek and I mean that all in a good way. (How about John Lydon for the next Doctor Who?) His engagement with his audience is brilliant and his put down of a heckler was hilarious. Incidentally why do people pay to come to gigs and then heckle the band? But as Lydon said to him ” We’ve got your money, now fuck off”!
Plenty of classic PiL cuts were played; “This Is Not A Love Song”, a stupendous run through “Death Disco“, “Poptones”, an inspirational “Warrior”and an excellent and funky rendition of “Deeper Water” from the ‘This Is PiL’ album. Quite a few times Lydon mentioned how hot it was on stage and I can certainly believe him because it was steaming in the audience. The band left the stage for five minutes before the encore and it was an encore worth waiting for. Kicking off with “Religion” followed by “Public Image” and closing with a rousing stomp through “Rise“. Was there anyone in the crowd that didn’t sing along to the last two? I don’t think so. Anger is an energy but there was far more energy than anger in the crowd. I’ve said this a lot recently, but this truly was one of the best gigs I have ever seen. Surpassing by a mile the last time I saw Public Image Limited in 1978 or 1979. If you have never seen PiL then I suggest that you rectify that now!
Public Service Announcement (could that be a parallel band to Public Image Limited?) none of the pictures and video were taken by me at the gig because I watched it through my eyes and not through my mobile phone screen!
Last night was the first time I had been to a gig at the Brudenell in Leeds and I have to say it really is a fantastic venue. The eclectic and diverse mix of acts appearing there means that I will certainly come back. Anyway on to the main event; the Selecter. I had seen them once before but that would have been around 1979/ 1980 when I was younger than excellent support band the Tuts are now!
I arrived at the venue just before the doors opened and met some really nice people in the queue. Roger you’re a top bloke! Soon after I came in Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson were manning the Selecter’s merch stand. Obviously I was always going to buy something, so I bought a Selecter polo shirt and a CD of the band’s new album; ‘Subculture’ which the pair of them signed for me. Pauline also signed my copy of her autobiography ‘Black By Design’ which I had finished reading a couple of weeks ago. It is an excellent book and every bit as good as recent autobiographies by John Lydon and Viv Albertine. In the book Pauline comes across as very open and honest and having met her, albeit briefly, she really is a wonderful woman. She and Gaps were very attentive with all the fans in the queue for Selecter product.
As for the gig it was the amazing Tuts who opened the show. They are the support band on the Selecter’s UK tour and Pauline Black has championed them every step of the way. I think that this is the fourth time I have had the pleasure of seeing this incredible young band and it is clear to me that they just keep on getting better and better each time I see them. The stage costumes for tonight were made from a material patterned with the leaf of a popular and some would say refreshing herb. They looked very effective too! Their set was energetic and powerful and they certainly know how to work a crowd. On”Tut, Tut, Tut” especially for International Women’s Day they invited Sarah Statham from local band Esper Scout to drum the intro while all three Tuts ran through the crowd making sure that we all sang along. New song “Do I Have To Look For Love” will become a classic and old favourites like “Worry Warrior” and “Dump Your Boyfriend” already are. The girls cover of the Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail” was sublime. Nadia berated the music industry about the apparent need to posses a penis to succeed in the music business. Now those of us with half a brain know that shouldn’t be true, but judging from the line-up for Reading and Leeds this year it certainly and sadly has some credence. So come on all you labels and management companies stop all the macho willy waving and sign this band! Metaphorically they have more balls than many of the men in the music industry! The queue and interest in the band at their merch table was incredible which shows that the fans are there! So come on record labels how about a deal. As for more gigs what about another support slot? Garbage must need a decent support band and the could not go wrong with the Tuts, are you listening Shirley Manson?
As for the headliners what can I say? The Selecter were awesome. They played most of their biggest songs; “On My Radio”, “Missing Words”, “Celebrate The Bullet” and my particular favourites; “Too Much Pressure” and “Three Minute Hero”. I thought “Danger” and “London’s Burning” went down a storm too and really got the crowd rocking! One of my newer favourites and it’s yet another crowd pleaser is “My England”. They played a few songs from the new album, which I have now played a couple of times now and it is bloody good. It gets an official release next month, but for now is available at the band’s merch stand on the rest of the tour. Some of the new material fits into the set so well that you’d think it had been around a while. “Box Fresh” could easily become a classic pop song. “It Never Worked Out” and “See Them A Come” are the Selecter at their best and on top form. Another song from the new album, “Breakdown” tackles the large number of black people who have died in custody in this country and is as you would expect very hard-hitting. This is clearly a band that stands up proudly for human rights and are openly anti racist and anti sexist, as frankly we all should be! The pre encore show ended with a magnificent version of “Last Train To Skaville” which had all the aging skinheads from the ska revival of the late 70s stomping and skanking hard enough to cave the floor in! Like me many of those folks now have a natural skinhead look given the lack of hair that age brings to some of us. The encore kicked off with a mighty version of “James Bond” and the Tuts joined the Selecter on stage at the end for a final goodbye to the Brudenell crowd. Nadia even managed to stage dive and briefly crowd surf. As for the energy of the band, Gaps must have sweated gallons! (Is there an exercise DVD that could be made from that performance?) Finally I should also mention two other covers that the Selecter performed; Doris Day’s “Secret Love” which worked really well when ska-ified and Springsteen’s “Because The Night” from the new album and for me worked even better when played live. Overall this was a cracking night and I would definitely not leave it as long before seeing the Selecter again and I am already looking forward to seeing the Tuts again.
You can still catch them both on the remaining dates of the UK tour and if you haven’t already done so then sort yourself a ticket out. You will not regret it!
OK and now for the usual public service note, this time the pictures were taken on my little phone but the videos were all obtained on You Tube.
OK I know he was a criminal and I know that a man died as a result of the violence used in the Great Train Robbery back in 1963. But if only the gang had not coshed the driver of the train they would surely have become folk heroes for taking so much without really hurting anyone. Anyway I thought I would mark the passing of Ronnie Biggs the most obvious way I can given that this is a music blog. Here is Ronnie from 1978 as guest vocalist for the Sex Pistols. McLaren never shied away from bad publicity did he?
Ronnie died earlier this week aged 84. He recorded a track with the Pistols while he was holed up in Brazil and they were in free fall after the departure of Johnny Rotten/ John Lydon. The B Side of the “No One Is Innocent (A Punk Prayer By Ronnie Biggs)” single was the Sid Vicious version of “My Way”. The single made it to number 7 in the UK charts.
Paul Hewson a.k.a. Bono Vox off of U2 has recently been awarded one of the highest cultural honours available in France. This was in recognition of his services to music and committment to humanitarian aid. he was given the honour; Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti in Paris. He dedicated the award to his band, saying, ‘I’ve got the biggest mouth and the loudest voice but the music we make comes from each other’. The award was first presented in 1957 and has been awarded to other musicians including; Bob Dylan (1990), David Bowie (1999) and Patti Smith (2005). Two James Bond actors Sean Connery (1987) and Roger Moore (2008). Donald Sutherland, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood and Audrey Hepburn are also in that exclusive club along with writers T.S. Eliot and Julian Barnes.
Pope steals Bono’s glasses in effort to look cool…….. FAILS!
While we are talking about awards it has been announced that the BMI, the music rights organisation, will present a special icon award for his contribution to music to one-time enfant terrible of the UK tabloids John Lydon formerly Johnny Rotten. Lydon will receive the award in October this year. Since those ‘The Filth And The Fury’ headlines from 1976 when Lydon was known as Rotten and fronted the Sex Pistols he has achieved bigger musical success albeit with a little less notoriety with Public Image Limited (PiL). perhaps in a step away from the rather typecast image that the British press have of him he has also appeared on the UK reality TV show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ on ITV in January 2004 and later fronted a few wildlife programmes. He is currently touring with PiL and recently took to the stage at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury with the band. So it now remains for me to congratulate Hewson and Lydon on their awards. For me the Lydon award is more appropriate and at least neither is some poxy award from our blood sucking UK royal family!
I must confess that I was a tad disappointed that a number of my favourite British artists never appeared at the Olympic Closing Ceremony.Notably David Bowie and Kate Bush. There was a strong rumour in the week before the show that Kate would appear. This appears to have been driven by a remix of “Running Up That Hill” being made available to buy on-line last week. That remix was played during the show. It was never likely that Bowie would play the show given the low profile he has taken since his heart problem back in 2004. But I did get my hopes up when a medley of his songs and associated film clips were played. However it turned out to be just a precursor to the celebration of British fashion element of the closing spectacle which itself was soundtracked rather obviously by the Dame’s 1980 hit “Fashion”.
Apparently David Bowie, Kate Bush, the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones all turned down the chance to appear at the Olympic Stadium last Sunday night. John Lydon said a while back that he had been asked if the Pistols would play and turned the organisers down flat. I wonder if they would have expected the Pistols to play “God Save The queen”? It is also alleged that the Who only agreed at the third time of asking. Who else would you have liked to have seen on the bill? Personally I’m surprised that Adele or Paul Weller wasn’t there or any of the beknighted music stars; Tom Jones, Macca, Elton, Cliff or even Rod Stewart who probably longs to be knighted. Personally I’m glad Cliff wasn’t there as his Jubilee appearance was truly awful. The same goes for Paul McCartney who I didn’t think was particularly good at the Opening ceremony.
Kate fills the long jump pit by hand
So let’s finish with what we might have missed some Kate and some Bowie.
XFM listeners recently took part in a poll to name the greatest front man of all time. So many great blokes to choose from and they went for Liam Gallagher. Now don’t get me wrong Liam has been very good in the past, particularly in the early days of Oasis, but the greatest front man of all time? I don’t think so. The full top 20 was;
this man is a Knight of the Realm................ no seriously, he is!
I think it would be fair to say that there is one area of my life that my Mother may be disappointed in me. That is my dislike of the institution of the British Royal family and all condescending pomposity it has. Yes in case you hadn’t noticed I am very much a Republican (not in the US political sense obviously) and most definitely not a Royalist. Having posted recently about Mick Jagger (aka Sir Michael Philip Jagger) turning down afternoon tea with ‘Call Me Dave’ Cameron and Boris Johnson it’s strangely appropriate that a story about those who turned down Royal Honours appeared in the news today. Following a freedom of information request by the BBC a list of those now deceased who have turned down various Royal Honours form 1951 and 1999 has been published. There are 277 people on the list including artists Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and LS Lowry and authors Roald Dahl and Aldous Huxley. There are no rock or pop stars on the list. Read the full story on the BBC site by clicking here.
Sir Tom shows off his first house
However it got me thinking about those rock and pop stars who have accepted honours and those that haven’t. The obvious list of those who have are the rock and pop ‘Sirs’ Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Tom Jones and Bono and Bob Geldof who as Irish citizens are Honorary Knights of the British Empire (KBE). Add to that list Dame Shirley Bassey. A large number of British musicians have received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), which is the highest honour a British subject can receive below a knighthood or damehood. Those include: Annie Lennox, Roger Daltrey, Eric Clapton, Sting, Robert Plant the Bee Gees and Rod Stewart. It was alleged that at the time of Elton receiving his knighthood Rod was just a little jealous.
Macca ponders his failure to win top score in Rate My Mullet
What really interests me though are those rock and pop stars who turned down Royal honours. David Bowie turned down a CBE in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003 and was quoted as saying that “was not what he spent his life working for”. George Melly and Paul Weller also turned down the offer of a CBE in 2001 and 2007 respectively. Thankfully Keith Richards also turned down a CBE; I’d have been gutted if he had accepted! His comment on Jagger’s knighthood was that he felt it was ludicrous. Influential guitarist and stalwart of the Shadows Hank Marvin turned down an OBE as did Dub Poet Benjamin Zephaniah. At the time Zephaniah publicly stated ‘I get angry when I hear the word ’empire’; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised’ An MBE was offered to John Lydon who turned it down. I’m pretty amazed that they offered him one really.
Never a Knight of the realm but the only one who came close to looking the part as opposed to looking like an anagram of part
The four Beatles all received the MBE in 1965. John Lennon later returned his to the Queen in 1969 accompanied by a note which read ‘I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts’. It has been alleged that his Aunt Mimi who brought him up and upon whose mantelpiece the award lived was not amused!
I'm not sure what Steve Jones is doing behind Glen Matlock, but Glen doesn't seem to mind does he?
There has been a few snippets of Sex Pistols and PiL related news on-line recently, particularly in the NME. Firstly Steve Jones has said that Glen Matlock a ‘middle-class mommy’s boy” in a recent interview with Hustler magazine. Jones appears to have a bee in his punk bonnet about original Pistols bass player Matlock’s attitude. Jones said that he preferred Sid Vicious because he ‘looked the part’. Which is all very well but he couldn’t play bass could he? Click here to read the NME article.
Matlock may be a Mummys Boy but what the fuck is Jones in a top like that?
The new series of Grumpy Old Men had got off to a great start
John Lydon has famously claimed that ‘If you want to know why PiL don’t have a record label, look at the X Factor’. he goes on to say that artists who want to be cutting edge and challenging wouldn’t get past the first round of reality talent shows such as American Idol and X Factor. He adds ‘Unfortunately there’s some fantastic singers that come out of that, but they’re karaoke’. I couldn’t agree more. Not so much has pop eaten itself, more like it has just bored itself into soporific oblivion. Hopefully Lydon and his PiL cohorts can shake things up with their new album ‘This Is PiL’ which is due out later this year. They will also be reissuing all of their previous albums during 2012. Read the article on the NME website by clicking here.