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Public Image Ltd met with Martin Scorsese about doing the ‘Raging Bull’ soundtrack

Public Image Ltd live at the Palladium, NYC, April 20, 1980 (photo by Rob Pistella via Fodderstompf)
I confess that I haven’t yet read Jah Wobble’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Geezer, though it’s been sitting on my desk for a month. If I’m apprehensive, it’s only because the last book I read with as promising a title was I, Shithead, and that turned out to be a disappointment because Joey Shithead only has nice things to say about people.

But Martin Scorsese’s name did jump out as I was turning the pages of Wobble’s book, trying to figure out why some paragraphs are set in italics (as below). I didn’t solve that mystery, but I did learn that Scorsese met with Lydon and Wobble about recording the soundtrack to Raging Bull. One can only begin to imagine what a different movie Raging Bull would have been with a soundtrack by Metal Box-era PiL in place of the one Robbie Robertson produced.

Wobble says Scorsese was in the audience at Public Image Ltd’s first New York show, the start of a two-night engagement at the Palladium in April of 1980. And suddenly they were having a showbiz meeting in Marty’s penthouse, and Marty was giving a manic reading of Harry Lime’s famous monologue from The Third Man:

Martin Scorsese was making a film, Raging Bull, and he wanted to have a meet in regard to us doing the soundtrack. I went to meet him with John. We ended up sitting in a penthouse apartment with Scorsese; because of the combination of my first-ever jet lag, speed comedown, booze and general tour weirdness, I was very spaced out (I think I must have had a puff as well). My memory is a bit hazy, but I seem to remember that John left soon after we arrived with some biggish geezer who worked for Scorsese. I don’t know where they went. They may well have explained where they were going, but in the state I was I in I probably just grinned inanely at them. So anyway, I was left in the apartment with Scorsese. I was very happy because the bloke was an absolute hero to me. Taxi Driver, as far as I was concerned, was a masterpiece. Paul Schrader wrote the incredible screenplay. Apparently, Schrader was brought up in a strictly Calvinist household, and didn’t see a movie until he was eighteen; he’s a very interesting bloke. The soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann is also something I never tire of.

Scorsese was a like a cat on a hot tin roof, just couldn’t sit still. He was jabbering away like crazy. I recall him beckoning me to the window. He pointed down at the people milling around on Broadway. (We were several floors up in a skyscraper.) He asked me if I would care if ‘one of those little “dots” suddenly stopped moving’. I immediately knew what he was on about; he was reciting Orson Welles’ speech from Carol Reed’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s The Third Man, the one where Orson is on the Ferris wheel and goes on about ‘the Renaissance’, ‘cuckoo clocks’, ‘the Borgias’ and ‘Switzerland’. Basically Scorsese did a performance. He was very wired and his delivery was far more urgent and imploring than Orson’s. His face was no more than two feet from mine.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed with Scorsese, he more than lived up to any expectations that I had. To tell the truth I don’t like all his films but when I do I love them; Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, Casino, Last Temptation and Kundun are the ones for me.

I can’t remember how the encounter ended, but eventually John came back. I dimly remember Raging Bull being discussed, the storyline and all that. I don’t think they showed us scenes from the film or anything. I vaguely remember thinking that they weren’t really serious. Anyway, we never did the soundtrack for Raging Bull.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Copkiller’: Johnny Rotten plays a psychotic cat & mouse game with Harvey Keitel in 80s thriller
12:24 pm


John Lydon
Harvey Keitel
Ennio Morricone

John Lydon’s fans have probably heard that he co-starred opposite Harvey Keitel in a 1983 film—variously titled Copkiller, The Order of Death, Corrupt, or as it was later renamed Corrupt Lieutenant (to capitalize on Bad Lieutenant, of course), but they have probably never seen the film.

No surprise few have ever seen it as the movie hardly saw any release in any form other than a VHS that came out in the mid-80s and a newer crop of bootleg DVDs you can buy at the 99 Cents Only discount stores. The version you can find there—and yes for 99 cents—has a cover that looks like it wasn’t even made on a computer, but by hand, with scissors, tape and magic markers, that’s how schlocky it is. It’s sourced from the same VHS that came out in the 80s. It’s for sale on Amazon, too, often for as low as a penny with $3.99 postage and handling.

Under whatever title, this film is not, by any method of accounting, what you could call a “good” movie, but it does have one very good thing to recommend it and that is the then 24-year-old Lydon’s performance as Leo Smith, a wealthy headcase who falsely(?) confesses to the murders of several dirty narcotics cops to a cop he (and the audience) knows is crooked, played by Keitel. His performance is so strange and riveting (and utterly unhinged/psychotic) that you just can’t take your eyes off him. In many ways he was just doing his standard John Lydon shtick (and wearing his own clothes!), but it’s simply amazing to me that he wasn’t routinely hired for more psycho and “bad guy” roles after this. What a waste. What a Joker he’d have made!

The film was shot in Rome—standing in for New York City—and a few sleazy Gotham exterior shots aside, the producers didn’t really seem to care that much if this was obvious. It’s got a decent, nerve-wracking Ennio Morricone soundtrack, but other than Lydon’s charismatic performance, Copkiller, AKA The Order of Death, AKA Corrupt is pretty sub-par, and at times, a rather tedious affair. Still, I confess that I have watched it at least three times all the way through just for Lydon’s scenes. Sylvia Sidney (Beetlejuice) is also in the film.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The bizarre contents of a dead Ostrich’s stomach

An ostrich by A. Kniesel.
The ostrich is the world’s largest bird. The male of the species can reach over nine feet in height—the female around 5’ 7” to 6’ 7”.

The ostrich is a flightless bird. It has long powerful legs and can travel over forty miles an hour.

It also has the largest eye of any land vertebrate—a whopping great two inches in diameter. This helps it spot any would-be predators trying to sneak up on it—allowing the big bird time to hightail it.

The ostrich has a wingspan of over six-and-a-half feet. It has long legs and and a very long neck with a comparatively small head. It kinda looks like a turkey gone wrong, on steroids. It roams freely across the African savanna. It is farmed for its lean meat, eggs and feathers—which are used in making feather dusters.

They live in nomadic groups of up to 100 under the rule of the chief hen. The ostrich diet generally consists of seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers—from which they also obtain water—and some insects.

And that’s probably what you’d expect to find an ostrich’s stomach if you had to examine one after death.

Well not quite…
An ostrich cart at London Zoo, 1929.
Frederick William Bond was the assistant treasurer and photographer at the Zoological Society of London. He took photographs of the various prized animals kept in captivity at London Zoo.

Around 1930, one of the ostriches at the zoo died unexpectedly. A post mortem examination revealed a staggering array of objects in the big bird’s stomach. It was such a bizarre find that Bond felt compelled to photograph it.
On the back of the photograph Bond listed the contents:

Three odd cotton gloves
Three handkerchiefs
The wooden centre of a silk spool
A piece of lead pencil
Four halfpennies
One franc
One farthing
One coin too worn for identification
Part of a bicycle valve
Part of a metal comb
One piece of wood
Two yards of string
An alarm clock key
Several small metal washers and other pieces of metal
A four-inch nail

The most likely reason this omnivorous ostrich ingested such a bizarre gallimaufry of found objects is less to do with any “sad consequence of the bird’s urban existence” but mainly to do with the fact ostriches swallow their food whole.

Ostriches have no teeth. This together with the fact they have a proportionally small bill, means they have to ingest stones or pebbles to help masticate their food in the gizzard.

They swallow small hard objects like stones to act as “gastroliths” to grind their food. The ostrich fills its gullet with yummy goodies which forms a bolus. This is then ingested into the gizzard where the small stones break it down for digestion.

Most likely this ostrich ingested coins, gloves and alike to help digest its food. Unfortunately swallowing a four-inch nail proved fatal—as it caused its “death by perforation.”
John Lydon vs. the Ostriches, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
DJ Johnny Rotten plays music from his own record collection on the radio, 1977
03:15 pm


Sex Pistols
John Lydon
Malcolm McLaren

“All the music that you will hear has been chosen by Johnny Rotten and is from his personal collection.” Thus begins a singular trip down radio history.

On July 16, 1977, the reigning target of ten thousand angry establishment “leaders”—Americans call them editorials—and the frontman for the Sex Pistols spent a couple of hours on Tommy Vance’s program on Capital Radio. It was a pivotal appearance for Johnny Rotten Lydon—in addition to being one of the first signs of a serious rift between Lydon and Malcolm McLaren, it has been argued that the incident represented the first true appearance of “John Lydon” to the public, a name that music fans would come to know extremely well in the decades to follow.

On the program, Lydon revealed himself to be an articulate spokesman for his ideals as well as a young man with uncommonly good taste. And he was only 20 years old! What were you listening to when you were 20? (Shit, maybe you are 20….) So much of the music here is today staples of a venue like Dangerous Minds. You’ve got your Beefheart, your Can, your Lou Reed and Nico and John Cale (er, playing separately), there’s Bowie and Neil Young and oodles of excellent ska….

Here’s Jon Savage in England’s Dreaming on the fallout between McLaren and Lydon:

Glitterbest [McLaren’s company] were even more furious when Capital Radio’s Tommy Vance show was broadcast on the 16th. Lydon had obviously had enough of McLaren’s public control and now made his own power move: “It’s fashionable to believe that Malcolm McLaren dictates to us but that’s just not true. What really amuses me about Malcolm is the way they say he controls the press: media manipulator. The point of it all is that he did nothing: he just sat back and let them garble out their own rubbish.”

Even worse for Glitterbest was the way in which “Johnny Rotten” came across: according to the Sunday Times, “a mild-mannered liberal chap with a streets of Islington accent.” Lydon had had enough of being dehumanized: just as earlier he had irritated McLaren by turning up to a photo session dressed as a Teddy Boy, he now chose records for the show by Neil Young, Peter Hamill, Doctor Alimentado and Captain Beefheart—McLaren still splutters about this one. “I like all sorts of music,” Lydon said disarmingly.

The interview—reported verbatim in the music press—enabled a wider audience to relate to Lydon and put him within some sort of recognizable Rock context. This was exactly what Glitterbest wanted least: McLaren had a Year-Zero approach to pop culture which, as the script he was working on displayed, was hardening. For him and for Reid, this was a “shit” interview, because it established Lydon as a “man of taste,” and thus “lost his and the band’s threat.”

It’s a little bit difficult getting a clean recording of this. There are two YouTube videos that present the first hour or so, and there’s a Soundcloud mix that presents almost all of it but is missing parts. The best tracklisting available, which I’m presenting here, also happens to be missing information (for instance, it seems that the Sex Pistols’ “Did You No Wrong” was played after Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues” and before Lou Reed’s “Men of Good Fortune”), but it’s still an excellent summation of what Lydon played.

Track listing:
Tim Buckley – Sweet Surrender
The Creation – Life Is Just Beginning
David Bowie – Rebel Rebel
Jig a Jig
Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown
Gary Glitter – Doing Alright With The Boys
Fred Locks – Walls
Vivian Jackson and the Prophets – Fire in a Kingston
Culture – I’m Not Ashamed
Dr Alimantado & The Rebels – Born For A Purpose
Bobby Byrd – Back From The Dead
Neil Young – Revolution Blues
Lou Reed – Men Of Good Fortune
Kevin Coyne – Eastbourne Ladies
Peter Hammill – The Institute Of Mental Health, Burning
Peter Hammill – Nobody’s Business
Makka Bees – Nation Fiddler / Fire!
Captain Beefheart – The Blimp
Nico – Janitor Of Lunacy
Ken Boothe – Is It Because I’m Black
John Cale – Legs Larry At Television Centre
Third Ear Band – Fleance
Can – Halleluwah
Peter Tosh – Legalise It

Here are the two YouTube videos, followed by the Soundcloud playlist:




Previously on Dangerous Minds:
This Is Radio Clash: Listen to 6 episodes of Joe Strummer’s glorious ‘London Calling’ BBC radio show

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The single greatest Public Image Ltd. bootleg, ever: The original band, live in New York, 1980

In the 80s and 90s heyday of the “VHS tape trading underground”—from whence oozed choice fare like Jeff Krulik and John Heyn’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” Todd Haynes‘ unorthodox Karen Carpenter bio Superstar and Apocalypse Pooh—the territory was covered in every major city and college town by a small cast of characters—often marginally employed losers who gained a certain amount of notoriety and geek pecking order prestige by the scarcity of their video treasure chests.

These social outcasts and otaku misfits usually kept tight reins on what they had. The less uptight of these guys would trade a full two hour tape for another full two hour tape, whereas others would demand two tapes for every one they traded you. Many were real pricks and would only trade for something they wanted, not something that you wanted. (The sort who might say “Sorry man, but rules are rules.” You know the type.) In this way, back then bootleggers and tape traders were the clutch point between collectors and what they coveted most. It wasn’t unusual for bootleg VHS tapes to sell for $50. “Deals” would be brokered between two assholes, one with a pristine 2nd generation of the demented TV movie Bad Ronald, the other frantically bargaining with him because, of course, acquiring a copy of a shitty movie like Bad Ronald was a matter of extreme importance. With Bittorrent, and before that eBay, this vibrant—albeit somewhat stunted and idiotic—fanboy culture eventually evaporated.

I cannot tell you how many of these dumb “negotiations” I was involved in myself, often with some pretty petty Gollum-like characters. Luckily I had several good “trading cards” in my hand to play, so I always got what I wanted. Three “top traders” that I will admit to back then were Robert Frank’s rarely seen Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues that I got via a guy I worked with who had himself transferred the film to tape under Robert Frank’s personal supervision; another was the oddball black and white latenight TV commercial for Captain Beefheart’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby album (dubbed by me from an ancient 2” videotape master possessed by an MTV producer who told me to make a copy for myself) and a sharp, first generation dub of an off air recording of Public Image Limited on American Bandstand.

I bring up the PiL clip in particular just to mention that the version that was used on a well-circulated bootleg PiL DVD anthology—one which Amazon used to sell like it was a legit release—that came out about 15 years ago was a grandchild (at least) of my Bandstand clip. I could tell this—definitively—because of the split-second of what preceded it, an outtake of the same Cramps set that was shot for Urgh! A Music War. The clip had been trading around for maybe fifteen years at that point and now it had come full circle. (As for Cocksucker Blues, if you see a brief videotape warble just as the title card fades out...)

But that’s how those things used to get around. They were quite literally copied one at a time and spread from hand to hand. Which brings me to the topic of this post, another PiL performance—unquestionably the greatest live PiL performance on video—director/editor Paul Dougherty‘s short document of PiL performing at the Great Gildersleeves, a low rent heavy metal bar in NYC, on April 22, 1980 that was bootlegged on this very same DVD. When I bought my copy—at the Pasadena Flea Market—as I scanned the contents and saw that this was on it, I thought I’d hit bootleg PiL paydirt. Sadly it was poor quality.

Now I know Paul. I actually met him at a screening of the PiL Tape, his video for Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” and his classic clip for Pulsallama’s “The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body” when he was showing them at the ICA in London. Many times over the years I’ve asked him for a copy of the PiL Tape—he knows that I’m a complete PiL freak—and every time he just firmly said “No.”

He gave an interview to the The Filth and the Fury fanzine about the so-called PiL Tape in 1999:

Have you any idea how the bootleg videos of your film surfaced? The amazing thing is that until a couple of years ago no one even knew PiL had played the gig, let alone knew that it was filmed!

Paul Dougherty: I have a strong hunch how it leaked but I’m not certain. Because I know all too well how easy it is to copy videos, I was able to keep it bottled up for over 15 years.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘They are all about 12 years old’: The first time The Sex Pistols were ever mentioned in the press

Some of the stories about the early days of The Sex Pistols are as well known as that tale of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the nativity and the visiting of the three wise bears. (Kings, surely?-Ed.)

For example, we all know by now how John Lydon was spotted wearing a Pink Floyd tee-shirt with “I hate” scrawled across it, how he auditioned in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop SEX by singing along to Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen,” or how Steve Jones propelled the group into national infamy on teatime television by calling local news channel host Bill Grundy a rude word:

Jones: You dirty sod. You dirty old man!

Grundy: Well keep going, chief, keep going. Go on, you’ve got another five seconds. Say something outrageous.

Jones: You dirty bastard!

Grundy: Go on, again.

Jones: You dirty fucker! [Laughter from the group]

Grundy: What a clever boy!

Jones: What a fucking rotter.

Etcetera, etcetera….

Ah yes, some of these stories are so well known they’ve become part of the furniture of modern pop culture. So pull up a chair and have a seat. When that infamous interview happened in December of 1976, the PIstols’ manager Malcolm McLaren feared the band had blown their one chance at fame. How wrong could he have been? The next day (of course) the front page of nearly every tabloid newspaper in England featured the Pistols with headlines raving on about “the filth and the fury.”

From that forth, the Sex Pistols were never ever out of the news again.

Yet, here’s the thing—the very first words ever written about the Pistols in the MSM actually appeared in the New Musical Express a year before the Grundy show incident in the December 27, 1975 issue of the New Musical Express, in a review about a student ball.
Peter Gabriel scrubs up nice: The NME when its writers were good.
The Pistols were just seven weeks old and had played only three gigs when they appeared at the “All Night Christmas Ball” at Queen Elizabeth College, Kensington, London, on November 27 1975. The Pistols were on a bill topped by the likes of Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Mike Absolom and Slack Alice. It was in a review of this all nighter by NME staffer Kate Phillips that the Sex Pistols were to be given their very first media name check.

“Oh, yes,” says the Social Sec, “and then there are the Sex Pistols. You missed them.”

“Were they any good?” I asked brightly.

“They played for expenses,” he countered.

The Sex Pistols were huddled against a far wall of the dance floor. They were all about 12 years old. Or maybe about 19, but you could be fooled. They’re managed by Malcolm, who runs ‘Sex’ in the King’s Road, and they’re going to be The Next Big Thing. Or maybe The Next Big Thing After That. Meanwhile, we drank a lot.

It’s been long assumed that the first mention of The Sex Pistols came from a review by Neil Spencer of the band’s Marquee gig in February 1976. Now we know different.
Journalist and author Paul Gorman who first unearthed this little barroom fact also notes:

Phillips was accompanied to the Queen Elizabeth College event by her partner and NME assistant editor, the late Tony Tyler (who was also with Spencer at the February 76 gig at The Marquee).

In the “On The Town” section on page 27, it was tucked beneath the lead review by Chris Salewicz of a Birmingham gig by the briefly popular hard-rock outfit Mr Big (headlined: “A yob in a support band is something to be.”).

Phillips started her column-and-a-bit thus:

“I was there for six hours and I can hardly remember a thing. It must have been a great party. Looking back it was meeting the Sex Pistols that started my downfall…”

She also wrote:

“I was soon in no condition to meet the rugger student who reeled over to our little island of determined hipness.

‘Why is your hair so short?’ he burbled. ‘I mean are you in a gwoop or something?’

I warmed to the man. He had taken me for a Sex Pistol!

A jig band came on. The students broke into the Gay Gordons.

‘What a monstrosity,’ muttered a Sex Pistol gloomily.”

Criticised that day on the bus by my then-girlfriend for my absorption in the music paper, I packed the issue away but kept hold of it, understanding even then that halfway down page 27 of that week’s NME, Phillips and Tyler had stumbled across the future.

So, there you have it. These then are the very first words, the very first first drops from which a deluge of salacious copy would follow.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Punk rock icons get the comic book treatment in ‘Visions of Rock,’ 1981

John Lydon by Brendan McCarthy
John Lydon by Brendan McCarthy
Like many of you, I was once an avid collector of comic books. While it’s still in my nature to pick up an occasionally graphic novel (my last one was The Big Book of Mischief from the great UK illustrator, Krent Able), I was naturally drawn to the illustrations of the punks from the 70s done by several artists who would go on to make great contributions to the world of comic book art in a publication from 1981, Visions of Rock
Visions of Rock by Mal Burns (on the cover Chrissie Hynde, Rod Stewart and Debbie Harry)
Visions of Rock by Mal Burns (on the cover Chrissie Hynde, Rod Stewart and Debbie Harry)
Although including Rod Stewart on the cover is a bit perplexing (as are some of the illustrations in the book itself) loads of incredibly talented illustrators contributed work to Visions of Rock such as Bryan Talbot (who worked on Sandman with Neil Gaiman), Brett Ewins (of Judge Dredd fame who sadly passed away in February of this year), Brendan McCarthy (who most recently worked with George Miller on a little film called Mad Max: Fury Road, perhaps you’ve heard of it) and Hunt Emerson whose work appears in nearly every book in the “Big Book Of” series.

Inside you’ll find comic book-style renditions of your favorite 70s punks like Sid Vicious (equipped with a chainsaw no less), Elvis Costello, Brian Ferry (wait, he’s not a punk rocker…), The Stranglers and others. Here’s a bit of the backstory on the making of Visions of Rock from comic book illustrator, David Hine (who worked with Marvel UK back in the 80s and whose work appears in the book):

This company that put out Visions of Rock, Communication Vectors, was run by a guy called Mal Burns, who also produced the comic Pssst! It was a weird setup, I think the (our) money came from a mysterious French millionaire. We were all paid about $200

The Stranglers by Stuart Briers
The Stranglers by Stuart Briers
I must admit, I’m a huge fan of Brendan McCarthy’s caricature of John Lydon (at the top of the post) looking like a crazed super villain descending upon London, compelled by the powers of both filth and fury. If you dig the images in this post, Visions of Rock can be had from third-party vendors over at Amazon for about $20 bucks, or less.
Sid Vicious by Brendan McCarthy
Sid Vicious by Brendan McCarthy
Elvis Costello by Brent Emerson
Elvis Costello by Hunt Emerson
More comic book versions of punk rock royalty after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Rock and roll’s turd in the punchbowl: An interview with John Lydon
07:26 pm


John Lydon

John Lydon’s new memoir Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored is his second go round at chronicling his thoroughly fascinating life. His first Rotten: ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs was published over 20 years ago so there was much new life to be written about and additonal elaboration and re-evaluation of his early years from the vantage point of now. He’s mellowed and aged quite nicely. Lydon has gone from rotten to nicely fermented. From snarly whine to barley wine.

In this interview conducted at my favorite bookstore in the world, The Strand, Buzzfeed Books editor Isaac Fitzgerald and Lydon have a grand old time shooting the shit as Johnny occasionally takes a chug from a bottle of cognac.

Anger is an energy. It really bloody is. It’s possibly the most powerful one-liner I’ve ever come up with. When I was writing the Public Image Ltd song ‘Rise’, I didn’t quite realize the emotional impact that it would have on me, or anyone who’s ever heard it since. I wrote it in an almost throwaway fashion, off the top of my head, pretty much when I was about to sing the whole song for the first time, at my then new home in Los Angeles. It’s a tough, spontaneous idea. ‘Rise’ was looking at the context of South Africa under apartheid. I’d be watching these horrendous news reports on CNN, and so lines like ‘They put a hotwire to my head, because of the things I did and said’, are a reference to the torture techniques that the apartheid government was using out there. Insufferable. You’d see these reports on TV and in the papers, and feel that this was a reality that simply couldn’t be changed. So, in the context of ‘Rise’, ‘Anger is an energy’ was an open statement, saying, ‘Don’t view anger negatively, don’t deny it – use it to be creative.

A couple of observations: the fellow in the background, to Johnny’s right, looks a wee bit like a Madame Tussaud waxworks version of Mark E. Smith. And why is Lydon dressed like a sous chef?

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘They’re throwing bottles?’: Keith Levene on PiL’s infamous Ritz riot, a Dangerous Minds exclusive
02:39 pm


John Lydon
Public Image Ltd.
Keith Levene

This is the first part of Keith Levene‘s personal recollection of Public Image Ltd’s infamous Ritz riot show. The view from the eye of the hurricane, so to speak. Keith’s newest release is the wonderful and sprawling Commercial Zone 2014. His website is

The atmosphere was intense. An event put together with the best of intentions in real time. Real time meaning no set list, no rehashes of Pistols numbers, potential audience participation, no real idea of how the event would pan out and certainly no idea it was going to turn into a hybrid of an old school R&R riot.

There was no plan, that was the plan. The potential was immense. There was no MTV and I was using one of largest video displays in existence at the time. There was one other similar screen this size in Tokyo. We had a fantastic control room that was capable of being a TV channel.

Cable was the big buzz of the time and this! Live video just seemed so exciting and yet to me, so obvious. When I agreed to do this with the powers that be at the Ritz the question was “Can we use and integrate all the video equipment and the screen into the show? Stanley London, and Jerry Brandt, the club’s owners, as I remember said “Sure.”

I said “We’ll have to bill this as something special, a video event with Public Image Ltd. Its key we do this for a myriad of reasons.” They agreed. The guys at the Ritz were fantastically helpful and enthusiastic. Jerry Brandt as I remember was involved in The Electric Circus in the 60s and had a good idea of what was going on and therefore had a special eye on what I was doing as this was coming together. (He definitely thought he’d seen this before in the 60s. I could feel that.)

I had such high hopes for what was coming together. I’d envisioned a live video event with audience participation or an interactive event on a personal level which to my mind would have been quite innovative and quite interesting for those days. This might not seem like such a big deal in these advanced technological times but back then it was. Plus even then “interactive only really meant an electronic experience, nothing this close up and personal.

In May 1981 there was no World Wide Web, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, no instant global communication anywhere, anytime at the touch of a button. People didn’t have access to personal computers, cell phones, or the Internet except under really geeky circumstances. MTV didn’t exist as of yet though it was on the table. Cable was the biggest and most interesting or exciting thing happening.

In those days PiL would get lots of offers many of which were turned down. I happened to be in Manhattan and was getting a good deal of attention when an offer from the Ritz came up. They’d had an unexpected cancellation from none other than Malcolm’s Bow Wow Wow and they needed something with proper impact to fill the gap. Impromptu? Whatever.

The Ritz was a Victorian place that was used for pretty damn classy gigs. A fantastic venue with balconies, an old school wooden ballroom floor and the perfect size for name bands to do their stuff. A great stage and crew. I imagine the likes of Madness, Squeeze or Talking Heads and bands of that ilk would’ve used this as a prefered prestige place in New York.

The Ritz had recently acquired one of just two (in the entire world) massive video screens for the venue with a General Electric video projection system. The highest resolution imagery anyone was going to get for those times. The projection certainly wasn’t “Hi Def” as we know it these days but no one knew the difference then and essentially it looked like a giant movie screen and was very clear (The only other screen like the one there was in Tokyo. HD was a dream concept at the time only Sony were working on). This all really knocked my socks off and fired my imagination like a Gatling machine gun on speed. Suffice to say the Ritz was well interesting due to the toys inside.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Anarchy on ‘American Bandstand’: When Public Image Ltd. met Dick Clark, 1980

John Lydon confronts America
All photos by John Brian King

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
John Lydon on Kylie Minogue’s breasts, Megadeth and Bruce Springsteen
03:03 pm


John Lydon

John Lydon Dreadlocks
John Lydon’s 1988 appearance on the low-budget video review show Video View is classic Johnny Rotten. Photographer Dennis Morris (who shot the Sex Pistols early on and designed the distinctive PiL logo), joins Lydon on the show to rate new videos from artists like John Illsley of Dire Straits and long-running Brit chart-toppers Status Quo. From the get-go Lydon is in top form, chiming in with trenchant and biting observations on the (then) current state of the music industry of the late 80’s and his opinion of Kylie Minogue’s breasts.

Lydon doesn’t hold back even when it comes to his former bandmate Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. However, it’s whatever is going on with Lydon’s hair, which appears to be the styling of an unskilled Rastafarian armed with a can of pink spray paint, that is the true unsung hero of this video. My point is this, if you want to hear a young John Lydon spitting out opinions on Bruce Springsteen or why he blames Herbie Hancock for giving him “epileptic fits,” then just hit play.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Its rubbish’: John Lydon brutally critiques the pop charts on ‘Jukebox Jury,’ in 1979

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
John Lydon’s 1978 record of the year, reissued on ‘Music for Alien Ears’


Martin O’Cuthbert, “B.E.M.S” (Esoteric Records)
Seriously, when I played this record, an object on the wall started to vibrate very quickly, and I have witnesses to prove it. Martin O’Cuthbert is either a very evil person (just listen to the record) or a total fool (just listen to the record). Probably be big in Japan, and at a guess I’d say the whole thing comes off a Yamaha organ cos no synthesizer could sound that bad, could it?
—John Lydon, New Musical Express, July 22, 1978

How very Lydon, that his gesture of public praise for his favorite single of 1978 could just as easily read as a pan. “B.E.M.S” stands for “Bug Eyed Monsters,” and its author was the obscure synth-pop experimenter Martin O’Cuthbert.

”B.E.M.S,” 1978

O’Cuthbert was a more rough-at-the-seams contemporary of Fad Gadget, Gary Numan, The Normal, et al, and like those artists, he explored the very common early synth-pop themes of alienation and emotional deadness, self-releasing unfindable singles and EPs under the pseudonym Martoc. He lists as his influences “Kraftwerk, Pixies, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, manic depression, extra terrestrial cultures.” No Earthly idea how the Pixies fit in, as Martoc’s music seems to have changed very little through the years, as is demonstrated by the new compilation Music for Alien Ears. The title and artwork refer back to Martoc’s 1983 collection For Alien Ears, but the new comp includes music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘oughts.


”The Vigilante Rules,” 2009

”Navigator Through Nowhere,” 1979

”Born in a UFO,” 2005

There’s more music to be heard on Martoc’s Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages. Also, his personal web site is as endearingly primitive by current web design standards as his music is by current production standards.

Thanks to Bent Crayon John for cluing me in to this.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Lou Reed part 2’: Little-known Public Image Ltd. footage from 1982
02:55 pm


John Lydon
Public Image Ltd.
Keith Levene

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
Kate Bush, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and others expound on the topic of ‘Punk’ in 1979

Getting it or not getting it to varying degrees are Kate Bush, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Steve Harley, Mick Taylor, Peter Gabriel, Paul Cook, John Lydon, Meatloaf, and a surprisingly astute young Leif Garrett putting in their two cents on the topic of “Punk.”

According to the caption on YouTube, these comments aired in December 1979 on a program called Countdown on a specific episode called “End Of the Decade.” Presumably this is something from the archives of Australian television. It looks like an editor’s raw “selects” in the formulation seen here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Lydon’s rallying call to youth: ‘Learn how to beat this system intelligently’
12:48 pm


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
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