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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…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.04.2016
08:56 am
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The single greatest Public Image Ltd. bootleg, ever: The original band, live in New York, 1980
04.29.2016
07:02 pm
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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…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.29.2016
07:02 pm
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Public Image Twitter Fight: Keith Levene is MAD AS HELL AND HE’S NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!


 
Keith Levene, the groundbreaking post-punk guitarist best known as an original member of the Clash and for his work on the first three Public Image Limited albums, seems to be a bit heated up these days. This morning, the following screed appeared on his Facebook page, and was copied to his Twitter feed:

It has been brought to my attention that various parties involved in the first go of the Commercial Zone project have been having their say anywhere they can and popping up messages that r absolute bollocks! I won’t stand for this anymore and I’m going to address this now just for me and anyone who’s interested in the truth. All these people Wobble, Jones (NOT YOU BARRY grin, Anthony Keidis, Bob Miller and of course John fukin Lydon - AND THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS. I say fuck the lot of you and tell me…what the fuk did i do that was so bad aside from greatly enhancing your situation. Everyone’s lives who I encountered in a professional sense were improved after they worked with me. I kept silent for more than 30 years. No more. My contributions have been erased by you and these lies that I absconded with the CZ tapes, was horrible, was fired from the Chili Peppers when I was never hired (show me the fucking contract if I was hired), and so on and so forth. ITs obviously not going to stop. Lies in books, lies in press and its so obvious none of you have anything new to offer. Fukin grow up, embrace your limitations and stop trying to erase my contribution to your lives for one not to mention the history of music.. IM MAD AS HELL AND IM NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE. Oh and Anthony Kiedis. What the fuk is wrong with you? If you’ve got something to say…stop hiding behind your book agents, fakes names on message boards, your friends who are journalists, and so on. You know where you can find me. In the studio of course (unlike you) working on my next project. And do yourself a favour…get CZ essentials and then you have another 20 years to plagiarise me at www.teenageguitarist76.com WANKERS!

Much of that explains itself, but the apparent falling-out with PIL bassist Jah Wobble is a bummer. (About Anthony Kiedis, well, I guess that’s maybe a shame, too…) It apparently stems from a recent Guardian interview in which Wobble off-handedly mentioned that Levene was “a horrible junkie in the PIL days”. The interview, which by the way is definitely worth a read, now runs with a disclaimer:
 

 
The reason I find that falling-out to be such a shame is that Levene contributed guitar to the 2011 Wobble/Julie “Lonelady” Campbell album Psychic Life, then did two wonderful collaborative releases, EP and Yin & Yang, with Wobble in 2012. Now, these releases weren’t ever going to blow minds and change lives like Metal Box or anything, but still, this was good new music from the people who made friggin’ Metal Box, so I had hoped there’d be more to come from the two. Actually, I still hope there’ll be more to come from them.

It’s honestly baffling why Levene should be dwelling on negatives. He’s been extremely active lately, penning a memoir of his early years in music, Meeting Joe: Joe Strummer, the Clash and Me, and successfully crowdfunding the album Commercial Zone 2014, a long-in-the-works completion/ expansion of what would have been PIL’s fourth album, which was released in two different versions in the ‘80s: by Levene as Commercial Zone, and by PIL as This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get. Levene’s version was legally suppressed after its first issue (haha see what I did there), so it’s a bit of a rarity, but it has die-hard adherents among those who find the PIL version to be kind of hacky, pandering crap (myself included—those horn sections are ear-stabbingly painful). The Quietus gave the album a very positive review, and Levene posted works in progress from the sessions on his YouTube channel. Here’s a bit called “Area 52”:
 

 
Check out these audience-cam videos of Metal Box In Dub, a band comprised of Levene, Wobble and singer/actor Nathan Maverick, who plays Johnny Rotten in a Sex Pistols cover band. They did several shows in 2012, performing early PIL material.
 

 

 
Many thanks to Shawn Swagerty and his unstoppable nose for news.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Keith Levene of PIL on why he quit the Clash
Anarchy on American Bandstand: When Public Image Ltd. met Dick Clark, 1980
Raw footage of John Lydon and Keith Levene at MTV interview, 1982

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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01.23.2015
02:58 pm
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PiL rarity ‘Steel Leg Vs. The Electric Dread’ is the missing link between ‘First Issue’ & ‘Metal Box
10.01.2013
09:43 pm
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The folks at Light in the Attic Records were kind enough to send me their nicely packaged recent reissue of PiL’s landmark First Issue album—the record that was thee line of demarcation between punk rock and post punk music—and I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. It also caused me to go dig up some PiL stuff I haven’t listened to in a while.

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

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

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

“Haile Unlikely by The Electric Dread”

“Unlikely Pub”

“Steel Leg”

“Stratetime And The Wide Man”

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

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

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

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

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

“Death Disco” on TOTP, 1980

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.01.2013
09:43 pm
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Blueberry Hill: Jah Wobble ‘betrays’ Public Image Ltd.
03.08.2012
04:23 pm
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Frustrated by the lack of activity in Public Image Ltd., the group’s original bassist Jah Wobble (apparently his stage name comes from a drunken pronunciation of his real name, John Wardle) decided to go into the studio that the band was paying for anyway and record a solo album. Re-purposing some rhythm tracks from the Metal Box sessions, Wobble made a trippy, dubby concoction out of the material—a common thing to do in reggae and PiL were all reggae fanatics—released in 1980 as The Legend Lives On…Jah Wobble in Betrayal!, and a 38-minute EP called Blueberry Hill. John Lydon and Keith Levene were thoroughly pissed off and Wobble was ejected from the group.

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

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.08.2012
04:23 pm
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Looking Back With Jah Wobble
01.18.2010
08:13 pm
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Is there a more-beloved bassist here at Dangerous Minds than the supremely dubby-minded Jah Wobble?  As we all everyone minus Richard (who scored one early) awaits yet another remastered incarnation of PIL‘s Metal Box (for its 30th anniversary!), check out this incredibly rare, circa ‘84 interview with Mr. Wobble himself.

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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01.18.2010
08:13 pm
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Public Image Limited Regroups, Fans Rejoice/Despair
09.08.2009
02:34 pm
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Keith Levene and Jah Wobble won’t be attending, but, since Metal Box is turning 30 (!), chances look good for a live Poptones (see below).  From today’s NYT:

John Lydon, the former frontman for the Sex Pistols, who is better known as Johnny Rotten, told The Guardian newspaper that his band Public Image Limited, or PiL, is back after a 17-year break.  Though fans will have to do without two original band members, Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, the guitarist Lu Edmonds returns in the reincarnation, along with the drummer Bruce Smith.  A five-date tour is to begin in December with a new member, Scott Firth, and a couple of other changes, it seems.  ?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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09.08.2009
02:34 pm
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