Not Numbed Out Anymore

In 2015 an enormous six disc Jah Wobble box was released into the world, more Jah than you can shake a bass at. One of the more intriguing tracks to my ears was a new version of his 1991 masterwork Visions Of You. The original, with its three Weatherall remixes, was an otherworldly adventure, an odyssey of groove, bass and music from around the world with Sinead O’Connor providing vocals. This version- and I’ve no idea when or where it was made or who the personel involved are- is subtly different, sharper and distinct. Not better, not worse, just version.

Visions Of You (New Version)

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Youth

Youth, formerly Martin Glover and bassist for Killing Joke, is in the chair of a new Dub Trees project with an album out this month, tying together Jah Wobble, Matt Black from Coldcut, field recordings from India, druids, flutes and pipes and harps, Hinduism, Gaelic fiddles and those wonderful chugging basslines. This one is pretty dubby, with some Orb ambient-house style production and a generally laid back vibe. If the Bandcamp player doesn’t load below (and it didn’t the other night when I was writing this) try here.

Musicaaaaa!!!!

Those early 90s Andrew Weatherall remixes have been hanging around my stereo a lot recently- there’s something about them that is really pushing my buttons right now. You probably guessed that. There are two remixes of Jah Wobble’s Bomba, from his Invaders Of The Heart period (with Natacha Atlas on vocals and in the picture above). The Miles Away Mix is a glorious acid house riot, from the marching band fanfare that opens it to the shouts of ‘Musicaaaaaaa’ and the almost chaotic clash of rhythms and sounds. Played loud it sounds like the maddest moment of the best party you went to. Slinky and sexy. The bass playing is superb too, obvs.

Bomba (Miles Away Mix)

Stella Star

Stella Grundy, once of Manchester’s Intastella, has had a second life as an actor and has been performing a one woman play, The Rise And Fall Of A Northern Star (based around the character Tracy Star). This song is from the album that goes with it- a driving, Jah Wobble powered tale of the darkside of the music industry, packed with hard won experience and Northern grit. It’ll wake you up, shake you about a bit and stick in your head all day.

Peace Together

Peace Together was a project based in Northern Ireland in the 1990s which raised funds for cross-community activities for young people. In 1993 a single was released with vocals from Feargal Sharkey, Peter Gabriel, Nancy Griffiths and Sinead O’Connor. Therapy? contributed a song to it. Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins did a remix. So did Sabres Of Paradise. This eleven minute fifty nine second remix took up the B-side of the 12″. It is really good Gaelic dub, tin whistles, bodran, echo and delay, rim shots. Jah Wobble’s lovely bass. Give up twelve minutes of your day to sit and listen to this. We could definitely do with some peace.

Be Still (Sabres Of Paradise Mix)

Lydon

The adventures of John Lydon Part Two- after the breakup of the Sex Pistols in 1978 Lydon was abandoned in the USA by McClaren while he set about making his doomed film and the rest of the band flew down to Rio to meet Ronnie Biggs. Lydon is rightly scathing about all of this in his book. He returned to London and took refuge in a flat he bought in Gunter Grove. These are some of the strongest sections of the book- his chaotic life in Gunter Grove, the continual threat of being busted by the police, harassment by the tabloid press, a trip to Jamaica to scout acts for Virgin’s new reggae label. Reverting to Lydon from Rotten he sets about putting together a new band and a new type of band. Public Image Limited, more than any other band except Joy Division maybe, made what is now thought of as post-punk. He hooks up with Keith Levene (who gets castigated all the way through Lydon’s autobiography but he acknowledges his abilities as a guitarist and writer) and old mate Jah Wobble (who can’t play bass when he joins). Together they make some of the most brilliant music of the period. Opening single Public Image is still one of the great 7″ records- thrilling, intense and Lydon giving his enemies (McClaren mainly) a tongue lashing and proclaiming himself as his own property. Levene and Wobble plus drummer Jim Walker are on fire.

After the first album they regroup to make Metal Box, all living together at Gunter Grove. No verses, no choruses, no running order, no filler. Not an easy listen in places but forward thinking and visionary. Death Disco is like nothing else, and sounds exactly like its title. Poptones is very unsettling. Careering is stunning.

After Metal Box PiL began to suffer from personnel changes- Wobble hates Levene and leaves, Levene is increasingly unreliable, Walker had already gone before or during Metal Box. Jeanette Lee joins as part of PiL’s umbrella organisation and they make another album, The Flowers Of Romance, uneven but good in places. This Top Of The Pops performance is pretty memorable.

Beyond this Lydon’s move to Los Angeles and further issues with band members leads to a decline in output and quality. The singles remain strong for a few more years- This Is Not A Love Song with a truly daft but attention grabbing video (and I prefer this poppy version with horns to the earlier one). A handful of album tracks still burn brightly.

In 1987 a further go in the studio, this time with seasoned professionals like Steve Vai and Ginger Baker, sees a new album called Album, and another great single- Rise- which managed to be a fairly major hit and still sounds vital. Beyond that, an LA cartoon version of PiL takes over as far as I’m concerned but I know there are people who will make claims for songs from beyond this point.

In Anger Is An Energy Lydon rails against X Factor and the obsession with perfect singing voices. Quite rightly he says what you say and the emotion in a voice is far more important than being able to sing scales or hit every note perfectly. PiL’s best songs show this time and again and from Public Image through to Rise Lydon made records that are as good or better than Sex Pistols records- they just don’t have the same impact as he did as Johnny Rotten. The times have changed. I saw PiL in 2009 and the new version of the band he’s put together play a great set, proving the man can still do it when he wants it.

A final clip to illustrate his peculiar genius- invited to play on US tv show American Bandstand in 1980 PiL arrive to be told they will be miming. Lydon is at first disgusted and affronted but then plays with the format leading the studio audience, camera crew and producers on a merry dance. Surreal and hilarious and a little bit frightening.

How Much Are They?

It’s turning into a kind of interactive week at Bagging Area with reader suggestions and comments leading onto the next day’s posting, in a seamless blog-segue. Or something like that. Yesterday Echorich said he needed a Balearic compilation for a drive he’s undertaking across the US and went looking for a Jah Wobble, Holger Czukay and The Edge 12″. I’ afraid I am philosophically and morally unable to post anything involving the tax avoiding, overblown Irish rock band. And this song from Full Circle in 1982 is better anyway, featuring also some girls who turned up at the studio asking ‘How much are they?’

A little bit of internet digging led to this re-working/re-edit by Utopus, which is pretty smart.