Ceremony

On July 19th 1986 New Order headlined a show at GMEX (formerly Manchester’s Central railway station, for much of the 70s and early 80s a derelict carpark. We used to park there when shopping in town and my Mum and Dad got all of us kids back in the car on one occasion and drove off, leaving one of my brothers standing forlornly where the car had been, aged only three or four. Don’t worry- they realised before leaving the carpark). The show was the highlight of the Festival of the Tenth Summer,a Factory organised event celebrating ten years since punk and the show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall where the Sex Pistols set into motion everything that has happened to Manchester since. The Lesser Free Trade Hall, also the venue where Bob Dylan was accused of being Judas, is now a swish hotel. The Festival of the Tenth Summer had its own Factory catalogue number (FAC 151) and had nine other events including a fashion show, a book, a Peter Saville installation, an exhibition of Kevin Cummins photographs and so on. Very Factory. Support for New Order at the gig included The Smiths (billed as co-headliners), The Fall, A Certain Ratio, Cabaret Voltaire, OMD, John Cale, John Cooper Clarke and Buzzcocks. Not a bad line up really.

During their set New Order were joined on stage by Ian McCulloch who sang Ceremony with them. This clip shows that meeting, the only drawback being it’s less than a minute long.

There’s an audio only version of the whole song here. Ian sings in a register closer to Ian Curtis’ and certainly gives it his best shot. The bit where Hooky joins Mac at the mic is great.

Ceremony was Ian Curtis’ last song, intended for Joy Division but recorded and released as the first New Order record. The first two New Order records actually- it was released in March 1981 by the three piece New Order and produced by Martin Hannett. It was then re-released in September 1981 in a newer, slightly longer version with Gillian Gilbert on board and with a different Saville sleeve. If you want to get really trainspottery about it, the run out groove on the first version says ‘watching love grow forever’, while on the second version it has ‘this is why events unnerve me’.

New Order and Echo And The Bunnymen toured the USA together along with Public Image Ltd throughout 1987, billed as The Monsters Of Alternative Rock. The Melody Maker reported from it as the picture up top shows. According to Lydon’s autobiography ‘Bernard Sumner was having problems emotionally and looked a bit the worse for wear’ and describes him being tied to a trolley to sing at one gig as he was unable to stand. ‘Nice fella’ though says Lydon. Bernard’s favourite tipple was ‘a pint of headache’ (Pernod and blackcurrant).

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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.

I Must Be Disco Dreaming

It’s like punk never happened- PiL’s I Must be Dreaming (one of the stand out tracks from this years This Is PiL album) remixed, sorry re-edited, by Meant and discofied. Not DISCO disco but still disco-ish. Good it is too.

What’s the difference between a remix and re-edit?

I Must Be Dreaming (Clouded Vision re-edit)

Unrehearsed Let The Bubbles Burst

Just imagine- a time when the cover of the NME meant something and there was the possibility of an in-depth interview written for adults.

I’m still getting used to the fact, after a couple of weeks of on-off listening, that John Lydon has made a necessary album. The new PiL album, despite one or two mis-steps, is a real grower. The song One Drop is proof on its own- vital, angry, alive, stomping stuff. Go and find it somewhere, you won’t regret it (I’ve already posted a song off it so shouldn’t really do another). The interview clips on Punk Britannia showed he’s still got it as well- sharp and witty. A real one-off is John. The last time he sounded anywhere near as good was in the mid-90s with this still thrilling collaboration with Leftfield, the number one piece of punk-house.

Open Up

PiLs, Thrills And Britneyache

I know mash-ups are dreadfully passe but I keep rediscovering ones in my d/l folder that I like- like this one where Go Home Productions does a very good job of mashing Metal Box-era PiL with Britney Spears.

Britneyache

The picture shows Yves Tanguy, French surrealist painter, shot by Man Ray, another oddly contemporary looking portrait. He wouldn’t look out of place in PiL either.

I Must Be Dreaming

Public Image Ltd put out their new album today and if this track off the One Drop e.p. (from April) is anything to go by, it’ll be worth a punt. Lydon back on form and making good music for the first time in ages. This one’s got an nice groove, some good finger-picking stuff and John doing his thing in an understated way.

I Must Be Dreaming

PiLage

How do you fancy an example of the ancient art of the mash-up? Featuring PiL’s debut single and Macy Gray? By Soundhog? It’s a good ‘un. There are more PiL mash-ups, John Lydon stuff and so forth at Fodderstompf.

Public Demons