“We were all warriors together” (John Lydon, Manchester, 9th October 2014)
The launch event for his new autobiography: “Anger is An Energy: My Life Uncensored”, which was released yesterday.
From the publicity for the event: “John Lydon will be taking part in an exclusive no-holds-barred live onstage interview with DJ/writer Dave Haslam, discussing his turbulent life, from his beginnings as a sickly child of immigrant Irish parents who grew up in post-war London to his present status as an alternative national hero, via the Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd (PiL), collaborations with Afrika Bambaataa and Leftfield, compelling opinions and celebrated TV appearances. He’ll also be signing copies of his autobiography. This will surely be one of Manchester’s most memorable pop culture events of the year.”
About the venue (from the website): “A Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel in Manchester City Centre closed and hidden for over 40 years. Resurrected by Trof, the people behind Gorilla and The Deaf Institute, as an unrivalled events venue, restaurant and bar. The grand and ornate chapel has been restored into a stunning purpose built music hall and is set to become one of the most atmospheric music and events venues in the UK.”
I arrived in Manchester early, around 6pm, had a coffee and then joined the queue for entry to the Albert Hall. I took a seat in the front row, and waited for the great man to arrive. Shortly after the advertised start time of 7.30pm DJ Dave Haslam walked on stage, and introduced John Lydon, who received a standing ovation from the crowd. For the next hour or so Dave and John discussed John’s life. Lydon was as controversial and opinionated as you might expect, giving us his views on politics and how all the parties have moved towards the same ground, his early life and ill-health and his respect for the NHS, his relationship with Sid Vicious, that Sid was a fan of singer Leo Sayer, was named after his mum’s hamster.and how he stills misses him, his belief in the working class and family values, and some thoughts on the birth of punk and how it was needed at the time, and is needed again. The man wears his soul on his sleeve, and in strongly protective of the punk values which he obviously holds so dear. The audience clearly loved him, showing this by giving him several standing ovations. After an hour or so, Dave opened up questions to the floor, and gave members of the audience a chance to throw questions at John, via a roving mike. One guy asked his favourite gigs; he quoted a recent appearance at Manchester and at a massive festival in Croatia; another complemented his music tastes, which are wide-ranging and include the Kinks and Van Der Graaf Generator. After another thirty minutes or so the first part of the evening concluded and we all went downstairs to the basement where John was doing the book signing. It was 9pm.
I rushed downstairs as quickly as I could, but by the time I got there the queue was already large. I reckon I ended up about half way back in the queue, which swirled around and around the basement, controlled by rows of barriers. Reggae music was blasting as we waited in anticipation for our individual audience with Johnny Rotten, all nervously clutching our books. To his credit, John took his time to talk to everyone while signing, spending a few minutes with each person, and there were 2 or 3 hundred waiting. Because of this movement was slow and it seemed to take forever to get to the front. In fact it took me over 3 hours to get to meet John Lydon. I had a quick chat with him, and asked him if he remembered the first Pistols gig, which I witnessed in Whitby in 1976. I foolishly mentioned that the “Pistols were thrown off stage”. John looked me straight in the eye and said “What did you say? Nobody ever threw me off any stage.” I quickly corrected my statement and made it clear that what actually happened was that the DJ turned the sound off. “Ah.. Now that’s different” said John, smiling. It was after 12.30am when I left the venue. Got home at 3.15am. Tired this morning, but glad I went; it was a fascinating evening spent with a true legend and ‘one off’. Everyone there had so many warm feelings and so much respect for the guy; a man who continues to “always tell it as it is”. Lydon is an enigma; challenging, frustrating, rude, fearless, authentic, insightful; all of those things and more. The things I do to see my heroes 🙂 Happy days.
Archive for the ‘Public Image Ltd’ Category
“We were all warriors together” (John Lydon, Manchester, 9th October 2014)
Public Image Ltd Newcastle City Hall 15th November 1983 and 10th May 1986
I next saw PIL at Newcastle City Hall in 1983. The line-up of the band had changed completely since the early days are now featured John Lydon (vocals); Martin Atkins (drums; I’d seen him a few years earlier in his band Brian Brain); Louis Bernardi (bass); Joseph Guida (guitar) and Arthur Stead (keyboards). By 1983 PIL had released several singles and three albums, including ‘Metal Box’. The set featured a mix of tracks from the albums, the singles and, surprisingly, The Pistols’s ‘Anarchy in the UK’. Gone was the strange discordant band I had seen in 1978; this version of PIL were more of a straight rock band, which was ok in some ways, but disappointing in others. A great show; the crowd went crazy when they played ‘Anarchy’.
Set List: Public image; Low life; Annalisa; Religion; Memories; Solitaire; Flowers of romance; Chant; Anarchy in the UK; This is not a love song; Attack.
Public Image Ltd were back in Newcastle three years later on 10th May 1986. This time the line-up was John Lydon (vocals); the late great John McGeoch (ex Banshees and Magazine, and simply excellent; guitar); Lu Edmonds (ex-Damned and a member of the current PIL line-up; keyboards, guitars); Allan Dias (bass); Bruce Smith (drums). Another great gig. On this occasion I felt that PIL were much truer to the original spirit of the band, partly as a result of John McGeoch’s amazing guitar work. This time they played The Pistols’ classic ‘Pretty Vacant’. Setlist (from a gig in Edinburgh the following evening, but I think Newcastle was similar; I certainly remember them playing Pretty Vacant): Kashmir (I assume this is a different song to the Zeppelin track?); FFF; Annalisa; Fishing; Poptones; Pretty Vacant; Banging the Door; Flowers of Romance; Bags; Tie me to the Length of That; Round; Home; Public Image; Rise; Low Life; World Destruction; Ease.
Public Image Ltd, Creation for Liberation Benefit Gig, Manchester Belle Vue, 23rd February 1979
This was Public Image Ltds 5th gig, and their first in the North of England. I’d been a massive Pistols fan, having seen them twice in 1976 and 1977, so I was looking forward to this one. I’d bought their first album, and found it quite strange and rather disconcerting, it was so different to the Sex Pistols. Marie and I went to the concert which was in the massive Kings Hall our at Belle Vue Manchester. We drove down and stayed at a hotel in the city centre (the Portland I think).
The concert was entitled ‘Creation for Liberation’ and was a benefit gig in aid of the ‘Race Today Friendly Society’. Also on the bill were Bristol’s The Pop Group (punky/jazzy/art-rock), Merger (a great reggae band), and poets Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clarke. We arrived early to see all the bands. I remember seeing a lot of people from the Manchester punk scene; a couple of members of the Buzzcocks were in the crowd. Everyone had turned out to see what John’s new band was like. I remember both dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson (“England is a bitch’ was a stand-out) and local hero John Cooper Clarke (super fast) going down well, and then there was a long wait for PIL. The line-up of PIL was: John Lydon (vocals), Keith Levene (guitar); Jah Wobble (bass) and Eddie Edwards (from the Vibrators sitting in on drums for this one gig). There was a long, cold, ait before PIL came on stage. When they did, they wandered on and Lydon famously said to the waiting crowd, “No gimmicks, no theatre, just us. Take it or leave it”. They then launched into ‘Theme’ and played a set which featured songs from their first album, and the controversial Pistols songs ‘Belsen Was A Gas’ (this was the last time that PIL would ever perform the song, and the last time that it was performed live until the Pistols played it again during their reunion tour in 2002). The sound was poor and murky and you couldn’t hear Lydon’s vocals very well at all. John was as scary and engaging as ever, but overall the band’s performance was a little shaky, and lacking the power and depth that PIL can achieve on a good night. I was hoping we would get a Pistols hit for the encore (I should have known that was never going to happen), but they simply played ‘Annalisa’ again. It was great to see Lydon on stage again, and in a strange way, this was a memorable concert. It represented everything that PIL was about at the time: challenging, strange, not quite what you would expect, noisy and discordant.
Set List: Theme; Annalisa; Low Life; Religion; Attack; Belsen Was A Gas; Public Image; Annalisa
Thanks to Paul B. Toman for allowing the use of his image of the PIL button badge through the Wikimedia Commons licence agreement.
Public Image Ltd Newcastle Academy 6th August 2012
At last, I finally “got” what Public Image Ltd are about. Last night was the first time I’ve seen Lydon’s band for many years. Marie and I went to one of their first live performances at Manchester Belle Vue in 1979. At the time the difference between PIL and Lydon’s previous band, The Sex Pistols, was just too great for me and many people in the audience. I couldn’t believe or understand the noise that they were making and actually wondered if they were serious, or whether it was some sort of huge joke. I saw them a couple of times after that at gigs at Newcastle City Hall, and although each time I enjoyed the experience, I still remained unconvinced. Until last night. I went along on spec, deciding to go to the gig at the last minute. I was dropping Laura off in Newcastle, and decided to make the most of my trip through. I’d read reviews of recent PIL gigs, which have all been very positive. Now I know why. The band were just great last night in Newcastle Academy. I arrived just in time for the show, and scored a ticket outside for £20, making a small saving on the £25 face value (result!). The place was packed full of oldish punky types, and everyone was ready and up for the occasion. There was no support act, and the band came on stage around 8.45pm, opening with This is not a love song, which set the tone for the night. Loud, throbbing beats, Lydon’s impassioned vocals, and jangling, discordant guitars. The band were so together and so very tight. Every song was epic, and Lydon sang his heart out. At one point he told us “I’m like a fine wine, I mature with age” and he wasn’t far wrong. His voice was amazing, and so strong. Last time I saw him was fronting the reformed Sex Pistols at Brixton Academy, and although that was a great gig, at times Lydon seemed to be treating it all as a bit of fun. Not last night, he was deadly serious as he spat out the vocals, leered at us, and told us “Friends are for forgiving, Politicians are for killing”. Very dark, very intense, very passionate and much much better than I imagined or could have hoped for. Some bands can reinvent themselves and come back even better. Setlist: This is not a love song; Deeper water; Albatross; Reggie Song; Disappointed; Warrior; Flowers of romance; Lollipop Opera; Death Disco; Bags / Chant; Religion. Encore: Out of the Woods; One drop; Rise (left during Rise, via the chip shop, as I had an early start in the morning to pick Laura up first thing; I suspect there may have been one more song).