There are times when you know that many of the things you believed about yourself are quite honestly wrong, it can be quite a shock or it can be a brilliant revelation. I had this latter experience on Saturday night.
Prior to that I’d have said I was indifferent to Public Image Limited in general and John Lydon in particular. I thought that the days when he mattered had been swept away with him selling real estate in the
And as for PiL – well, I hadn’t bought a track by them since the first single, Public Image, in its wraparound newspaper sleeve, back when I so wrongly thought they might be a continuation of the Pistols. Then they fell into that category of bands that I was glad existed but who weren’t going to figure in my personal listening. The sort that you’re glad to know still keep playing and who you’ll tune into when you hear them at random, on the radio or ‘round a friends, a bit like The Fall or Test Department (granted you won’t hear them on the radio often….). I had trouble describing PiL to those who knew I was going to see them and I think that they were quite bewildered as to why I was even bothering.
Well, from the moment they walked on stage, no pomp, no ceremony, a bunch of people out there to do a serious job of work, and that familiar hectoring sneer of a voice announced “We’re Public Image Limited, my name is John, but you can call me whatever you like” they had me. They ground into This Is Not a Love Song with a force and a commitment that defied you to be distracted from the first dark beat. I won’t review every song, it seems a bit pointless, but what amazed and rather thrilled me was that there wasn’t a single one I didn’t know…its not like they did a greatest hits set (that in itself would be fairly hard to pull off anyway) but that I knew and yes, loved, their songs almost by osmosis – over the years they must have crept in the cracks and fractures of my mind and embedded themselves there without me even knowing it. Plus I’d just forgotten how fucking danceable they are – possibly the best dance music I’ve heard in years.
Lydon didn’t do charismatic front man so much as resemble some kind of benevolent (possibly…) dictator – haranguing the crowd not from a desire to wind them up but from a genuine need to get a reaction to what he was doing. Resplendent in black and still with the trademark hair he was electrifying. He was in control and he knew it. Later I was talking about the power this man could have if he’d ever gone into politics – but that the power he has comes from everyone knowing that he never would – not in any conventional sense anyway. Sometimes you have to hand it to Malcolm McLaren for spotting him – although John was never going to be anyone else’s puppet. There is indeed something special about him.
And lest you think that all of this is fuelled by nostalgia and other less powerful intoxicants then I can only say that this was absolutely no trip back in time. It was completely and definitely a ‘now’ moment. The eldest Tin, now 20, completely got the music and, in that warped way that you get your anchorage in shifting musical waters, said to me afterwards “oh yeah, I knew This is Not A Love Song – Nouvelle Vague did it after all…..”. She also knew the closing track – a bit of a surprise for me since I didn’t expect PiL to do it. Open Up, originally the collaboration between Lydon and Leftfield, suited the mood perfectly and I went away with “You Lied, You Cheated !” ringing round my head – four words that Lydon will not let the rest of the world forget whilst he still draws breath,
Its not like Lydon never made a wrong move or lied and cheated himself – but you do get the feeling that this is a man who is completely confident in what he says and does at any given time. He might contradict himself but that has never mattered. When he says something you know that at that exact point in time he means it. Maan.
And by way of a strange tribute I’m not posting any PiL. You’ll know that the Friday before three members of Pussy Riot were jailed in
then take your own stance !