Listen to this track by rotating cast of musical characters in orbit around one-time Rotten singer John Lydon; Public Image, Ltd. It’s “Rise”, a single and top twenty record as taken from the imaginatively titled 1986 LP, Album (or Cassette, or Compact Disc, depending on format…). The album was the fifth released under the name Public Image, Ltd. since forming in 1978. By this period, it was more like a John Lydon solo record with some very notable, and very unexpected players featured on it.
The musicians on this song alone are a fair distance away from the musical world with which Lydon was generally associated. Stylistically, they’re even pretty far from each other in terms of genre, coming in from parallel stylistic universes to make a (perhaps) surprisingly complementary set of noises together while still retaining their own signature styles. This internal cohesion is largely down to the involvement of producer, bassist, musical director, and co-writer of this song Bill Laswell, well known for his knack for finding common threads between genres and musician’s styles to create something seamless out of them.
What does singer John Lydon himself bring to this song in the middle of all of that, a charting hit that reached #11 on the UK pop charts? Well, perhaps unexpectedly from the guy who wailed “no future for you!” at one point in his career, I think this song is about hope for the future itself. But, it’s hope with a cost. Read more
Recently, I was exposed to some very odd television; gobby frontman for The Sex Pistols and ex-Public Image Ltd. John Lydon, AKA Johnny Rotten on Judge Judy thanks to a disgruntled sideman on one of his solo tours. Here’s the clip.
Hilarious, and strange. A former drummer takes Lydon to small claims court due to what he considers to be wrongful dismisal, and even more oddly – assault. Maybe the most entertaining aspect of this is watching Lydon attempt to control his mouth – something he’s not been very good at, historically.
Luckily, he shows more restraint with Judge Judy (and her hard-as-nails schtick…) then in the more infamous Sex Pistols TV appearance on the Bill Grundy hosted Today Show in December 1976, when “rude words” were used on live TV by Lydon and Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, goaded by Grundy (who also hit on a disgusted Siouxsie Sioux who was also present, live on camera). Grundy was fired, and the Sex Pistols rose in stature as a group who was capable of anything at any moment.
In this TV appearance from 1997, Lydon is the picture of restraint, although also the picture of barely contained ire and contempt for his would-be legal assailant. And we get the appropriately rendered and trademarked baleful stare from Lydon, who knows the value of showbiz even on daytime TV. And his vindication speech at the end is priceless.
For more Lydon TV appearances , check out the John Lydon official website.
And keep your ear to the ground for the rumours of a new Sex Pistols album, kids!