Tuesday, September 8, 2009
For a short time, directly after leaving the Sex Pistols, John Lydon was one of the most respected men in music. The mainstream were still salivating at what the former Johnny Rotten could do to shock them next and the alternative community were quickly learning of Lydon's inner-aesthete - his disgust at the white-boy rock of the Sex Pistols and his desire push music into the unheard of territory originally espoused but never delivered upon by Punk. And he did this with Public Image Ltd. Few would deny the power of the first three PiL albums, especially Metal Box, and to varying degrees they remain as benchmarks of experimental music, all the more interesting because of the genuinely unique situation of the biggest rock star of the time collaborating with unknown and rather avant musicians, Keith Levene and Jah Wobble.
Of course, as it had to happen, PiL devolved into a hideous parody of themselves, with Wobble and Levene leaving after the second and third album respectively, leaving Lydon to amass increasingly ridiculous line-ups for increasingly terrible albums. And now, Lydon has announced plans to reform PiL for a series of concerts later in the year. Without Wobble or Levene who rightly want nothing to with it. Lydon has proved himself to be such a cock over the last few years that nobody is treating this as anything more than another desperate cash-grab, no different than the Sex Pistols reformation. We should not be surprised at this, so instead of annoyed ranting I'll end with Simon Reynolds' pertinent anti-epitaph to the once-great band from his brilliant Post-Punk document 'Rip it Up and Start Again':
'Towards the end of his PiL tenure, Levene had noticed a weird development: 'John Lydon sort of became Johnny Rotten again'...Living in America, Lydon found himself feted by awe-struck fans and courted by big-shot managers who encouraged him to exploit his legend to the hilt. Eventually he decided, or realized, that the Sex Pistols adventure was where his rock-myth bread was buttered. After Levene left, the ex-Pistol started to do something during PiL gigs he'd once sworn he'd never do again: sing 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'God Save the Queen'. A decade and a half later, he reformed the Sex Pistol as a touring nostalgia revue, reneging on absolutely everything PiL represented.'