There’s no shortage of rage in the Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) discography, but nowhere else does so much sorrow show itself than in Public Image Ltd’s Death Disco (aka Swan Lake because it cops a bit of the Tchaikovsky melody), a recorded recorded immediately after the death of his mother (she requested some disco for her funeral). It actually hurts to listen to it, but in a good way (not that the whole album doesn’t lean that way) — the punk is revealed as all too human, just in case there was any doubt.
“Call me agnostic on The Jam. Don’t hate them, just never really joined the fan club. Which is not to say they didn’t nail it every now and then. Like with That’s Entertainment, hitting like a scene from a movie that never got made, the one where the mod punk sort of new wave guy puts down his electric guitar, grabs his acoustic and gets to hard strumming, spitting out his disgust at all the ugliness getting passed off as beauty, all the villains getting sold as heroes, all the nightmares with laugh tracks. Just smile, folks, call it entertainment, and don’t mind the rotating knives.” (Philip Random)
“The Pogues were actually from London but there was never any denying the Irish blood in their veins. Not to mention Guinness, Jamesons, all manner of other substances, particularly front man, Shane McGowan. But they made it all work, found the raw punk heart of all those jigs and reels and shanties and faerie stories, set them on fire and unleashed an Irish folk revival that none us realized we needed until we heard it and then f*** yeah! How had we ever lived without it?” (Philip Random)
In which The Gun Club kick out the sort of murky, raw LOUD-quiet-LOUD that would have shifted bucketloads of units to the grunge crowd … if they’d only released Fire of Love (the album) ten years later than they did. Because in 1981, the world just wasn’t ready for the likes of For the Love of Ivey or any number of other dangerous gems. Not the mobbed up geniuses who programmed radio anyway, ran the major record labels, shifted the units. Which in the end has got to be a good thing – The Gun Club still sounding fresh, still beautiful in their ugliness, like Elvis from hell.
“Call it bad timing. Disco erupted as I was finishing high school, jammed up all the available radio stations, transformed all the nightclubs (just as I finally had good, foolproof fake ID). Sure it probably served some greater service to the culture as a whole, gave all the former hippie freaks and rebels something to do in the wake of their failed revolutions and insurrections – just snort coke, shake their booties, lay the groundwork for yuppiedom, Reaganomics, Tom Cruise. Yeah, I blame disco for all of that. But I always liked Don’t Leave Me This Way. Thelma Houston had the big hit but nothing touches what Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes did with it, particularly the long version. Though that was actually Teddy Pendergrass singing lead. Things were a little confused in that outfit.” (Philip Random)
“No, Nazareth didn’t f***ing write Love Hurts. It was Boudleaux Bryant, a guy who most definitely knew a thing or two about love and how it simultaneously sets you free as the wind and carves raw chunks out of your soul. My essential version has to be Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris’s take — quiet, heartfelt, grievous and true. Unfortunately, Mr. Parsons would be dead before the world ever heard it.” (Philip Random)
“Speaking of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, call this one punk rock, Ecstatically inspired. In other words, blame it on the drugs. Or whatever it was that got the Stone Roses mixing up mystical insight and balls out provocation in such a way as to declare themselves both the resurrection and the son (singer Ian Brown anyway). I Am The Resurrection being the epic final track of their 1989 debut album that really did blow the roof off of things. The whole album, that is, every song essential. Call it a masterpiece, messianic even. These Roses really were perfect, they had all the answers, they were showing the way. But then, I guess, they started doing different drugs.” (Philip Random)
“They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Also Prince concerts back in the day. The memory is of seeing the Purple One live in 1988, the Lovesexy tour. The stage was round. The sound was exquisite. The action was non stop. It was everything a rock and roll show was ever supposed to be, and more. And the musical highlight of the evening, the song that pinned all fifteen thousand of us to the wall was a power anthem about a certain cross and the guy that had to carry it, and how we’ve all got to do the same, one way or another, up that hill to eternity. Yeah, I believed.” (Philip Random)