“Public Image was the first single from Public Image Ltd, the concern that Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) threw together amid the wreckage of the recently crashed and burned Sex Pistols. And it was damned good. Hell, even I liked it on first listen from my then mostly anti-punk perspective. A serious call to … seriousness, I guess, Mr. Rotten making the point that he was more than just a cartoon character, a gimmick, a punk, that he knew a thing or two about music, how to sing a song, make a record, take steady aim, hit them all where it hurts. And damn, what a bass line!” (Philip Random)
There’s no shortage of rage in the Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) discography, but nowhere else does so much sorrow show itself than in Death Disco (aka Swan Lake because it cops a bit of the Tchaikovsky melody), a track 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.
Public Image Ltd‘s fourth album, 1984’s This is What you Want … This is What you Get is a mess, the end result of a major reconfiguration of what had been one of the essential post-punk units. Main man John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was still on board, but previous compadres Jah Wobble and Keith Levine were both gone amid much drug and alcohol messing around and perhaps absconding with various master tapes. But the album wis not a complete write-off if only for its lead off track, The Order of Death, which is just a chant basically, the album’s title repeated and repeated to ultimately powerful effect. Or as Philip Random puts it, “… theme music for the movie I seemed to be stuck in at the time, the one concerning an entire culture going down in the sewage and bile of its own corrupt desires and obsessions. Or something like that.”
“As the story goes, when Keith Levene split Public Image Ltd, he had a few recent master recordings under his arm. Which is a good thing. Else we probably would never have heard the likes of Blue Water, which first showed up as a b-side in 1983. Deep and weird and exactly the kind of thing you wanted cranked to the nines on your ghetto blaster when the drugs were all kicking in and you had an abandoned industrial zone to explore, with a fog moving in from the harbour and twilight looming.” (Philip Random)