Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Safe as Velvet Goldmine dry run


Also  echoes of The Man Who Fell to Earth maybe sort of kinda

"I love you. I really love you"

The pod looks like somewhere Newton might have lived on his home planet. 

He certainly looks "environmentally ill"

Newt and the fam 

A sallow sickly bunch - well their environment is dying, after all

Making sweet love

Another ultra-pale gingery actress who looks like DB

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

glam thinkige

from an interview on S+A I did


I use “glam” as an elastic term to cover a whole range of music from the first half of the Seventies – glitter rock, art pop, theatrical rock, what you could call “late glam” and bands that are glam-influenced but could also be seen as “punk before punk”. Be-Bop Deluxe would on the edge of glam as commonly understood, but there was certainly a Bowie influence early on and the image was chic and smart in a Bryan Ferry-esque style. Ultravox are somewhere between glam and punk on their early records – and getting Eno to produce the first album is a bit of give-away. At the same time those first three albums are too early for Glam’s Second Wave, by which I mean the New Romantics and Eighties Brit videopop. John Foxx solo gets the timing just right except that Gary Numan, a fan of Ultravox, had moved in for the kill already.

The primary thing that gives glam coherence as a movement is image – and what I’d say defines it is a relationship with glamour that isn’t straightforward. It’s more like a parody or cartoon travesty of glamour, jumbling up ideas from the Hollywood heyday with early rock’n’roll, science-fiction, trash B-movie influences and sluicing all that through typically Seventies over-statement and excess. If you look at the way early Roxy Music or New York Dolls or The Sweet dressed, they’re not glamorous or chic in the way that Diana Ross or a contemporary film star was, they’re togged out in a mish-mash of clashing clothes, with make-up and hair that aims to make you laugh rather than look at them enviously or aspirationally. It’s a burlesque of glamour more than a straightforward projection of it.  Bowie is slightly different: he is exquisite and alluring and someone that people imitate, but he is also looks much weirder than conventional ideas of glamorousness.

Another thing that defines glam is an interest in theatricality, a belief that rock music by the 1970s had turned out to be just a junior branch of showbiz rather than its adversary, so let’s accept that and let’s pile on the razzle dazzle. With Alice Cooper and David Bowie that entails a full-blown embrace of stage sets, props, costume changes, semi-choreographed or out-right choreographed routines. They achieve a merger of rock’n’roll and musical theater. 

Sonically glam is more diffuse, but I think there is a core there which is a reversion – after the late Sixties progressive and heavy rock phase – to simpler rock and roll structures rooted in the Fifties and early Sixties. But it’s fed through the super-production of the early Seventies, all the advances made in the progressive / heavy era in terms of huge close-miked drum sounds,  guitar-layered riffs and power-chords, stacked harmonies, and so forth. Gary Glitter invokes early rock’n’roll, The Sweet harks back to early Who and “Paperback Writer”, but the Seventies super-production makes it much more powerful and modern-sounding.

high glam versus low glam

It’s a spectrum from “high glam” as some call it – the autodidact intellectual Bowie with his Nietzsche references, the art school influenced Roxy Music, the self-conscious romantic Mott the Hoople, the literate Cockney Rebel,  – across to “low glam”: music whose appeal is much more primal and lumpen, like Gary Glitter, Slade, Mud, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro.  The high Bowie / Roxy glam appealed to older teenagers, students and young people whose outlook was shaped by the rock-as-art value system that emerged in the late Sixties.  Bowie was seen as a Seventies successor to Dylan and the Beatles, writing poetic lyrics about existential quandaries and so forth. On their early astonishing experimental albums Roxy were as much a progressive band as they were a pop group. But the low-brow stomping glitter groups targeted an audience that was early teens or prepubescent. They were making dance music above all: massive drum sounds, a pounding beat to stamp your feet and clap your hands to, big hooks and shout-along choruses. It was music aimed at discotheques, which had mushroomed in number in the UK in the early Seventies. In the case of Slade, they were about  big concert-hall shows and hordes of teenagers driven crazy by the roar and blare of this stomping sound they generated. Energy-burst rock designed for release and abandon, the lowbrow glitter appealed to a working-class audience looking to let loose at the weekend. Whereas Bowie and Roxy walked a line between dance pop and more cerebral, lyric-based rock.

American glam / proto-glam

I don’t think New York Dolls or Iggy had much influence on the mainstream at all in their own time. The Dolls were a complete bust in America, as any kind of mainstream rock presence – they were considered a failed hype on the part of a major label and a cohort of sympathetic critics. But the Dolls and the Stooges were formative influences on the next way of teenage rampage, i.e. the punks. The Pistols covered “No Fun” and although they wrote the sneering “New York” it was obviously a form of iconoclastic patricide rooted in “the anxiety of influence”, given how much Steve Jones owed to Johnny Thunders.

Glam in America was really concentrated in two cities – New York and Los Angeles. There was some glam support in Detroit, where Creem, the only US rock magazine to really get behind glam, was based and where Alice Cooper had been based for a while. And also Cleveland, which has a very advanced radio station WWMS, that was among the first to play Bowie and even played things as obscure in US terms as Sensational Alex Harvey Band. But overall to be a glitter fan in the rest of America was to be a pretty rare creature, and it was likely to make you an outcast socially. 

New York already had the Warhol tradition and the gay underground where camp and theatricality and the trash aesthetic were well established,  in addition to a high concentration of the nation’s rock critics, so it was a welcoming climate for the visiting Brits, and obviously it spawned the Dolls and a bunch of other trash-aesthetic bands in the pre-punk lull years. As for Los Angeles, it has always had an Anglophile orientation, so there was a fan base for glitter and a fair amount of local musical action (although not really any LA glitter groups of note really, with the possible exception of Zolar X, who dressed as sci-fi B-movie aliens).  But certainly a segment of young LA looked to the U.K. – hence the Sunset Strip club The English Disco – and also welcomed the New York Dolls with open legs whenever they came to play. 


The influence of glam is legion, it crops up all over the place, and what I tried to do in the final section of the book, which is called "Aftershocks," is to hopscotch through history in a fun way, leaping from example to example across the Eighties, Nineties and into the 21st Century. I didn’t want to ploddingly lay out the linear connections and talk about the legacy in any kind of dourly validating way. It’s more a question of echoes and eruptions of the glam spirit. So there’s Goth (Siouxsie and the Banshees meeting originally at a Roxy concert, covering T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” as an early B-side, Siouxsie as a forbidding ice queen). There’s the MTV videopop menagerie of New Romantics and gender-benders from Visage and Adam Ant to Boy George and Eurhythmics. There’s stylized performance-art pop from Klaus Nomi and Grace Jones. There’s the mascara-caked, blow-dried tarts of Sunset Strip hair metal. There’s Marilyn Manson’s Alice Cooper-style shock rock and most recently figures like Lady Gaga who is very explicit about her debts to Bowie and that era. You also get more seemingly unlikely examples of glam influence, like Morrissey (once the president of the New York Dolls fan club and author of a Dolls biography). I also had fun tracking the increasingly unimpressive and misguided later career of Bowie through this entire post-glam period.

The word “legacy” in the subtitle was chosen for its ambiguity – because people talk about negative legacy or dark legacy as well as the more standard use of the word to indicate a positive inheritance bequeathed to posterity.  The legacy is a certain spirit of absurdist over-the-top entertainment, an insistence on fun and the ephemeral thrills of rock-as-pop, rather than the worthy notion of rock as generating a bunch of quasi-literary statements of supposedly lasting value, whether it’s the first two Band albums, Steely Dan’s clever lyrics, the work of Costello, etc. I see that glam spirit cropping up all over the place, from Def Leppard to Ke$ha. You could also say that glam helped to liberalise attitudes to sexuality and gender, paving the way for the openly gay pop performers of the MTV videopop Eighties, and prefiguring the fluidity and ambiguity of  21st Century genderqueer performers.

On the less positive side, glam has contributed to our contemporary culture’s obsession with fame. Indeed one of the more interesting – and unlikely on the face of it – places I seem glam’s echoes today is in hip hop. Just as glam rockers sang self-reflexively about stardom, so you have a host of rappers whose main subject is fame and the darkside of celebrity: Kanye West and Drake are the most glaring examples, where fame is their principal topic, but it seems to be present in a lot of mainstream rap and R&B.   Overall, I think Seventies glam  prefigures the way that in the 21st Century we’ve seen the completely subsuming of  pop music within a showbiz value system: glitz and spectacle.  It feels like we’re long overdue another anti-glam phase, like grunge, to take over and put across a different viewpoint rooted in low self-esteem and realism:  the worldview of  burn-outs, slackers and the born-to-lose,  as opposed to narcissistic fantasies of the  “work hard and your dreams will come true” type. The philosophical-psychological core of glam is high self-esteem and wishful / wish-fulfillment thinking; the philosophical-psychological core of unglam is damaged narcissism, fatalism, dreams that you know will never come true. 

Bowie's centrality

Bowie dominates glam in the same way that Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols dominate punk. There’s even the same manipulative strategist manager figure, Tony Defries as precursor to Malcolm McLaren.  But punk wasn’t just the story of the Pistols, it was many stories, and likewise glam is a big cast of figure that to my mind are as compelling as Bowie and who made just as much interesting – and differently interesting – music. Bowie necessarily dominates Shock and Awe just because he went through so many changes so fast, and was involved with so many other artists – Lou Reed, Mott, Iggy, Eno, Kraftwerk, Nic Roeg on The Man Who Fell To Earth. But I also wanted to give a similar amount of serious attention to Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music, Sparks, Cockney Rebel – all of whom were strange characters, inflated egos, excessive performers, to equivalent degrees to Bowie. I also wanted to give overdue respect to the more stompy “teenage rampage” end of the glam spectrum, figures like The Sweet and Gary Glitter, and their producers like Phil Wainman, Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn,   Mike Leander.  

My goal with Shock and Awe was really to situate Bowie as the major figure in a cultural field that had a lot of other things going on in it. Bowie is the greatest glam star, no doubt, but he wasn’t the first (that would be Bolan) and he wasn’t the biggest-selling (T.Rex, Slade, Sweet all had much bigger scores in terms of Number one and number two hits in the U.K.). What Bowie was able to do was dominate the discourse of the time: he was the most written about and analysed and puzzled about, he spawned more thinkpieces. With his image, his knack for publicity stunts and killer quotes, his inconsistencies and contradictions, he was able to marshal intrigue in a way that no other star of that era did. And because there was a lot of ideas and references thrown about, and such a varied body of work, Bowie became a sort of cultural treasure figure of the kind that is ripe for huge museum retrospectives like the one at the Victoria and Albert Museum a few years ago, or endless books parsing his every move. You couldn’t imagine a museum exhibition about Marc Bolan I don’t think, even though as a pop star he was huger than Bowie was by some distance, and arguably that run of killer singles has a greater concentration of pop thrills. It was T.Rextacy that got compared to Beatlemania in terms of the hordes of screaming teenagers. But it was Bowie who was able to signify in the same way that the Beatles had signified in the Sixties.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Masks (slightest of returns)


Horror is the removal of masks” - Robert Bloch (author of Psycho)

But also the placing of them over your face... in some circumstances

Think how plug ugly this dude must have been to prefer to wear this onstage under all those hot lights... 

It's  one of NWBHM makeweights Samson, but I refuse to do the research to identify which member.  

Was thinking it was a tad 'Cambridge Rapist mask' and thus congruent with the sexual politics of HM, but this other Samson cover suggests the executioner 

But this is more than enough on Samson... 

Rather, let's have some highbrow thoughts on masks

 “A man's features, the bone structure and the tissue which covers it, are the product of a biological process; but his face he creates for himself. It is a statement of his habitual emotional attitude; the attitude which his desires need for fulfilment and which his fears demand for their protection of prying eyes. He wears it like a devil mask; a device to evoke in others the emotions complementary to his own. If he is afraid, then he must be feared; if he desires, then he must be desired. It is a screen to hide his mind's nakedness.”

"One thinks that one wants to be understood when one wants only to be half-understood. If a person really understands you, you fear him."

"It was because I feared him and could not understand him as he understood me that I hated him."

- Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios

(via Andrew Parker)

Monday, November 29, 2021

the hammer of glamour

"Art is domination. It's making people think that for that precise moment in time there is only one way, one voice. Yours" - Maria Callas

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Johnny P and Marky B - and the B-sides

“For three or four years Marc Bolan and I were kind of best friends, along with his wife June and my wife Sheila. We used to go off and do hippie things at weekends – Stonehenge or Glastonbury Tor. And I used to get Rex loads of gigs. I’d get booked in somewhere as a DJ, and I’d ask, “Can I bring this band with me?” We spent a lot of time together..... When Marc saw the doors he’d been banging on for so long suddenly start to open, he did go a bit mad. It was one of those things where I phoned up to see what we’d be doing next weekend, and somebody answered the phone and said, “Look, Marc’s very busy. Can he call you back?” And then he never did. You feel mildly offended, but life’s too short” - JP

Plee, in his  Disc & Music Echo singles columns, reviews new 7-inch platters by his erstwhile bosom pal Boley.... in the first instance here (3rd July 1971) letting personal bitterness cloud his judgment a tad, I suspect, although who could blame him really.... 


The three B-sides, which I can't recall ever hearing, do indeed mention bosoms: 

"Lady, I love your chests ooh,

Baby, I'm crazy 'bout your breasts"


"Baby, I love your chests ooh,

Lady, I'm crazy 'bout your breasts"

More measured here (6th May 1972) - and literally measuring - Peel counts the number of times the words "metal guru" appear in the song (it's a lot). 

(via John Peel twitter)

mementoes from when they were bosom buddies

John Peel narration: 

[Narration: John Peel]

Kingsley Mole sat high on a windy knoll, his eyes consuming the silent midnight woods. He nuzzled his long molish snout deep inside the heart of a marigold and let his molish imagination skip to and fro over sunken galleons and pirate pictures of rusted doubloons and deep-water cabins stacked to the brim with musty muskets and goldfish gauntlets once worn by Henry Morgan

The lark awoke and doffed its plumed three cornered hat to its own sleepy-eyed reflection, then it hopped past the crested nest of the snoring cuckoo and flew off into the Lionel Lark morning looking for friend Mole

Mole was on a marigold comedown and sulkily scraped bluebeat rhythms with his ground-digging paw

"Yes," he whispered, "Me and Li are going a-questing for the Lilly Pond of Fox Necks."

Li'll know all the mapping gen[??], so the mole, kneeling on the soft soil, said a morning prayer to Ra, not even caring if he dirtied his yellow Rupert trousers because his molish mind knew that praying was special

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Masks part 143

 A nice little lesson in rock history here (what with Johnny getting the Pistols job through miming to "I'm Eighteen" on the jukebox, "School's Out" and "Elected" as proto-punk, punk as just a scrawled addendum to glam)

Maybe I'll dig out the liner note JR wrote for the Alice box set The Life and Crimes... 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Mad Alice's Diary


Unmissable glimpse of the early Alice Cooper live performance mode, hotel pillows ripped to scatter feathers everywhere etc - forming the background one of those odd little movies that you caught once on BB2 as a teenager and have never quite forgotten ("rolling in the hay" - how that made me and my girlfriend howl with laughter)

Wish I had known about this clip when doing S+A, although it doesn't add much to what is well documented and also related to me in the interviews. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Marsha and Desdemona


Marc's ex covering one of his first and best songs 

flipside "Hippy Gumbo" also one of his early but not so good songs

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Moodie Cliches

"The Clichettes were an all-women feminist performance art group formed in Toronto, Canada in 1977. Their practice is notable for injecting humour and theatricality into the sphere of performance art. The three performers initially worked using lip sync and choreography as their tools to parody pop culture depictions of femininity and later expanded their practice by including elements from science fiction and theatre in their performances. The Clichettes are notable for their impact on Canadian performance art as well as Feminist and performing arts in general...

"....The central themes that would preoccupy The Clichettes throughout their career – satire, appropriation, parody, feminist commentary, and pop-culture and media deconstruction – were clearly present during their formational period.

"As a feminist performance group, The Clichettes' practice resisted the conventions of girlhood and dance through satirical, humorous performances. They contested gender stereotypes through the use of pop culture cliches and brash humour. The Clichettes made their debut at the Tele-Performance Festival in 1978, an event themed in response to television as content and technology. Dressed in kitsch-60's good girls outfits, the trio lip-synced to Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" for the first time. Lip-synching the words “ You don’t own me. I’m not just one of your many toys”, and their other early performances, revealed and reflected the "performativity" of gender norms. This full-frontal method of feminist assault was greatly inspired by satirical musical group the Hummer Sisters. Their brand of camp media parody exemplified the blurring between high art and entertainment occurring in the 1970s. This style of non-detached and ironic pop-culture appropriation enabled them to be critical without alienating their audience."

".... Marni Jackson became a collaborator for the production Half-Human Half-Heartache, a move for the group to expand beyond dance and into satirical theatre. The 1981 production featured a narrative casting The Clichettes as aliens who could kill by speaking, thus establishing a narrative purpose for lip-sync. The trio of aliens begins to live the facade of '1960's good-girls' but eventually become entangled in the problematic dynamics of this life. The cabaret show was a hit in Toronto, with productions that followed in Ottawa and Vancouver. Their next stage endeavour was more ambitious: She-Devils of Niagara (1985) depicted a dystopian future where gender was strictly regulated, and history had been banished to the basement of a wax museum in Niagara Falls....

"As the Clichettes' acclaim increased throughout the 1980s, their performances started to poke fun at more than just mass-market depictions of girls. Their 1985 production Go To Hell saw the group adopt anatomically correct male bodysuits as a means to expand their critique to the stereotypes of masculinity. Armed with fake guitars, they parodied the macho posturing of “cock-rock” bands. By spoofing the gestures of those musicians and lip-syncing their lyrics, The Clichettes were hilariously denouncing the contrived affectations of male stars....."
- Wiki

Friday, November 5, 2021

anti-theatricality (private / public)

 J'en ai marre* with your theatrics; your acting's a drag

It's ok on TV, but you can turn it off

Your marriage is a tragedy, but it's not my concern

I'm very superficial, I hate everything official

Your private life drama, baby, leave me out

Sentimental gestures only bore me to death

You've made a desperate appeal, now save your breath

Attachment to obligation, regret shit that's so wet

And your sex life complications are not my fascinations

Your private life drama, baby, leave me out


* j'en ai marre = I've have it up to here. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

the A-word

a 2012 blog post that is a tiny germinal seed of Shock and Awe: 

We value authenticity (consistency, integrity, etc) in politics.

And abhor those without core.

But in intellectual / theoretical / critical circles, flexibility is generally a positive term;  open-mindedness and adaptability are deemed virtues and advantages.

And in pop music, all right-thinking people regard authenticity as an irrelevant concept and an obsolete criterion for judgement...  a quaint throwback thing to concern yourself with.

In pop, reinventing yourself is considered not just clever and artistic, but the essence of what pop is about.

Pop is the art of the "true lie". Even apparent real-ness is a pose and an act, to be judged according to how convincingly it's executed rather than whether it correlates with the artist's lived reality.

So how come there's this discrepancy, this fissure, between what's valued in politics and what's valued in culture?

I guess you could say that art/culture/pop is altogether less consequential; it doesn't matter if an artist or performer is pretending to be something they're not....

Still, it's quite a gulf...  I wonder how it came about.

(It's true that politics, or in political commentary at least, there's been a lot of pomo-tinged, Rorty-esque talk in recent years of "optics" and "narratives"...  even Obama talked openly last week about his having failed to "tell a story" to the American people about what's been going down these last three-four years... but generally that kind of thing is about the successful or not-so-successful presentation of what's essential and actual, as opposed to outright fiction...  overall, in the public political domain, people still tend to talk in the language of Truth and Right).

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Top 5 Glam + Glitter Faves

 (written on a train, in a hurry, into my phone - for some promotional purpose or other, I forgot - in other words, not a definitive list  - but on the other hand, as a ultra-condensed core canon, not a bad place to start either)

T. Rex - Get It On, 1971

The ultimate Bolan boogie, slinky and so sexy - the blues shuffle made ethereal and elfin.

Alice Cooper - Elected, 1972

Hilarious political satire as Cooper pretends to run for President but sounds genuinely grandiose and megalomaniacal - while the music is punk rock four years ahead of schedule.

Roxy Music - Beauty Queen, 1972

Shimmering ethereal ballad from the most arty and experimental of the glam groups, featuring Bryan Ferry's lyrical evocation of a female glamour ideal who makes his "starry eyes shiver".

The Sweet - Teenage Rampage, 1974

Hysterical fantasy of youth taking over the government and rewriting the laws, propelled by tough riff action that anticipates the Sex Pistols.

David Bowie - Fame , 1975

Blistering, scorching funk meets Bowie's frigid hollow-souled anguish at the paranoia and disorientation of stardom.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

No Business like Show Business ( dark glam - slight return)


I always thought there was something Alice Cooper-like about Bauhaus - thrilling singles, more-than-slightly silly - so it's interesting to see the Sick Thing King pop up in this list of all-time faves done for an unknown magazine by Peter Murphy. 

"A wonderful escape into a frivolous nightmare" indeed. 

A list which otherwise nails our 'Haus (and Goth in general) as Glam Part 2. 

And then the giveaway that the Bau boys are purely in the business of entertainment - where ham meets sham -  Ethel Merman gets the lead top spot with "No Business Like Show Business"

The absence of anything by the Dame? (c.f. the two Roxy inclusions and an Eno).  The debt too obvious to state? A twinge of anxiety of  ultra-influence? 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

glam / metal


Not half the band that The Sweet were - it's all corn syrup fructose and empty calorie ear-blast, none of the brawn of Andy Steve and Mick 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Star Is Torn (Vicious's anti-theatricality)

Vicious, interviewed by Vermorels, on Who Killed Bambi, Russ Meyer, The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle etc

Q: What sort of films do you yourself like?

SV: I don't like any sort of film. I hate films.

Q: What it is about them that you hate?

SV: Because people have to act parts in them. Play people who they're not, do you know what I mean?  And it's pretence, it's lies, it's just shit. It builds things up to be not what they are. Like if you filmed a day in the life of me, for instance - like a day in the life of a pop star, right - and you saw him going around in a flash car and whacking up smack and doing this and that and the other, and like a day in my life is like getting up at three o'clock, going to the office and hustling ten quid out of Sophie or something and going, and fucking going somewhere and waiting hours to fucking cop some dope, you know what I mean? And like that is the most boring thing on earth. It's as boring as sitting at home and drinking beer or fucking any other shit thing to do, you know what I mean. And like films are about lies, they're about making things look glamorous. And nothing's like glamorous, everything's a load of bullshit. And it makes me sick to think that people will act out parts and, you know, like make it all seem larger than life, just so that some crud out there can get off on some fantasy: that life is wonderful really and one day.... You know when I was like ten years old and when I used to... think that Marc Bolan was great, and I used to think to myself what a wonderful life Marc Bolan must have, just think. And if only I could be like him, gosh, just think of the things he must do. And like I do the things that he done before that stupid bitch crashed his fucking mini for him, or something, and like he probably did exactly the same thing as what I do now; sit in my mummy's front room cos I don't have anywhere to live.... It's fucking full of shit and I hate it all. But there's nothing else to do. It's better than doing nothing at all and it's certainly better than doing something I don't want to do.

Sentiments redolent of Holden Caulfield's in The Catcher in the Rye - 

“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”

"I hate actors. They never act like people. They just think they do...if an actor acts [a part] out, I hardly listen. I keep worrying about whether he's going to do something phony every minute"

"If you do something too good [as a thespian], then, after a while, if you don’t watch it, you start showing off. And then you’re not as good any more."

Friday, September 24, 2021



I appeared as a "grinning English expert" myself in this NPR item on the 50th anniversary of Electric Warrior - alongside the voices of Joe Elliott from Def Leppard, Tony Visconti and Mark the magician himself. 

It is a near-perfect dream of a record, marred by only one dud 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

A Star is Born (Lydon's anti-theatricality)

 “I got the name Public Image from a book by that Scottish woman, Muriel Spark, who wrote ‘Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. When I was in Italy, somebody introduced her writings to me. I checked out some of her other books when I got home. One of them was called ‘The Public Image’. It was all about this actress who was unbearably egotistical. I though, Ha! The Public Image. Limited. Not as a company, but to be limited – not being as ‘out there’ as I was with the Sex Pistols.” - John Lydon

"I love books. I love the texture, the feeling, everything about them. Especially the way the words come alive in my mind. A beautiful turn of phrase can really affect me. It lets my mind wander around inside of somebody else's....  Some books, like where I took the name for Public Image, from Muriel Spark, called The Public Image, it was just a cheap little small book. But it's just, to my mind, a very well-told story about corruption and how industry can rot your brain if you're not careful. It's a good reminder. I got a good sense of grounding from it, and I also got the name for the band. Success! And I don't think that book cost me more than a pound in a junk store." - John Lydon 

"Out of all the fascinating alternate takes, B-sides, rare compilation-only tracks and never-before-released sketches that comprise this expanded reissue of Public Image Ltd’s post-punk landmark, it’s a live version of “Public Image”  that is the real revelation. Part of an impromptu June 1979 concert in Manchester, the song keeps collapsing and restarting. “Shut up!” snaps John Lydon, responding  to audience jeers. “I told you it’s a fucking rehearsal.” Another PiL member explains that the drummer, Richard Dudanski, only joined three days ago. PiL relaunch the song only for Lydon to halt it with “Miles too fast!” The jeers erupt again and the singer offers a sort of defiant apology: if the crowd really wanted to “see mega light displays and all that shit,” they should go watch properly professional bands who put on a slick show. “But we ain’t like that... We’re extremely honest: sorry about that... We admit our mistakes.”

This performance—an inadvertent deconstruction of performance itself—takes us to the heart of the PiL project as well as the post-punk movement for which the group served as figureheads. At its core was a belief in radical honesty: faith in the expressive power of words, singing and sound as vehicles for urgent communication. After the Sex Pistols’ implosion, Lydon was trying to find a way to be a public figure again without masks, barriers, routines, or constraining expectations. So it’s especially apt that “Public Image”—PiL’s debut single, Lydon’s post-Pistols mission-statement—is the song that  fell apart at Manchester’s Factory Club. “Public Image” is about the way a stage persona can become a lie that a performer is forced to live out in perpetuity. Lydon sings about “Johnny Rotten” as a theatrical role that trapped him and which he’s now casting off. Starting all over with his given name and a new set of musical accomplices, Lydon was determined to stay true to himself. The group’s name came from Muriel Sparks’ novel The Public Image, about a movie actress whose career is ruined but who, the ending hints, is freed to embark on an authentic post-fame existence. Lydon added the “limited” to signify both the idea of the rock group as a corporation (in the business of image-construction) and the idea of keeping egos on a tight leash.

"A comparison for Lydon’s search for a new true music—and a truly new music—that would leave behind rock’s calcified conventions is Berlin-era Bowie’s post-glam quest for a “new music night and day” (the working title of Low). Indeed it was Virgin Records’ belief that Lydon was the most significant British rock artist since Bowie that caused them to extend PiL such extraordinary license and largesse when it came to recording in expensive studios. That indulgence enabled the recording of three of the most out-there albums ever released by a major label..."

- SR, review of Metal Box reissue for Pitchfork

Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello.

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.
You never listen to word that I said
You only seen me
For the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been
The colour of my hair.
Public image.
What you wanted was never made clear
Behind the image was ignorance and fear
You hide behind his public machine
Still follow the same old scheme.
Public image.
Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
I will not be treated as property.
Public image.
Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
It's not a game of Monopoly.
Public image.
Public image you got what you wanted
The Public Image belongs to me
It's my entrance
My own creation
My grand finale
My goodbye
Public image.
Public image.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

mirroring mirrors mirrored

(via Andrew Parker)

"Being imbedded in this huge crystalline structure that has no top, bottom, or sides, this feeling of suspension, this feeling of polite claustrophobia or acrophobia, this feeling of fakery or loneliness seems complex, associatively enveloping and valid to me as a work of art, wonder, sensuality, pessimistic theory, and partial invisibility." 

 - Lucas Samaras 


  ... or at least, if not endorsing / encouraging, then at least accepting the existence and inevitability of theatricality as a social mech...