Music Video Of The Day: (This is Not a) Love Song by Public Image Ltd. (1983, directed by ????)

Once upon a time, a record company exec made the mistake of asking Johnny Lydon if he could write and record a nice and commercial love song for Public Image Ltd.’s next album.  This is how Lydon responded:

This Is Not A Love Song is repeated a total of 44 times in this song.  The other lyrics are all meant to satirize the corporate mindset as Johnny announces that he is going to sell out:

I’m adaptable and I like my new role
I’m getting better and better
And I have a new goal
I’m changing my ways where money applies

This video was shot in Century City, which was the center of the Los Angeles business community in the 80s.


Music Video of the Day: Seattle by Public Image Ltd. (1987, directed by Nick Wiling)

“We had a week off in the tour for some reason, due to gig rearrangements and/or whatever, and I flew back to LA, but the band hung out in Seattle and they started jamming about and rehearsing and started putting together a really catchy tune. So I flew up, and the words just flowed out instantly. It’s a great song. The subject is about rioting, really, and when you see them World Trade Organization riots, it’s kind of appropriate. It’s an homage to Seattle, a town that’s never done us any harm. A town we feel quite warm about… great atmosphere, the gigs are always amazing. It feels like home to me.”

— John Lydon, explaining Seattle in an interview with The Stranger

Years before Seattle became, however briefly, the center of American music, John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. celebrated the city with their own song.  Given Lydon’s naturally contrarian nature, it is perhaps not surprising that his song celebrates many of the the things that drive other people crazy about the Emerald City.

The same can be said of the video, which not only highlights the industrial and rainy sides of Seattle but which also suggests that it’s a good place to drop a watermelon out of a window.

This video was directed by Nick Willing.  A year after directing this video, he would direct the music video of Debbie Gibson’s Foolish Beat, which is about as far away from working with John Lydon and Public Image, Ltd. as you can get!


Music Video of the Day: Public Image by Public Image Ltd. (1978, directed by ????)

‘Public Image’, despite what most of the press seemed to misinterpret it to be, is not about the fans at all, it’s a slagging of the group I used to be in. It’s what I went through from my own group. They never bothered to listen to what I was fucking singing, they don’t even know the words to my songs. They never bothered to listen, it was like, ‘Here’s a tune, write some words to it.’ So I did. They never questioned it. I found that offensive, it meant I was literally wasting my time, ’cause if you ain’t working with people that are on the same level then you ain’t doing anything. The rest of the band and Malcolm never bothered to find out if I could sing, they just took me as an image. It was as basic as that, they really were as dull as that. After a year of it they were going ‘Why don’t you have your hair this colour this year?’ And I was going ‘Oh God, a brick wall, I’m fighting a brick wall!’ They don’t understand even now.

— John Lydon in Melody Maker, 1978

After the spectacular collapse of their 1978 American tour, the members of the Sex Pistols found themselves at loose ends.  Sid Viscous pursued an ill-fated solo career.  Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren took off to Brazil with Paul Cook and Steve Jones and attempted to recruit fugitive Ronnie Briggs to be the band’s new lead singer.  Meanwhile, the band’s former lead singer, Johnny Rotten, returned to the UK and announced to the world that he still had more to say.

Of course, he wouldn’t be saying it as a Sex Pistol nor would he be using the name Johnny Rotten, though whether that was primarily by choice or due to legal issues with McLaren and the Sex Pistols’s management team depends on which source you consult.  Using his real name, John Lydon reemerged as the founder and lead singer of Public Image Ltd.  With PiL, Lydon retained the anger and the wit that made him such an exciting figure with the Sex Pistols but he also took control of his own musical destiny.

PiL’s first single (and hit) was Public Image and, appropriately, it was a song that Lydon had originally written to express his displeasure with the direction of the Sex Pistols.  The song criticized the Pistols (and McLaren, specifically) for being more concerned with maintaining the right image than with actually saying anything.  The video, which came out before MTV, shows that Lydon didn’t need the Sex Pistols to get across his withering message.


A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Death Disco a.k.a. Swan Lake (by Public Image, Ltd.)

Recently, I’ve been reading Clinton Heylin’s history of punk rock, Babylon’s Burning: From Punk To GrungeNot surprisingly, one of the main characters in this book is John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten).  Along with detailing Lydon’s time as the lead singer for the Sex Pistols, the book also examines Lydon’s subsequent career as the frontman for Public Image, Ltd.  The book also inspired me to track down and listen to one of PIL’s earliest efforts, a song that was originally called Death Disco (though it was also released under the name Swan Lake for reasons that become obvious once you listen to the song).

Death Disco was written after and in response to the death of Lydon’s mother.  Though the song is now over 30 years old, it remains a powerful and cathartic cry of pain and loss.

As an added bonus, here’s two interviews with Lydon, one from the late 70s that was recorded shortly before he formed Public Image, Ltd. (and in which he looks so incredibly young and, dare I say it, rather adorable in his bratty way) and one from 2007 in which he discusses the meaning of life.