Public Image Ltd. – Public Image: First Issue (1978)

The Sex Pistols officially ended in January 1978 when Johnny Rotten had enough of Malcolm McLaren’s intervention in both the music and image of The Sex Pistols. At the last concert of The Sex Pistols in San Francisco, Johnny Rotten put the question: “Have you ever felt like you’ve been cheated?” to the audience. Indeed, he was asking an honest question. He left The Sex Pistols immediately to carve out his own musical journey.

The other members of The Sex Pistols did not fare so well. Sid Vicious disgraced himself with a murder-suicide act, Steve Jones became a heroin addict in the 1980s and Paul Cook did nothing special. Glen Matlock licked his wounds as well. Johnny Rotten dropped the stage name and went back to being John Lydon and went on a brief break whilst carving out more intellectual musical territory.

He teamed up with various individualistic and quality pseudo-punk musicians of the time and recorded new songs. The result here is the Public Image: First Issue album. It’s not even their best as John Lydon’s group, but it’s a very good beginning to a much more varied musical palette.

So beginning with Theme, it’s actually a piece about the parody of melancholy and bad feelings. To be honest, it’s good that it is a parody piece, otherwise, it would be awful. John Lydon of new still had the ability to see through human stupidity, after all. It’s one of the worst tracks on the album, but we can see past that as it is John Lydon finding his feet.

Straight afterwards we hear the spoken word Religion I. It reveals John Lydon as a mock preacher, delivering a sermon for atheists and the anti-religious. Close listening reveals that it is calling out the hypocrisies of the Catholic Church more than anything else.

Religion II is the song version of the spoken word piece and has John Lydon screaming “This is religion!” in a furious manner. It’s a good piece and his tone and singing are awesome. Only early Liam Gallagher came close to the legendary Johnny Rotten singing voice.

Annalisa is cheerful rubbish. It’s hard to decipher any meaning about this song but it’s at least danceable. Not really that good a track. Worth skipping if you can.

The main track Public Image has John Lydon laying everything bare. It is so honest in its dealing with the realities of being The Sex Pistols superstar that it questions whether or not it was worth it. It’s a post-John Lennon confessional and did okay in the singles charts.

The follow-up Low Life points out to a person who fits the criteria, although not mentioning anyone specifically. It lacks originality but it’s a good listen.

Attack begins with John Lydon hocking a loogie, before rushing into a sonic audio assault. It sounds a little weak musically but still better than some of the other songs here.

Fodderstompf is a long and artistic parody of the hippie based music scene that had been around for some time. “We only wanted to be loved” is repeated many times, and John Lydon uses his unique voice to change between accents in the mockery of such hippie based cultural values.

To be fair, this isn’t the greatest album ever made. But it’s quintessential for fans of the master of punk Johnny Rotten and mixes trebly guitars, dub style bass lines, attacking drums and punk vocals on it. It’s a good intro to Public Image Ltd. without being a great one. The next album afterwards was their best, but this one still has its place. Worth seeking out if you enjoyed Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.

7/10

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