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

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)

The UK in the late 1970s was a drastically different place than in earlier postwar times. The country had moved from the swinging sixties into something far more inappropriate and nasty. The Winter Of Discontent was just around the corner. People no longer expected to be civil in public matters.

Along came The Sex Pistols, featuring vocalist Johnny Rotten (aka John Lydon), guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock, and drummer Paul Cook. Sid Vicious later replaced Glen Matlock as a “bass player” but the intent was all there for people to see. These men respectively wanted to show the world what anarchy was capable of.

The album itself is brilliant. It sounds unlike the mainstream Disco of the time: raw; unapologetic and powerful. It’s a landmark that has inspired countless bands over the years in getting a fresh start in the world of music.

We begin with Holidays In The Sun. It talks about the issue of the Berlin Wall and how Johnny Rotten observed and questions if life on the other side of the Communist-built wall in Europe would have been better. From the outset, we hear a loud and noisy rock piece which is absolutely brilliant in impact. Everything about The Sex Pistols was top notch in this respect.

The follow-up Bodies tells the real-life tale of a stalker who Johnny Rotten had who didn’t know whether or not she wished to abort after getting pregnant from someone else other than Johnny Rotten. It’s neither pro nor anti-abortion in this respect, it’s just delivered. No wonder more conservative people were horrified at this imagery.

No Feelings tells the story of how people really feel about being self-obsessed with themselves. It is, of course, a mockery of this idea, and a very good sarcastic and wonderfully delivered piece as that.

Liar is similar but demands people to be at least more honest with each other. “Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. You lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. Tell me why?!” asks Johnny Rotten. In a world of fake music and fake groups, Johnny Rotten wanted people to be more honest with each other than superficiality demanded in typical circumstances. Direct.

The anti-anthem God Save The Queen is an anti-establishment and anti-monarchy piece that was, believe it or not, a hit single. It coincided with the Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations of the time and forever blacklisted the group from being accepted by many authorities. It’s just awesome though.

The follow-up Problems showed that really, “The problem is you!” and not anyone else. It’s an impacting and direct statement that isn’t easily forgotten, even for a lesser-known track.

Seventeen is awful but is saved by the semi-chorus refrain, “I’m a lazy sod!” The purpose of this song is to articulate how people waste away their lives. It’s a very concise and honest song.

Anarchy In The U.K. is the definitive song by The Sex Pistols and is one of the only songs Glen Matlock played bass guitar on. Everything about it shows how wonderfully powerful The Sex Pistols were. What an energetic and controversial piece in the world of music.

The manager of The Sex Pistols is explicitly referred to indirectly in Submission. It’s singalong but has a deeper meaning to the song. Still very enjoyable though.

The follow-up Pretty Vacant is about what you’d think. It’s a rebellious ode to just not doing anything with the day. It has some very simple riffs by guitarist Steve Jones and proves you don’t need to be a professionally trained guitarist to make good music.

New York is not a Frank Sinatra style song. Instead, it is a total parody of the city and the birthplace of punk rock. It doesn’t bore one either.

E.M.I. finishes the record by raising a middle finger to the touchy business of recording companies that wouldn’t have a bar of The Sex Pistols. It’s so out there and to the point that it’s surprising that Richard Branson signed these guys. Explicit.

This album is now seen as a must-own for fans of rock music and those who followed afterward. It’s absolutely a great and wild listen for those who like the more aggressive side of rock. If you collect classic albums, don’t forget to add this to your own collection. You won’t regret the impact of this loud, raw and abrasive album.

7/10