Melody Maker, June 1979

© 1979 Melody Maker

Factory, Manchester, June 18th 1979


by Jon Savage

Timing: after lunch PiL arrive in Manchester to tape two songs, 'Death Disco' and 'No Birds Do Sing', at Granada for evening transmission; around the same time this impromptu event is arranged (with support) at the Factory. Soundcheck over by nine, on at ten - to a sparse but healthy audience (the advantage of a small but flexible local scene).

Not so much a public performance, more a semi-private rehearsal; out of the way of too many prying eyes. Denied a build-up, the musicians were able to relax into spontaneity and ride over inevitable teething problems. And clown: tonight saw menace turn into pantomime.

Songs: two album tracks – a stinging 'Annalisa' and 'Public Image'; four new – 'Death Disco', 'No Birds Do Sing', 'This Could Be Paradise', and 'Getting Rid Of The Albatross'. All titles are approximate. At times, so were the performances; new drummer (former 101er) Richard Dudanski had severe problems in finding the. beat cocking up the intro on 'Public Image' twice (too fast). When the four stopped for the second time to sort things out (in one of the many inter-song huddles on the stage). Wobble cleared the air by introducing Dudanski in true showbiz tradition – a habit he kept throughout whenever things flagged. No worries about a new career for this lad – either down Brick Lane or at the Talk of the Town.

When the band gelled on the new and better-rehearsed numbers, it was to unleash considerable power: downer disco given focus by Lydon's still mesmeric stage persona. As befits someone with the most public of images, he's able to play with it: during the whole of 'Public Image', he kept his back to the audience (and carried it off), while during 'Albatross', making no bones about the fact that he was singing from hasty notes, he crouched and allowed the front rows to peer over his shoulder.

In this preliminary, hurried airing, the four new songs merged muddily into one: driving, menacing, Germanic (Neu/Can) walls of guitar sound with a heavy disco propulsion; what could be heard of the words indicated that Lydon's disgust is just as barbed, perhaps more oblique.

It still remains, however, to be seen whether Lydon has escaped one form of stylisation only to walk into another. The pantomime ended in confusion: leading man wanted to catch his train and who could refuse him?


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