John Lydon
The Best of British £1 Notes CD


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review by Scott M, October 2005
© 2005 / F&F Publishing

The Best of British £1 Notes CDOk, it might not be a new studio album; but as compilations go this really is top notch stuff. A superbly packaged singles compilation featuring Public Image Ltd, Sex Pistols and Lydon solo work; plus a new track! Throw in a bonus disc of 12" remixes and album tracks; and if that wasn't enough there is also a separate DVD release too. It's such a good idea I can't believe the record company didn't try it years ago.

Rightly or wrongly I've always looked on the Sex Pistols and PiL as completely different things. And I have to admit at first I wasn't sure about having them on the same compilation, but it really is amazing how well they work together. You only have to listen to the first few tracks to hear it. I mean what a way to start: 'Anarchy in the UK', 'Public Image', 'This is Not a Love Song', 'Open Up.' Fuck's sake! How good is that?

Taking the records out of chronological order really was a masterstroke. It might be stuff I've heard a million times before, but listening to it I was genuinely excited to hear them work together. One after another, it's relentless! It made me remember just how much I liked them; and why.

Make no mistake about it this compilation isn't a case of John Lydon claiming all the glory for these records and bands by himself (check the credits). It's just a great way of showcasing the variety of his work. Obviously, John is the common dominator here (and what does that tell you?), but there's much more than that; there's a proper thread here. Through PiL, through the Pistols, through his solo work, but you work it out for yourself, that's the whole point. I know what they mean to me.

I think this compilation works on so many different levels it encompasses (almost) everything… As well as pandering to the casual, or potential new fan, it also lets fans of each band or period – whether it be early PiL, late PiL, Sex Pistols or whatever – have access to a whole bunch of records they might not necessarily have heard or own. It crosses a lot of divides. Which is a big part of what John's music is all about. Every single record here is as relevant as the next. Some of the stuff you love someone else might hate, or vice versa. It makes them no less important.

For whatever bizarre reason John's musical output is largely ignored these days. A lot of this material just doesn't get played as much as it deserves, but hopefully this compilation will bring a whole new audience to a lot of this music. There really will be young kids out there who will only know John from the Pistols or TV who are going to get a very pleasant surprise. They might not get it all at once, but they'll have fun going through it. These records change lives and that's a fact.

This isn't a rarities compilation for the hardcore fans, it's not about that. But that said, even they can't really argue. It's a superb compilation that's had a great deal of thought put into it; it's not some horrible cash-in. If you don't want to buy it: don't. You're getting all of John's singles; bar 'Pretty Vacant' and 'Memories' (and they would have been there if they had fitted, but something had to give), and with 20 remastered tracks crammed onto Disc 1 (and running to over 75 minutes) no one can say it's not value for money. Given that the original single version's are featured here, and tracks like 'This is Not a Love Song' & 'World Destruction' have never really had a proper CD release, there's more than enough to please even the most cynical fan.

The Best of British £1 Notes CD: special editionThere is also the option of the 'special edition' featuring a bonus disc of a further 12 tracks handpicked by John (running to another 80 minutes). Although mostly compiled from extended 12" mixes it also includes some of his favourite album tracks. It really is great to hear underrated material like 'The Pardon' or 'Acid Drops' mixing it with the big boys like the 12" mixes of 'Death Disco' or 'Open Up'. It also gives the 2002 dance mix of 'GSTQ' a far wider audience. At long last.

I absolutely love John's artwork. It's very different in style to some of the other sleeves he's done like 'Paris Au Printemps' or 'Psycho's Path'. I love the colours and the attention to detail. Have you had a close look? It's certainly not a case of the emperor's new clothes is it?

And onto the main event… A new song, at long last! 'The Rabbit Song!' A short and sharp burst of what John's been up to on his work-in-progress second solo album. A song of two halves. Cleverly catchy, but with a more sinister sounding backdrop. Another classic Lydon musical contradiction. The best way I could describe it would be to say it sounds like a mixture of off-beat depth charges and a demented didgeridoo. Not that's there's even a didgeridoo on it! Ha! It brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. "That's how you do it, baby!"

While I'd love to hear an extended version I honestly think John has just about packed more lyrics into it than any other song on the compilation. More a controlled chant than a rap, he twists the vocal and the pronunciation the way only John Lydon can. Given the variety that's on display here it really is a badge of honour that 'The Rabbit Song' doesn't sound like anything else on the compilation. Of course, I don't expect any of the other songs on his forthcoming album to sound like this, but if it's anything to go by, it's going to be a real treat. Have no doubt about it there's life in the old dog yet, he's not about to go the way of the £1 note…


Disc 1:

1.  Anarchy in the UK - Sex Pistols
2.  Public Image - PiL
3.  This is Not a Love Song - PiL
4.  Open Up - Leftfield Lydon
5.  Rise - PiL
6.  Don't Ask Me - PiL
7.  Seattle - PiL
8.  Holidays in the Sun - Sex Pistols
9.  Death Disco - PiL
10. Flowers Of Romance - PiL
11. World Destruction - Time Zone
12. Warrior - PiL
13. Disappointed - PiL
14. Sun  - John Lydon      
15. Bad Life - PiL
16. Home - PiL
17. The Body - PiL
18. Cruel - PiL
19. God Save the Queen - Sex Pistols
20. The Rabbit Song - John Lydon

Bonus Disc:

1.  Death Disco (12" Mix) - PiL
2.  Poptones - PiL
3.  Careering - PiL
4.  Religion - PiL
5.  Banging The Door - PiL
6.  The Pardon - PiL
7.  Rise (12" Mix)  - PiL
8.  Disappointed (12" Mix) - PiL
9.  Warrior (12" Mix) - PiL
10. Acid Drops - PiL
11. Open Up (Full Vocal Mix) - Leftfield Lydon
12. God Save The Queen (Dance Mix)
- Sex Pistols & Neil Barnes

Running Time: 75.20 mins
Running Time: 78.56 mins



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