Research by Karsten Roekens and Scott M, plus contributors…
St Martin's Press hold a launch party at New York's Coco Pazzo Cub to announce they will be publishing John Lydon's forthcoming autobiography, set to be titled 'Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.' John is in attendance.
Various music press reports that John Lydon has signed a worldwide two-album solo deal with East West Records (a division of Atlantic Records). The reports state that Lydon has signed as a solo artist, and not as a member of PiL. One report mistakenly claims that he has begun demo-ing PiL material, and that some PiL back catalogue is part of the deal. However, this was never the case. The deal also turns out to be for one album, not two.
Initial reports are that John is to return to a more "hand's on" musical role than the recent PiL albums. As things progress John decides he wants to play, record and write the whole album by himself. A true solo record.
With the advance Lydon begins to build a recording studio in his Los Angeles home ("Rotten Studios"). He already has a "small but functional" mini-studio but the solo album allows him to substantially upgrade it and start gathering together a collection of instruments.
By early 1993 he has already began to demo material; which is said to be a return to the experimental nature of the early PiL records. Most of this early material will go towards his solo album, however, at some point in the next year or so, he also puts out separate, anonymous, white label 12" singles. One of these tracks – an untitled instrumental – is broadcast in early 2000 on his 'Rotten Radio' show on eyada.com.
The UK auction rights for the publication of John's autobiography are held. Publishers Hodder & Stoughton win. The book is set to be published in the autumn, however, it will be delayed until 1994.
In a Smiths feature, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke are interviewed in 'Select' magazine; the article states that "at the moment Joyce is recording at home with John McGeoch of PiL."
John Lydon meets dance duo Leftfield in London to talk about a possible collaboration. John has known Leftfield's Neil Barnes for sometime, and was a fan of the band's previous output. The meeting goes well and a couple of days later Leftfield send John some demo mixes of the proposed backing track.
Neil Barnes: "It wasn't just about using John. It was about using John's voice. He's always had a voice that's very exciting. We just thought he was the most suitable singer for what we were trying to do. Obviously, we had to send John the track to see if he liked it. It was like, 'let's do it for the track'. We thought we had written something that John would like."
Neil is also a mutual friend of John "one of the John's" Gray; who had a hand in getting the collaboration together. John Lydon later commented: "It's just the way things work, not through any deliberate managerial manipulation. It was just by meeting… "
Shortly after the first meeting, Lydon enters Rollover Studios in London to record vocals for the Leftfield collaboration set to be titled 'Open Up'. He has already begun work on the lyrics; which are about a failed film audition "Burn Hollywood, Burn!"
Neil Barnes: "I knew he would come out with something special because he was really nervous. Put John on the spot – that's the best way. We treated him like we treat anybody else. We weren't star-struck. We made him work and he liked that. He did have everything worked out. He's a professional. He plays that down in himself but he really works at it."
Contractual problems with East West Records in the USA threaten the release of the Leftfield Lydon single. The possibility that it may have to be released as an instrumental only version is considered. However, thankfully the problems are eventually sorted out.
East West are given first refusal on the track but decide not to release it. The track will be released on Leftfield's Hard Hands label.
Music press reports that Leftfield are set to team up with a "major male vocalist"; rumoured to be David Bowie, who the pair had remixed earlier in the year.
Jah Wobble resigns to Island Records, nearly a decade after he first recorded material for the label. Wobble has already begun work on a follow up to the critically acclaimed 'Rising Above Bedlam', which is set to be released sometime next year.
'NME' announce the forthcoming Leftfield Lydon collaboration. The article states: "This is the record that people have always wanted Lydon to do."
After extended contractual negations between Hard Hands and East West Records, John Lydon flies to London to record the promo video for 'Open Up'. East West were unwilling for Lydon to promote the single at all.
'Mixmag' review 'Open Up'. The influential dance music magazine put John on the front cover, and vote the track "Single of the Week".
The release of 'Play Dead' by Bjork. The single is a collaboration between Bjork, Jah Wobble, and soundtrack composer David Arnold; and is taken from 'The Young Americans' movie. It peaks at number 12 in the UK charts.
The first annual Mercury Music Awards are held in London. Jah Wobble's 'Rising Above Bedlam' is nominated. Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica', on which Wobble also guested, wins.
LATE OCTOBER - EARLY NOVEMBER
As fate would have it… Just days before the release of 'Open Up' huge forest fire's engulf parts of California. "Burn Hollywood, Burn" indeed… Three people die and over 1000 homes are destroyed in multiple fires. Due to the fire's the single receives very limited radio airplay, and is effectively banned on television.
Speaking of the enforced censorship John later commented: "The song in no way bears any relation to the catastrophe in California. It's nothing to do with that. We worked hard putting this video together. We cared about the product. It's damn upsetting to see things like that going on… Who are they to be purveyors of good taste? They've overstepped their mark. I find that bloody offensive. THAT'S what is offensive in this country. Not a song like this…"
Leftfield Lydon - 'Open Up' is released in the UK (Hard Hands OO9T ) (see Lydon discography for full info). Despite the limited airplay due to the Californian forest fire's; the single peaks at number 11 in the UK charts. The track would be Leftfield's biggest hit single, and arguably the record that broke them to the mainstream.
Various other info and quotes on the collaboration can be found in our Leftfield on Lydon article.
The promotional release of the video for Leftfield Lydon - 'Open up'; shot in London and directed by Lindy Heymann.
BBC 2, 'Dance Energy' review 'Open Up' as part of a news segment. This very brief clip is one of the few appearances the video will make on UK TV; and cuts before the chorus.
ITV's 'The Chart Show' refuse to show the 'Open Up' video at the last minute; after producers find it "inappropriate". A statement in the music press the following week issued by a spokesperson for Leftfield states: "The song in no way relates to the events of last week's events. The track was recorded back in the summer when John visited London. He finds it quite ironic to think that the record's success could be jeopardised when he himself has family living in Malibu, where the fires are happening."
'NME' review 'Open Up' and name it their "Punk Rock Single of the Week".
'Melody Maker' also vote it their "Single of the Week".
'MTV News'. An interview with Lydon – recorded back in 1992 – is broadcast on 'MTV News' as part of a retrospective on punk. John refused to record a new interview on the subject.
Virgin Records approach Leftfield to remix the Sex Pistols 'Pretty Vacant'. They refuse.
Speaking in the NME a Leftfield & states they were then offered any track of their choice from the entire back catalogue, but still refused: "There just not into that kind of thing. In any case John Lydon would hate it; there's no love lost between him and Virgin."
'NME' - Leftfield Lydon interview. John had refused to talk to the press, but finally agrees to give Kris Needs the one and only Leftfield Lydon interview. John is also featured on front cover.
Speaking of his new solo project, the article mentions that Lydon has installed a studio in his LA home and is currently learning how to use the computer and Midi gear so he can become entirely self-sufficient. "I've amassed a quantity of instruments and things and I'm gonna make it myself. That's something I haven't done for a long time and I need to." He also reveals that Lu Edmonds has been teaching him about various Eastern European and Bulgarian musical instruments; and that the new material will return to the experimental nature of early PiL.