New Jersey City Gardens, USA
October 29th, 1982
Keith Levene: Guitar
Martin Atkins: Drums
Pete Jones: Bass
Where Are You? / Annalisa / Bad Baby / Religion / Careering / Bad Life (Mad Max) / Death Disco / Public Image / Chant / Low Life / Attack / Under The House
Audio bootleg recorded
review by Bruce
Davis, February 2004
© 2004 Fodderstompf.com / Bruce Davis
In the fall of 1982 I was a senior at Gettysburg College (age 21), Music Director of the college radio station (WZBT FM), and a huge Pistols and PiL fan. There had recently been a blurb in magazine (Trouser Press I think, though it may have been the College Music Journal) stating that PiL had signed with Stiff Records. I knew that PiL would be playing a gig in Trenton New Jersey soon (about a three-hour drive from Gettysburg, but not far from my hometown in the suburbs of Philadelphia), so I put on my "Radio Journalist" hat and called Stiff to arrange to interview PiL before the show. During my interview, Keith Levene said PiL had nothing to do with Stiff other than PiL's management company having an office in the same building as Stiff. Regardless, the encounter was arranged by someone at Stiff, or so it seemed (maybe the Stiff representative just walked down the hall to PiL's management company, and told them some college kid would be waiting in Trenton for an interview).
Present on the bus that night were Keith Levene, John Lydon, Martin Atkins, and Pete Jones, as well as Ken Lockie of Cowboys International, and John's wife, Nora. The bus (or "coach" as the Brits call them) wasn't one designed for overnight touring (no beds) but had comfy seats the length of the bus, with the backs against the windows of the bus. There was a TV up front, and a refrigerator full of beer in the back.
I sat down next to Keith in about the middle of the bus, and Jones and Atkins were across the aisle from us (if memory serves). Lydon was a few seats up, toward the front of the bus, and across from him were Lockie and Nora.
Lydon didn't want to take part in the interview, but halfway through he got up and started walking to the back of the bus, past me. As he passed, I started asking him a question, and he suddenly lunged toward me with a menacing look on his face. I flinched, and he broke out laughing, saying "You jumped!" I then asked him about the possibility of a Pistols reunion, and he described why that would never happen (or so he thought at the time).
After the interview with Keith was over, I got up and sat next to Lydon and chatted with him for a while, not in an "interview" format, but just wanting to prolong the experience of being in the presence of what was my favourite band at the time. At one point I asked John if I could record the show (I had my radio station's very high-quality tape recorder with me), and he said no, complaining about bootleggers. When I asked this question, Lockie gave me a very dirty look. I mentioned that I had recorded a John Lee Hooker concert a few weeks earlier (after interviewing the bluesman), and Lockie asked "Did you pay him?" I explained that I wasn't selling the tape, it was just for my personal use, but Lockie continued to give me the evil eye, so I promised that I would put the tape recorder in my car when I left the bus. And I did. A couple of years later, though, a met a guy who had been at the show and recorded it with a high-end Walkman-type recorder – nowhere near as good as the recorder I used for the interview, but it was a decent machine nonetheless.
My memories of the show are a little hazy, but listening back to it, it's obvious that people were jumping on stage throughout the show, probably stage-diving off. At one point a girl kissed John on the cheek, and he shouted "Blasted, she bit me!" The edited interview was aired over WZBT's airwaves (a measly 10 watts, so the broadcast barely reached Gettysburg's nearby battlefields) on December 9, 2002.
I had another encounter with Keith Levene a few years later, in early 1985. At that time I was writing for a magazine called The Bob (I later went on to become the editor of the magazine, until it folded sometime in the mid-'90s). I had been in Manhattan with the publisher of the magazine in January 1985, and in one of the record stores where we were distributing the publication, in walked Keith Levene. I went up to him and introduced myself, reminding him that I had interviewed him a few years earlier (he didn't seem to remember, and asked if he had been nice to me. I told him he had, though in reality he was slightly surly during most of the interview). I told him about The Bob, and asked if maybe we could arrange an interview. He said he'd talk to me about it after he finished meeting with the owner of the record store (he was probably there to discuss sales of "Commercial Zone"). So I waited outside the store until he was done with his business.
Outside the store we talked about the possibility of doing an interview for The Bob, and I asked him if I could help distribute "Commercial Zone" in Philadelphia. He said those things could be arranged, but he had other things relating to publishing and the music business that he thought the publisher of The Bob and I could help him out with. He was interested in our connections with regard to college radio, underground music magazines/fanzines, and independent record distribution. He felt there were things we knew about these subjects that could be useful with regard to distribution of his future recordings. He also talked about computer bulletin boards, and how computers were going to change the way information was disseminated. 1985 was still the infancy of personal computers, and the Internet was unheard of outside of academic circles. But there were crude "bulletin boards" available to PC-owners with modems. I didn't have a computer at that time, so I didn't completely comprehend Keith's vision, but it sounded exciting, so I said I'd do anything I could to help him out.
Keith gave me his address and phone number, and asked me to call him in a few days. I mailed him a bunch of issues of The Bob, and a few days later gave him a call (on January 28, 1985). He had a lot of interesting things to say about his vision for setting up a network of underground/indie music people to distribute information, including via computer. Again, I wasn't completely clear on the whole idea (Keith has always been ahead of the times), but I was very interested in doing anything I could to help him out and become part of this network. He asked me to call back in a few days to set a date to come up to New York to talk some more about his ideas, and maybe pick up a few boxes of "Commercial Zone" to distribute in Philadelphia. So I called back a few days later, and we talked some more about his plans. He said he would be going to California shortly, and he might be out there a few weeks or longer. He said he would call me when he got back, and we'd get together when he was back in New York. I think when he was out in California he decided to stay there permanently, as I didn't hear back from him after that last call. Maybe he decided The Bob and I didn't quite fit into his vision, or maybe he just found bigger and better things out in California.
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
(Thanks to Bruce Davis)
Gig ticket (rear) signed by JL