I can’t believe it’s not better..PiL 100 Club (review of a night out)

“The last time I heard PiL play live, I was playing with them…”

 

It was April 1983, it was my last PiL gig at Toad’s Place, New Haven. Shortly after that I handed in my 2 hr notice, got on a plane and came back home. I never spoke to John Lydon again.

So it was with some reticent interest then that I agreed to go to the 100 Club Wednesday night with my old mate Guy Jardine from Rebel In Print to see PiL play the the Fred Perry Subculture event. Pre-drinks at the Blue Posts  then off to the 100 Club. It was a strange crowd, a lot of younger people than I expected who were obviously there by winning free tickets or connected with Fred Perry in some other way. The rest of the crowd was made up of old lags and punk die hards like me.

Some familiar faces were there; Spizz Energi (of course) with flashing teeth in place and Charlie Harper from the UK subs dropped in with his wife. The Department S merch man Martin Weedon had also managed to blag a ticket. So there was a cosy familiar atmosphere.

Martin Weedon in te background, related to Bert you know!
Spizz, his teeth light up when a free beer is coming

There was no support band, PiL were due to kick off at 9pm so there was a bit of hanging about, the band weren’t even in the building. The stage was set with drums to one side, John in the middle in front of the infamous pillar and a barrier of sorts had been erected using flight cases. The low stage had been deemed unsuitable to guarantee John’s safety apparently.

Just after nine, the band swept in down the back stairs, fronted by Rambo and 100 Club security, the crowd parting like the Red Sea as the great punk Lord himself swaggered to the stage. John was bedecked in a Chef’s outfit for the evening. An odd look, but John is never one to stick to convention. I did happen to notice though that he looked as if he’d eaten most of the food, being somewhat bulkier of frame than I remember (aren’t we all).

Rambo looks on

The sound was good, PiL launched into their opener ‘Warrior’ and the crowd lapped it up. The set was delivered efficiently, some songs sounded great ‘Memories’ and ‘The body’ sounded strong. All the parts were there but to me, something was amiss. Lou Edmonds seemed to be struggling a bit in places, he went through numerous guitar changes but didn’t seem to be on top of it. Perhaps that was just me. Things went downhill further when ‘Death Disco’ was delivered without any of its drama or menace. I guess John has sung it so many times it’s lost a bit of its edge. The rhythm section sounded a bit tame in places, but I mustn’t be too harsh comparing them to Martin Atkins and I who were of course, a formidable force.

John milked the crowd as per usual, even taking time at one point to berate a fan for not listening “Oi you fat cunt, stop talking, there’s a show going on here!” A classic line that prompted zero response from the embarrassed sycophant.

Rambo was prowling stage left, looking for trouble, and finding it from the most innocuous places; a camera too close, a fan leaning too far, you know, really dangerous situations.

Spizz wonders if he could get past Rambo

The rest of the songs came and went, ‘Flowers of Romance’ with prerecorded drums didn’t really lift off and ‘This Is Not a Love Song’ plodded. Scott Firth adding to the bass parts with frills and trills that were interesting but unnecessary in my view. ‘Rise’ ended the set and was a good one to end on. The band departed. Some of the crowd mustered enough enthusiasm for an encore but mostly people stood around silently. The band remerged and launched into ‘Public Image’ and it sounded truly awful. I have never heard that song played so badly. Even when Keith Levene was at his worst he delivered the guitar parts to that song with much angst and ferocity. Lou Edmonds was well off the pace and I have no idea why because he is such a fine guitarist.

The encore ended with ‘Open Up’ and ‘Shoom’ and as the last lyrical echoes of “Fuck off, fuck off” rang through the crowd, they were off into the 100 club dressing room which is conveniently situated opposite the stage so another forced plough through the crowd led by Rambo took place.

After the show

 

I wanted to say hello to John, I wanted to close the circle by meeting him for the first time since 1983, just to see if we could be at peace. There was a bit of a wait before I was granted access during which time I grabbed a quick hello with Scott Firth and we briefly swapped bass playing notes about ‘Love Song’ but eventually I was allowed past the  Rambo guard and given a very warm welcome by John who was sitting with his wife Nora.

 

2 PiL bass players in the room, discuss technique

We chatted for 15 minutes or so and John expressed his pleasure at me having taken the time to drop in to say hello, he seemed genuinely pleased I had done so. We quickly touched on how things were back in the 80’s and we both acknowledged where the problem lay back then, agreeing that we always got on well and never had any disagreements. We spoke about Keith, Martin and Maureen Baker. Rambo took A couple of pictures for me for the album before I said my goodbyes and with a sweaty hug from the man took off home.

Me and John still best mates

That’s probably it with PiL for me, I can’t see me going to see them again unless I happen to be on the same bill! But I wouldn’t mind going one more time to see by comparison if this was a  one off or what. I hope their new album is a scorcher, it needs to be.

All in all it was a fun night, always is when Spizz is around and I am happy to have finally met John, in peace and with respect.

Peace, fun and love. Pete Jones x

Maureen Baker…. Photogenius

“We always thought Maureen had no film in her camera, she was constantly taking a photo, on and off stage..”

 

A photo paints a gazillion words. During my all too brief spell in the PiL bass slot, Maureen Baker was a regular presence in the PiL camp. She always had a camera pressed against her face whether we were on stage or off. Constantly documenting that weird PiL chapter when the band were based in New York in 1982/3, Maureen took some extraordinary shots, capturing some powerful and illuminating images of all four of us.

I saw very few of these until about 10 years ago when Maureen made contact again and was willing to share what she had in her cupboard. Even now, I occasionally get sent a shot I’ve never seen before such as this one of me and  Keith Levene taken in San Francisco.

 

Pete and Keith
Pete Jones and Keith Levene enjoy a rare moment of joviality

I have no recollection of what it was that Keith and I found so funny, perhaps he was laughing at my hat, but it goes to show, perhaps it wasn’t all doom and gloom back then. But look at this next shot; again, not seen by me until this week. It seems to tell a different story?

Pete Jones and John Lydon cracking jokes
Mr. Happy and Mr. Glum having a right laugh

I can’t remember where this was taken but I’m reliably informed that it was in Chicago and we were bored to tears it waiting for a TV crew to do their stuff. It seems to be at a soundcheck, and tells a different story. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of myself looking more unhappy than here. But, I could be putting on a pose for the camera. We were constantly goofing about and if we knew the camera was on us would often ham it up.

You decide. Which is the real me? Answers on a postcard please…..

Maureen had an exceptional talent back then and with unprecedented access built up a wonderful collection of photos of that era. Her best work in my view are the candid shots when we weren’t aware of what she was doing, they should really be in a gallery or at least, in a book.

#JC4PM

 

RIP Gary Alexander Borland

“Stunned is a fucking understatement..”

 

The news this week that Heavy Drapes lead singer Gary Borland had suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away after a suspected cardiac arrest has left the whole punk family deeply shocked and stunned. Heavy Drapes had just appeared at the weekend Amsterdam Rebellion Festival where by all accounts he and the band were on fine form. The pictures posted on Facebook certainly show him and his mates having a great time, doing what they loved, giving it large and there was certainly no hint of the tragedy that was to come just a few days later.

I met Gary at the Blackpool Rebellion festival last year in the artist’s bar where we had a  beer and a great all too brief chat. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I was a great fan of the Drapes, though I totally got what they were about, Gary knew this and he was just as frank in return but we had a common thread of honesty that was quite refreshing for both of us. I asked him if the new album was finished yet (it wasn’t) and what his plans were going forward. He told me his plan was to get the album finished asap and gig as much as possible and when I asked what he hoped the album would achieve he said without hesitation “Top 30”. I laughed, but he was deadly serious, and for me this typified what Gary was about; he had a belief in what he was doing with a passion and was aiming for a bar that he had personally set very high.

Me and Gary at Rebellion…..

All too soon, this opportunity was taken from Gary and the band. Their  work wasn’t finished, it had only just started. The band had made an impact on the punk scene, a scene that has often been described as a bit stale of late, but the Drapes were trying to smash that apart and they had won over many friends in a relatively short period and played some great gigs with more decent slots planned. Gary had an infectious belief in his art, and enough bluster and bravado to not give a fuck about what anyone thought, they were gonna take over the world one audience at a time…. As Punk as fuck.

Gary will be sorely missed by his family and friends for ever, I for one will miss his presence, attitude and of course, his snarly vocal delivery. Punk has lost one of the good ones. RIP mate.

Pete Jones x

 

The Public Image Is Rotten…

“It’s funny seeing your own fat lumpy face 6 foot wide on a cinema screen….”

I went to see the new Public Image Limited documentary ‘The Public Image Is Rotten’ last night at the Odeon with my good friend and musical collaborator Andy Trussler (Rogue Sector). It was an interesting evening. As usual, the trains in and out of London on the Thameslink have gone to pot so I decided to drive up (20 miles) which was dead easy given it was a quiet Sunday evening. Plenty of parking to be had a short walk away from the venue.

Screen 3 was fairly small, cosy I guess, and I was given a complimentary VIP seat (which is just what a normal cinema seat should be like when in actual fact all the standard seats are too small). The documentary itself is a very good chronological account of the entire PiL history from  it’s inception up to the present day and there are some interesting characters interviewed in it.

Of course, I’m in it for a bit when the film moves on to the New York segment and I am very pleased to say I wasn’t made to look a big chump in the editing suite. It’s bizarre seeing yourself up on a big screen like that, a 6 foot wide head is not a good look for anyone! It was good to see my old mate Martin Atkins on screen, he was very funny and I miss him.

There were a few people I knew in the audience which was nice. There was also one or two people there who I didn’t really want to see and I even  had a bit of a confrontation with one of them but it soon settled down. The film was a tad too long I felt, could have done with shaving off a few minutes. It was good to see they had also used some of my personal photos from that era.

John Lydon held a short Q & A after the film but I couldn’t face listening to him spout on about the same old shit so I left. His wife Nora was there so it was a shame I didn’t get to say hello to her. She was great fun back in the 80’s when we were all living in NYC, a lovely lady, though I have no idea what she saw in John!!

Rotten Indeed
The Public Image Is Rotten

I will be seeing PiL perform at the 100 Club on the 20th June, that should be fun, to see how much of it I can stand!!

See ya next time!! PjJ

Nice ‘n’ Sleazy 2018

“It’s a big punk party, similar to a wedding only more people wearing black.”

 

Nice ‘n’ Sleazy at Morecombe was the first Department S festival date this summer. It was competing with Strummercamp not many miles away but despite this, it was very well attended and good to see number of friendly faces there to support the bands. There was a danger of the venue running out of beer at one point, such was the raging thirst of the punk mob. Luckily, emergency supplies were sent for and all was well.

It was a bit of drive (4 hours) for such a short set but a promise of a bed for the night at our guitarist’s house made it worth the trip.

A great night all round, The UK Subs were on fire as usual and it was nice to see our vinyl on the merch stand getting noticed.

Photos ©Stephen Dunkley

100 Club + Wreckless Eric

That was a wonderful noise….

The 100 Club is an iconic London venue that’s great place to play but not so much fun as a paying punter. The stage has seen some classic performances over the years and it was a pleasure to go there last night along with our lovely Department S drummer Alan Galaxy to see Eric Goulden perform his one man Wreckless Eric show. Just him and a guitar. It was a very powerful and engaging show; Eric has some great tales to tell and songs to match and the sound he got form his acoustic through a variety of effects was immense. ’twas a great night all round. I even bought his CD!

Of course, you can’t go to the 100 Club without bumping into someone you know and it was great bumping into the mighty Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC and some old mates form years gone by that I hadn’t seen for a while. The only downside was getting home again thanks to Thameslink messing up the trains but standing up all the way back to Harpenden  was worth it. Go see Eric if you get the chance, its a refreshing change.

Now, its a quick cup of tea and back in the studio to work on my new solo album. Perhaps I should get the acoustic and Big Muff out to play with!!

Great weekend

“Our host seemed a bit unhinged to me….”

We had a great 3 days residential studio  rehearsals  in deepest Leicestershire over the weekend. Fantastic place to play with a great host who cooked the breakfast, decent pub nearby for tea. Recommended for residential rehearsing and recording. Ross, the guvnor, is great.

http://www.thepaddocks studio

We managed to miss the royal wedding shenanigans thank god. Worked up three new Departments S songs ready to be unleashed on the public soon.

Phil had a problem with the hammock though:

video 403C2BA4-46D2-423E-B40C-A0CCF6E6C35F

 

 

Department S rehearsals

We are having a rehearsal away day, well, an away three days actually.

We’ve been working hard over recent months writing new material. It has been proving difficult getting enough rehearsal time to knock the new songs into shape. So we have decided to lock ourselves away for three days at a residential rehearsal rooms in deepest Leicestershire. It’s near where they make the Melton Mowbray pork pie. Here we can make as much noise as we like 24 hours a day and nobody will hear the screams when the fighting breaks out.

Wish us luck! last man standing gets the beers in.

 

New Site Launches

Yes, I’ve bitten the bullet and designed a new website for all news and stuff about me, Department S and any other project I’m working on. Let me know what you think.