Before all the appearances on reality TV shows and adverts for butter on British TV tarnished his lustre for me, John Lydon was one of my all time heroes: I know, I know I set myself up for a fall there, he was always telling us about the dangers of hero worship and how he’d sell-out at the earliest opportunity. But anyway, I worshipped The Sex Pistols from when I was about 13 until they started reforming and cheapening themselves over and over again; I know, I know I set myself up for a fall there too, but that’s a story for another day. P.I.L, apart from maybe about 4 tracks never really did it for me – although I do understand that Rock Orthodoxy* requires everyone to declare their undying love for Metal Box, which to be frank I can’t sit through much more than a side of.
I had just finished reading John Lydon’s biography No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish when it was announced that John Lydon had collaborated with a dance act I had never heard of before. ‘Hmm’, I thought, immediately putting down my meerschaum pipe, donning my opera cloak, picking up my silver skull-topped sword-stick and catching the #52 bus into Leeds and purchasing Leftfield / Lydon Open Up 12″ on December 1st 1993. I wasn’t disappointed either.
This is a great little record, you can really tell Lydon has been really stimulated and pushed out of his comfort zone by the project, unlike the increasingly lacklustre P.I.L records, he sounds keen, that whining, hectoring, dog-bite mean tone is back in his voice. Frankly I can’t get enough of it, ‘Open Up’ is a real vocal tour de force.
Lose myself inside your schemes
Go for the money, honey
Not the screen
Be a movie star, blah blah blah
Go the whole hog
Be bigger than God
This would all be nice but unremarkable if Leftfield weren’t so damn brilliant too. The music on Open Up is just perfection, strident, driving beats and wonderful dynamics, without being difficult to listen to this really is punk-house**, the whole point of punk, as I see it, always having been to reclaim the NOW from the THEN.
There was controversy of course, as the clipping from the NME I had stashed inside the sleeve (why am I so goddamn anal?^), where amongst Leftfield talking about why they wanted to use Lydon (for his exciting voice, not for celebrity kudos) it talks about the fact that in the week it was released forest fires raged across southern California, this tracks ‘Burn Hollywood Burn / Taking down tinseltown’ refrain leading to an immediate MTV ban for a song written months before and effectively killing it dead in the water.
The B-side? a remix of course, I counted 9 differing B-sides amongst all the formats this was released on, all but one being remixes of the track. This one called ‘Open Up (Dervish Overdrive)’ sounded pretty promising, I mean who doesn’t like dervishes? or overdrives? for that matter. It is a slightly faster instrumental version of the main track with various synthesisers hitting exactly the same tone as Lydon’s vocals – in this it reminded me of one of my fave tracks that I have not yet got around to buying on vinyl, Alice Donut’s version of ‘War Pigs’ where they use a trumpet to reproduce Ozzy’s vocals perfectly.
It’s okay, it’s, umm, beatier than the original version and would probably sound great being played loud on a car stereo driving fast at night, so it’s okay and I may listen to it again in another 5 years; whereas I’m spinning the A-side again now.
*which is what I shall call myself as soon as I get around to forming and fronting a Power Metal trio, called Chi Square.
**rather than one of those artists who the music press tell us are proper punk dance/electronic artists, who tend to all sound like the overly-amplified result of microwaving your cutlery repeated over and over and over.
^a calculated attempt to pull in all you passing porn surfers to boost my figures – cheers Jess.