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Vic Godard & Subway Sect - 1979 Now! (AED Records)
One thing you can never do is pigeon hole Vic Godard. For a punk outsider, he has managed to maintain a credibility and a following due to two reasons; the consistency of the quality of his music regardless of style, coupled with that unmistakeable vocal snarl which could only have its origins in punk 1976.
We Come As Aliens, Vic’s album from 2010, was one of the best of that year, with Back In The Community lodging itself as one of my all-time favourite songs.
1979 Now! sees Paul Cook back on the kit, augmented by soul boy supreme and original Subway Sect bassist, Paul Myers on bass. Why is this important? One listen will tell you why.
Opener 1979 Now Intro sets the landscape – in fact it takes me back to 1969 and those amazing TV Themes of the era, conjuring up imagery of the Gerry Anderson classic series UFO. The fact that UFO and its incidental music were literally out of this world had me captivated by 1979 Now! from the start. It’s an album with an opening and closing theme, with 1979 Now Outro rounding the set off. Those keyboards by Kevin Younger….. amazing! I could even pinpoint a particular UFO episode it takes me back to, but that sounds geeky so I won’t (OK then, Ordeal).
It’s an optimistic album wrapped in UK imagery, Holiday Hymn is our first trip down memory lane to wet UK holidays and our ability to find positives and enjoy regardless. A part of the UK psyche worth celebrating. Happy Go Lucky Girl continues the feel good theme, toe tapping and snappy, this shows the crisp musicianship at play, with Paul Myers underpinning the proceedings with his nailed on bass providing the bounce. It gets even better with The Water Was Bad. Delivered with a more immediate in-your-face power and some top backing vocals, this is irresistible. The two Pauls give plenty of umph to the witty lyrics about fear of relationships.
Caught In Midstream coming midway (stream) in the set is almost the perfect pop song with Mark Braby and Yusuf B'layachi’s spine tingling guitars, Dave’s sax, an addictive chorus, and verses to match. It has classic changes in tempo, a burst of Cookies’ drums, and that swinging bass throughout. Topped off with Vic’s delivery, this has everything in 3 minutes 15 seconds.
“What’s the matter boy?” ask Vic’s compatriots in The Devil's In League With You. It’s another clever take on the pain of love. Not sure where he pulls these from, but they’re original! Again, the wit of the song writing makes this far from downbeat. You Bring Out The Demon In Me may sound like a continuation of the previous track, but no. This has a completely different feel, starting with those 60s keyboards and sax. “I’ve got no middle” Vic tells us, “death is no consolation, life is no prize.” The backing vocals on the album are provided by all of the band – and they do a superlative job, helping to shape and hone the sound into Northern Soul at its finest.
“I didn’t wanna swim in your ocean… you made me” I rather think Vic loves his downtrodden stories, he must do, here he is pleading in You Made Me to be saved by the very one who “made him”, all the while remaining upbeat. Born To Be A Rebel, laced with irony, features some mighty low notes on the sax. I can’t speak highly enough of the interplay between the lead and backing vocals throughout the album, but on Rebel they are used to their greatest effect, adding a conversational element to the story telling.
Get That Girl, like the opening song Holiday Hymn, draws on nostalgic imagery; those brittle 78s, dull sounding cassettes, those early youthful feeling of longing for that girl… and of course the magical music that accompanied that period in life. Vic strives – successfully - to draw from these feelings to produce possibly his best ever album. It’s not a punk album in sound, but Vic’s vocal style and passion to focus on what is real, tips a nod to the punk ethos.
Expertly produced by Edwyn Collins and Seb Lewsley, it’s a feel good album, wrapped up in its own opening and closing themes. A lot of thought and detail went into 1979 Now!
Vic is quite simply one of punk’s greatest songwriters, unconstrained by musical format or style.
I mentioned Paul Myers playing bass… I grabbed a quick word with Paul to sound out his own view on the project. I’ll leave the final word to Paul: “I loved every second of making that album. It had a soulful feel and I am a soul boy! Vic can write a song or two!”
Review by Phil Singleton (Oct '14)
The Ukrainians - Never Mind The Cossacks (Zirkka Records)
Ha! What on earth is this?
Record Store Day is without doubt an inspired idea - it does turn out some real unexpected corkers. The vinyl only, The Ukrainians - Never Mind The Cossacks, is one such gem.
To start with, the blue/yellow sleeve looks fabulous. On the back there is a list of four important anniversaries in Ukrainian history which are very witty. The glossy sleeve is even lightly embossed throughout with an Ukrainian symbol. Take the LP out of the dust sleeve and it is pressed in bright yellow. Basically, it is a great looking item.
What of the content? Well, I know nothing of Ukrainian culture or music and I’m not going to cheat and do a Wikipedia search. Eight tracks playing at 45RPM; 3 versions of Anarchy, 2 of God Save The Queen, plus Pretty Vacant, Holidays In The Sun and Problems.
These guys have been together two decades and are not a punk cover band – they are skilled musicians who interpret the Western music they like in a style unlike any other. And they are brilliant! Really brilliant.
The songs are all performed in their own native tongue using traditional vocal harmonies and traditional instruments. Mandolins and accordions are played at break neck speed, alongside some meaty Jonesy-style guitar. Yes, some of these really motor and there is plenty of clever invention going on – Vacant’s opening guitar is performed on the drums for example – but there is no doubt my favourite song is the vocal only Problems. This transports you straight to the campfire. The acoustic Anarchy is a delight also, and more than a match for the ‘rock’ version, which itself kicks off proceedings with panache.
I knew nothing of Ukrainian culture, perhaps now I understand just a little bit more.
A RSD triumph. Limited to 650. I've got one, grab one of the other 649.
Review by Phil Singleton (May '14)
Punk '76 "Fashion Is Never Wrong" DVD (Odeon Entertainment)
Released 18th November 2013
The clue is in the on-screen sub-title “Fashion Is Never Wrong". (Original sub-title "The Birth of Anarchy" appears to have been changed).
The emphasis is largely, although not exclusively, on the role of fashion in the emergence of punk. It’s a wise move as it avoids a straight reworking of other films. Documentary stalwarts, Marco Pirroni, Alan Jones, Jon Savage, Rat Scabies et al, are in attendance. Special mentions go to the oft overlooked Charlie Harper whose opinions are as valid as anyone’s, along with the articulate Tony James. I’m of the opinion Tony's recollections are more accurate - certainly clearer - than many other of his contemporaries. Tony adds to the fashion perspective via his involvement with the band Chelsea, who were formed around another fashion shop, Acme Attractions. It seems each shop needed a punk band of its own. Chelsea singer Gene October is also on hand to shed some light.
New angles on the punk story presented here include Lewis Leathers and the emergence of the leather jacket as a piece of punk clothing, plus recognition of Compendium Books, one of the few shops to import American music magazines in the mid-70s. Another high point of the film is a look at the background to the 100 Club Punk Festival.
Of course, no film is perfect. The Sex Pistols feature visually, but not musically (a rights issue I assume), and much of the footage included has appeared elsewhere over the years. But I guess you can’t conjure it out of thin air. Nevertheless, Punk ’76 is a commendable and entertaining look at the birth of the punk scene from a different perspective to the norm.
Also from Odeon Entertainment comes a film / DVD I’d not seen before, Punk In England. It’s a follow-up to the better known Punk In London and was made by the same German production team. It picks up where Punk In London left off and takes the story through to the start of the 80s. Although it features the Mod revival of ’79 (yuck), The Police (oh dear), and some Two Tone, it will please fans of The Clash and even has footage of Mick Jones guesting on stage with Ian Dury for Sweet Gene Vincent. Spizz performing Where's Captain Kirk? live is memorable as well - and for the right reasons.
The DVD extras alone make it worth getting. Live footage of the Adverts performing a number of songs, presumably shot for another (unfinished?) project about a young punk girl, was a great surprise. Even better is the inclusion of another vintage German documentary Women In Rock, which features healthy doses of Siouxsie and the Banshees as well as The Slits on tour in Germany at their peak. The Slits’ contemporary interviews and live performances are unmissable. Buy it for this reason alone - just ignore Girl School!
Review by Phil Singleton (9th October '13)
Many Faces Of the Sex Pistols 3 CD set
(Music Brokers MBB7149)
This oddity was posted up on Amazon with a September 3rd 2013 release date, but delayed until 10th September, and with a description of "Studio Sessions, Live Gigs and Rarities", prompted me to pick it up for just under a tenner.
Thinking to myself that it would be one of those extremely poor quality Dave Goodman grab bags issued on those budget labels like Delta, I noticed it was a 3 cd set, so there might be something in its favour. So What do we get for the money?
A nice big Digipack, holding the 3 discs, looks great, and slipping CD 1 in the machine, we have the "Vinyl Quotation" version of ANARCHY IN THE UK kicking it off, in I have to say, the best quality I have heard it, remastered, clear, crisp and fresh. Next up in these "Studio Sessions" is the 6 tracks from Goosebury Studios, January 1977, which we all know. Although sounding good, these are now redundant due to the better mixes on the NMTB Box Set of last year. The unedited NO FUN is next, followed by the demo of SILLY THING, with its different chorus and guitar work - in crystal clear quality I might add, as is HERE WE GO AGAIN. this disc is rounded off by the EX Pistols, demo versions of SWINDLE CONTINUES, JUDGING MINDS, an acoustic version of ANARCHY IN THE UK, and the SEX ON 45 MEDLEY.
Ok, so it’s clear from here on in, that Dave Goodman may have been dead for almost 8 years, but the cupboards are being raided again, and as the song says, The Swindle Continues, but CD 1 is an excellent job, sound wise, and I have always been a fan of the Ex Pistols material as a stand alone unit.
On CD 2, we have the entire, ultra rare DENY album, released in 1992 by Dave Goodman, under the moniker, SEXLESS PISTOLS. It is good to finally have this album on a proper mainstream release, and in its original running order, but sadly it is let down by being mastered from a vinyl issue, so some distortion appears in its sound, as the engineer has tried to push up the sound levels to optimum level. I rate this album, but of course, it's not the Sex Pistols.
Completists may want to grab this for the track HAPPY FAMILLIES, which has long been rumoured to feature Glen Matlock on bass duties, and here he gets a songwriter credit.
All seems to be going well for a release like this, until CD 3.
Yep, one of those very poor releases rears it head again, one of those Delta label things (like the SUBMISSION CD), with awful quality versions of I WANNA BE ME, SATELLITE, PRETTY VACANT (Winterland), MY WAY (demo), C'MON EVERYBODY (poor single vinyl version), followed by 5 tracks of Sid live at Max's 1978, lovingly ripped from the second half of Anagram Records' SID DEAD LIVE release. Then it gets better with 2 demo versions of Ex Pistols tracks, and the LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY single.
Normally, these days, as a collector, I wouldn't touch any more Dave Goodman recorded stuff with a ten foot bargepole, having everything that he has put out under the Pistols name that is and isn't the Pistols, but as I said previously, the first disc has been done well, and the DENY album is a welcome bonus for those who don't have it, or have the inferior cd-r that has been knocking around for a while.
For under a tenner including postage, I actually recommend this, purely for discs 1 and 2 and its nice packaging. It really should be the last word on the Goodman stuff, until the REAL mixes of the Denmark Street 76 demo's turns up.
Review by Jon Edwards (September 2013)
Sex Pistols Live at Budokan 1996 CD (Immortal)
Don’t judge a book by its cover so said John Rotten in the rant that is EMI, and never was a truer word spoken. There are one or two writing credit errors and a lack of publishing details here that perhaps suggest this is possibly a semi-legal release in certain continents, although I purchased mine via the Amazon link on GSTSP.
The audio quality of this CD, put out by the Dutch label Immortal, is just incredible to say the least. Recorded at the tail end the highly (filthy) lucrative 1996 reunion tour, some six months later than its official cousin Filthy Lucre Live and initially available as the DVD live in Japan, finally the audio content is now available. I have experienced straight DVD to audio cuts before with dire results, the initial mixing of audio for audio is very different from the process in which it is mixed for DVD so you run a high risk of listening to something that sounds like it’s been dredged from the depths of a swamp, very muddy with usually inaudible low end. Thankfully, this has not been the case with this CD.
The band are tight as hell here having knocked this little collection of songs out almost continuously since June, the pile driving rhythm section of Glen and Paul augmented by, as Chris Thomas once accurately described, a Panzer Division of a guitarist in Steve Jones, crowned of course by Uncle John taking up his role gloriously as Court Jester. One would think that after performing these songs for the last six months that our erstwhile hero would have no difficulty in remembering the words? It doesn’t matter John, you have 30,000 Japanese fans to help you along.
Cracking versions of Did You No Wrong and Pretty Vacant, just two of the highlights here from a set mirroring the official Virgin release, but personally speaking they are performed much tighter and with much more energy and vitality here, whilst Bodies on Filthy Lucre Live still manages to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, I can’t help feeling it’s a little over-produced with perhaps a bit too much gloss. Listening back to the Radio One broadcast of said event that my good lady recorded for me whilst I was in the field that is Finsbury Park that night in June of ‘96, I can’t help feeling that the Radio version captures the mood more honestly than the polished official momento of that evening.
Back to the Budokon, once again, don’t be put off by the cover - the real gift is inside. Insults and banter in abundance, this listener would be disappointed if they were not, as I’m sure would many more…
A fantastic album and well worthy of the paltry fiver or so that it cost me. There are two or three P.I.L references scattered about here as well, see if you can find them…conscious or not they did raise a smile.
Reviewed by Andrew Brooksbank for GSTSPs. (October 2012)
Public Image Limited Live At Rockpalast 1983 (Made In Germany Music)
Running time: 72 minutes
Released February 2012
Track list: Public Image 1 / Annalisa / Religion / Memories / Flowers Of Romance / Solitaire / Chant / Anarchy In The UK / This Is Not A Love Song / Low Life / Under The House / Bad Life / Public Image 2
DVD Extras: John interviewed by Rockpalast host Alan Bangs / Rehearsal of Annalisa and Chant
The way we were.......... almost 30 years ago John was riding a resurrected wave; This Is Not A Love Song charted, PiL appeared on The Tube and embarked on a tour of Europe giving most of us PiL-heads a chance to see JR in person for the first time.
This performance, filmed on 31st October at Zeche Bochum for Rockpalast TV show, is a fantastic document of PiL during this period; a far better representation of the band than the Live In Tokyo video released at the time. Shot using a terrific mix of close-ups, medium and long shots, it shows just how good this line-up actually was. Never mind the cabaret tag often levelled PiL in 1983, they were a fine live outfit.
The sound and picture quality of the DVD is superb, no annoying on-screen captions, just the uninterrupted gig. Forget any bootleg recordings you may have of the show, bin them and buy this. The definitive recording of PiL in 1983, it really does do them justice.
Highlight; Under The House featuring Louie Bernardi, Joe Guida and Martin Atkins all on drums simultaneously. We also get treated to Public Image twice. “We’re not bad are we?” enquires John before Low Life. He wasn’t wrong.
As for me, I saw them live 10 days later...........
The two extras also provide a real treat. Firstly, sound check performances of Annalisa (it takes a minute to sort the vocals!) and Chant with keyboards very high in the mix. Fabulous. Secondly, Rockpalast host Alan Bangs interviews John at the time of the show. John talks about moving to New York, the film Cop Killer (Corrupt), Live in Tokyo album, and being adored, before walking off with his can of Red Stripe because he’s bored! A brilliant DVD release.
Review by Phil Singleton (29th February '12)
Sex Pistols - Live The Broadcast Archives (MVD Entertainment Group 5075)
Running Time: 60 minutes.
Released January 2012.
Phil’s note: The following review submitted to GSTSPs by Jon Edwards sums up the release perfectly. The only other point to note is that the disc is region free.
Jon takes it from here: This DVD, only available in the USA appeared on Amazon before Christmas with a January 2012 release date. The yellow sleeve with its picture of John from the Los Angeles Roxy gig in 2007 looked intriguing enough to buy for under a tenner, and left me wondering what could be contained within.
Well, it just popped through the door, and on opening, the back cover credits the Filthy Lucre set list, and has stills of each of the Pistols from the Nippon Budoukan, Tokyo footage, November 16th, 1996.
Slipping it into the DVD player, what we get is a basic menu, accompanied by audio from the Tokyo gig.
If you haven’t guessed yet, the DVD is of the very same show in perfect audio and video. The song titles appear in vision at the start of each song, and in the top left corner, a white box with LIVE in black block letters appears throughout.
We should all know the gig in question; John dressed as Noddy on LSD, Jones looking like a Guitar God in a Venus shirt, and Paul and Glen as unassumingly cool as ever.
I have not seen the Sex Pistols - In Japan DVD, (the one with the Japanese sunrise cover and image of John from the God Save The Queen video), so I can’t compare the two, but this is an upgrade from my bootleg copy of the TV version of the show. Sadly this version doesn’t include the 2 tracks from the Phoenix Festival added to the end of the In Japan DVD.
Those who don’t like to double dip on things would be best to avoid it if they already own the In Japan release. For Pistols completists, this is worth picking up; it is a great performance and the AV quality is stunning.
Review by Jon Edwards (January 2012)
Phil's final note: The Tokyo footage is identical to the Sex Pistols - In Japan DVD - the only difference is that the opening tiltes and closing credits, which appeared on In Japan, are absent on Live The Broadcast Archives.
Vic Godard and Subway Sect – We Come As Aliens (Overground OVER126CD)
Released 11th October 2010
Track listing: Best Album / Take Over / Back in the Community / Same Plan / If We'd've / Et Meme / Rhododendron Town / That Train / Somewhere in the World / Ne'er / Out of our Zone / Life in the Distance / Music of a Werewolf
Clearly, I’m reviewing We Come As Aliens because of Paul Cook’s involvement. Paul plays on six tracks, but the tracks in question are not revealed, deliberately so. Quite a clever trick. I’ve got my theories but I’m not sticking my neck out!
I’ve not followed Vic’s career closely over the years, and I am therefore familiar only with his output from back in the day, the obvious recordings such as Nobody's Scared and Ambition.
I’d always thought of Subway Sect as quirky, and was taken aback at just how quirky the Sect still are on We Come As Aliens. Not just off the wall, but edgy and exciting, mixed in with sharp, witty, and barbed lyrics.
This set sits effortlessly alongside Vic’s late 70's output, but it is far more than that; in fact it’s unlike anything else I’ve heard in a long time.
Vic uses his voice as an instrument as he snarls, croons, and yes, sings his way through the songs; subtly adjusting his tone and delivery according to the style, tempo, and subject matter of the narrative.
So, what of the narrative? His love of song writing, and his need to be a songwriter emerges in different guises throughout the album. It’s a central part of his psyche. On Best Album he declares, “We’re not gonna leave until we’ve done, until it’s the best album in the...” but never gets to say “world.” It’s as if he knows this goal is unattainable, but he really would like his album to be the best! Midway in the set is Rhododendron Town in which he confesses, “Once in my life I was through with it, panic over now my lifestyle's sound” while “saving up his best till laters, karma consonants and vowels.” Perhaps he is coming to terms with his vocation as a musician and songwriter and is determined to give us his very best? This fascination with song writing also closes the album, with the haunting Music of a Werewolf laying bare his insecurities with his craft. “Getting in a tiz and blundering, wondering whether there’s a pen or pad about.”
It’s hard to pigeon-hole the style of the album, other than to say simply, Vic Godard. Whereas That Train elevates its own imagery with hints of bluegrass and gospel, played with a beat of a train thundering along dusty tracks, Takeover reflects a despairing and forlorn call to arms with lashings of spiky guitar. He’s taking on the apathy that is the human condition; “Answer stares you in the face; still you won’t pull out of the race.”
The frustration with his fellow man at accepting the continuation of the status quo makes another appearance during If We’d’ve; “If we’d’ve had the nous to pool our single selves together.... we’d’ve trounced all them.”
Politics - both party and personal - are central themes (the old punk spirit is here – no fear of that). The Same Plan has a pop at Lord Mandleson with the realisation that whatever the “modernisation” being proposed, “it will always be the same plan,” while he ponders “how come they always bomb the poor” during Out of our Zone.
Dry humour is never far away, but excels during the observational Somewhere in the World which contains the funniest lyrics on the album: “Tea-leaf Keith sneaked, gate full of teeth, looking to all the world a savage. The Post took him on, regretting it from then on; mail’s piling up inside his garage.” Haven’t we all wondered where that missing parcel ended up?!
There’s a change of feel during proceedings as Vic tackles Francoise Hardy’s Et Meme. It’s not out of place as the energy and snarled vocal delivery places it firmly in Subway Sect territory and makes you sit up and take notice. Is there a touch of irony in the performance or is Vic deadly serious? Perhaps both. Whichever, it’s engaging.
Ne’er sums up the Subway Sect and Vic’s present day philosophy as he again lays bare his musical quest; “My dreams bring music striving daily to perfect soul, until the bits get knocked out and mixed up in the Sect bowl.” You see, he really does want to write the Best Album in the world, ever! His own left-field, off-beat, derivative outlook, style and unique musicality, puts paid to this lofty ambition. Did I say Ambition? We Come As Aliens has a direct lineage back to their classic 1978 single; the feeling and spirit is still evident. Only sharper.
Don’t believe me? Just listen to the wonderful, in your face, punk rock cry of Back in the Community. The song distils society’s ills down to the selfishness of modern day life and urges us to “get back in the community and take lessons in humility.” It’s an outstanding song and performance, with lyrics that ingenuously write in Blakey and Butler from On The Buses; “I’ll have you!”
I’m reviewing this album because of Paul’s involvement. If not for Paul I might never have heard it. I feel as though I‘ve had a lucky escape; missing out on We Come As Aliens seems unthinkable now. The 13 tracks are awash with catchy melody and compelling storytelling. You shouldn’t need Paul’s involvement as a reason to buy Vic’s latest album. It’s simply brilliant. Just buy it!
Review by Phil Singleton (17th September '10)
Pre-order We Come As Aliens (Amazon)
For copies signed by Vic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sid Vicious - Final 24: His final hours (MVD Visual DVD)
Running Time: 52 minutes. No extras.
Released 19th July 2010
Originally broadcast in 2006, the show was part of a series looking into the last day of a number of celebrities.
It’s a clever format as it switches between the countdown of the final 24 hours and the back story, keeping the momentum going.
The 24 hours themselves are depicted by re-enactments of key scenes supplemented by narration. The actors’ dialogue is kept to a minimum. Although “Sid” himself is not in any way a dead ringer for the real deal - and the hair seems more perm than spiky top - the documentary does succeed in getting across the feeling and decadence of the events, as the clock ticks down to his end.
The programme includes contributions from Glen Matlock and Malcolm McLaren who, along with others, act in part as narrators of the saga. Sid’s Lawyer, James Merberg, plus Sgt Houseman, and interestingly Sid’s Forensic Psychiatrist Steve Teich (hired by McLaren and Anne Bevereley), revisit the tale from the NYC perspective.
Eileen Polk and Peter Kodick, who were with Sid at Michelle Robinson’s apartment on the night he died, provide an inside angle on the final few hours of Sid’s life. Eileen always sounds balanced and believable; however I have problems with Peter Kodick. Not only do his recollections vary between interviews, he seems happy to tell everyone he was the purchaser of the killer heroin that led to Sid’s death. He ought to be ashamed.
I’m not too sure about the “mercy killing” theory either. Until Michelle Robinson herself talks openly about Sid’s death, which is unlikely, his final moments will remain a secret.
Anne Beverely emerges again as the major villain of the piece, quite rightly. Her refusal to get Sid to hospital after his first OD on the night he died, purely because of the publicity it would generate, is unforgivable.
The Final 24 series tag line states: These are no ordinary biographies. These are psychological detective stories attempting to uncover the mystery of why the celebrity died. The use of the word “attempting” is wise.
Nevertheless, this dramatization / documentary is a commendable, fast paced and informative affair, which delivers the goods. The final 24 minutes may remain elusive, but the final 24 hours are done justice.
Review by Phil Singleton (12th July '10)
Sex Pistols - Agents Of Anarchy DVD (IMC Vision)
Running Time: 65 minutes.
The latest unofficial Sex Pistols DVD tells the story of the band via interviews with Brian James, Kris Needs, Steve Dior, and Sirus Trixie (a friend of Sid Vicious). Previously filmed interview clips of Glen Matlock, John Lydon and Malcolm McLaren – all filmed in different eras – are included, plus radio audio of Sid Vicious.
The documentary itself is largely built around footage from the London Weekend Show (Notre Dame), So It Goes, Longhorn Ballroom, and Janet Street Porter’s John Lydon interview from 78. Much, but by no means all, of the footage was included in the recent Who Killed Bill? DVD. Other oft seen clips (i.e. Nancy/Sid news items) make up the feature. I didn’t spot anything that was new to me, but that’s not what this is about.
Musically, the Sex Pistols provide the soundtrack with a bit of Sid solo live creeping in. The Pistols music is either live or demos, but works fine in the film’s context.
So how does it all hang together? Pretty well. We all know the story and we can all nit-pick so I’ll avoid doing so (but please spell McLaren correctly on screen). I particularly enjoyed Brian James’ perspective on the Anarchy Tour – not something we hear too often. The other three “story tellers” - Needs, Dior, and Trixie - do a competent and generally well balanced job.
It’s a positive piece as borne out by the opening narration; “In three decades the Pistols went from public enemy number 1 to national treasures.”
Whether this release is for you depends on the type of fan / collector you are. Those who are only satisfied with complete, unedited archive film will baulk at the lack of rare uncut footage or the use of narration. Those who enjoy a run through the Pistols career and get pleasure seeing clips and interviews edited together for this very purpose, should treat themselves. An enjoyable hour.
Review by Phil Singleton (June '10)
Who Killed Bill? The Sex Pistols On The News DVD. (Odeon Entertainment)
Release date: March 22nd 2010
Running time: 2 hours.
Chapters: Who Killed Bill? / 1976: Where It All Begins / 1977: Jubilee & Fame / 1978: Punk Rock Explosion / 1978: Pistols In The USA / 1978: The End Of The Pistols / 1978: Sid & Nancy / 1979: PiL / 1980: Memories Of The Pistols / 1989: John Lydon / 1990: Vivienne Westwood Fashion Icon / 1995: Sex Pistols Retrospective / 1996: Sex Pistols Reformed / 1998: Malcolm's Views / 2000: Malcolm For Mayor / 2002: Sex Pistols Back Again / 2007: Sex Pistols The End?
Who Killed Bill? has been sourced directly from ITN's archives and is part of a series that includes a similar release last year documenting the life and death of Michael Jackson.
The material is gathered together loosely by a combination of year and topic. This is for the main part successful, although anomalies and errors do creep in (a Channel 4 news item on the film Sid & Nancy from 1986 shows up in 1978 Sid & Nancy , and the 1995 Retrospective chapter is comprised of a show from 1996). Before proceeding further I will get all my nit-picking out of the way. Clearly the rights to use the Pistols music were not acquired, and therefore all the original music has been replaced with what I can only describe as a soundtrack that reflects the Pistols. Thankfully, for the large part, i.e. the interview material, this makes no difference because there is no music, although elsewhere it is a little distracting. But, it's all about a trade off; if the cost of the project were higher, we might never get to see this. I know which I would prefer. My other quibble, and it is only a slight one, is that it would be nice to have an index of where each item is sourced and the original date of broadcast.
However, the most important point to make is that this DVD is not a poorly compiled low end collection of bootlegged clips. Far from it.
The items included are edited to focus on Pistols related material – this is important when viewing the Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren chapters which otherwise could potentially fill the disc with superfluous 'non-Pistols' chat.
So, is it with getting? You bet it is. The picture quality alone makes it a 'must have' purchase.
Janet Street Porter features heavily during the 76-78 sections which reminds us of her role in the TV coverage of punk during this period. Much of the early material is taken from The Year Of Punk, LWT ‘s retrospective hosted by Janet and transmitted New Year's Day 1978. This included a repeat of her famous LWT interview with the Pistols in 1976 which kicks off the chapter 1976: Where It All Begins. The oft seen Malcolm McLaren Anarchy Tour interview leaps off the screen with amazing clarity, and the daft spokesman for Leeds Polytechnic looks like he's straight out of the history books, only with more detail than ever. A very encouraging start.
1977: Jubilee & Fame also draws from The Year Of Punk . This, along with the following section, is the weakest part of the DVD with no real Pistols material. We have to make do with film of punks on the streets throwing flowers at bus drivers and getting pulled by the cops. Historically interesting, but when they interviewed a punk why did they pick on one who was so thick he barely qualified to be called a human, let alone a punk? 1978: Punk Rock Explosion, again starring Janet Street Porter, centres on the change of fortunes of the music press during the punk period. The Pistols link is tenuous at best. After this brief dip, things pick up with 1978: Pistols In The USA, which is a brief round-up of Atlanta clips, not rare, but a worthy inclusion.
One of the disc's highlights is Janet's interview with John Lydon which took place following the Pistols break-up in 78, (1978: The End Of The Pistols). John, resplendent in his Mad Hatter top hat, strolls the streets of London talking to Janet; a group of kids start to follow them adding to the quirkiness of the piece. John is very sharp, amusing, and not as bitter as you may imagine; in line with the rest of this release, the quality of the film is superb. 1978: Sid & Nancy gathers together US and UK news items reporting the deaths of the pair, plus the Sid & Nancy film feature from Channel 4 news.
Next up is a real gem - PiL on Check It Out in 1979 (1979: PiL) . Yes, it's on Youtube, but not as big and as bold as it is here. It's amusing to see a Check It Out presenter try and get her revenge the following year (1980: Memories of the Pistols) by damning Metal Box.
The pieces included on the disc vary greatly in length. One short but sweet clip finds an off camera Danny Baker interviewing a grey haired John (1980: Memories of the Pistols) which I was not familiar with. The same goes for an interview with John discussing marine biology in which he states prophetically “I do have a preference for nature shows” (1989: John Lydon ).
For hardcore fans of just the band, the Vivienne and Malcolm chapters will prove less popular, but you can't underestimate their input into the history and myth of the Pistols. A South Bank Show special on Vivienne provides the material for 1990: Vivienne Westwood Fashion Icon, edited to include only her early Pistols designs. Malcolm crops up in a TV short, Confession Box (1998: Malcolm's Views ), but perhaps more interesting are the clips concerning his failed run for the mayor of London (Channel 5 news, London Tonight, Trevor MacDonald Meets...). This is the only time the disc is in danger of drifting off topic, but it proves a worthy inclusion (2000: Malcolm For Mayor).
Not surprisingly, the later years provide the bulk of the material. 1995 Retrospective features Granada TV's NWA show and focuses on the Pistols impact in Manchester with interviews with Glen Matlock, Malcolm McLaren, the Buzzcocks, Peter Hook, and various attendees at the Lesser Free Trade Hall shows, including Tony Wilson. 1996: Sex Pistols Reformed compiles footage from the 100 Club press conference, Finsbury Park news reports, plus an Australian press conference item and John interview, the latter which I'd not seen before. The interviewer tries to be clever...... I'll say no more.
2002: Sex Pistols Back Again starts with an ITN news clip and takes in the Cobden Club conference with some great footage of the Pistols rehearsing and drinking tea at Stanbridge Farm in Sussex prior to the Crystal Palace gig. This is a fairly long feature (14 minutes) which includes another excellent interview with John that was new to me, plus an appearance by John on regional London TV. 2007: Sex Pistols The End? brings the DVD to a close with 20 minutes centred on the launch of Guitar Hero 3 at Hoxton Square Bar in Shoreditch. Brief extracts from the conference itself - showing John throwing his microphone at a journalist - are supplemented by a 15 minute uncut ITN interview and a London Tonight feature.
As for Bill Grundy himself, the man who inspired the title, only Steve Jones' choice words are on show - they open proceedings at the top of the programme.
So, overall, what's the verdict? It's not perfect, and I know some would love to have famous shows such as The Year Of Punk released in their entirety: perhaps if releases such as Who Killed Bill? sell well, that may happen one day?
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Who Killed Bill? The Sex Pistols On The News. It is two hours of non-stop Pistols TV, presented in fabulous picture quality. To see clips in full, rather than just the extracts we are familiar with, is always welcome. Let's not forget there are items that you won't have seen before either. ITN are to be commended for opening their archives and breathing new life into all this footage. As a fan of the Pistols, this is a terrific product.
Review by Phil Singleton (7th February '10)
Pretty Blank 15 CD Box Set
Blank Records June 2009
Disc review & comments
|CD 1 - 100 Club 24/9/76
|| This is Burton-on-Trent, not 100 Club. It's a transfer of an LP which was wrongly labelled as 100 Club.
I compared this to the indecent Exposure CD from the box set of the same name, which is also a recording of this gig. Indecent Exposure sounds better but runs too slow. This new disc runs at the correct speed but is over processed and thin sounding.
Why is nothing ever easy with the Pistols?!
|CD 2 - Spunk original
||This seems a straight transfer of The Amazing Kornyfone TAKRL 929 pressing of Spunk, with a radio advert for NMTB tacked on the start. The pitch is correct and the banter is present; obviously it doesn't sound as full as the official 2006 Spunk release on Sanctuary Records but that runs too slow
|CD 3 - Dave Goodman demos 77
||This is a straight transfer of the LP Live Worldwide, so PiL's Tube 1983 appearance makes an appearance along with Goodman's butchered/remixed versions of the Spunk sessions and clips from Lydon's appearance on Jukebox Jury in 1979.
It seems to be copied from the CD version rather than vinyl, luckily.
|CD 4 - Goodmans demos + Sid from Max's / Screen on the Green 77
||First half is a transfer of Last Show On Earth/Drugs Kill LP, which is/was garbage. It was released by Jock McDonald and copied from Spunk/Sid Sings/Some Product/Swindle with some crowd noise from the bootleg Vicious Burger!
The second half is much better: Screen On The Green 1977 - the quality is very good, I was impressed!
|CD 5 - Halmstad + Stockholm 77
||A good transfer of the bootleg LP Bad Boys In Sweden.
|CD 6 - Ivanhoe's, Huddersfield 25/12/77
||This is not what it says it is. It's a straight transfer of the unofficial LP God Save The Sex Pistols, which was always a nice compilation in my opinion
|CD 7 - Great South East Music Hall
||Atlanta 1978 audience recording which has some extra stuff not on the soundboard version - good to have this on CD.
|CD 8 - Psychotic Reaction - Baton Rouge
||Baton Rouge 1978. A great gig. A pity it runs a little fast.
|CD 9 - Nashville 3/4/76
||More complete than the version on bootleg CD Savage Young Pistols. It runs at correct speed so it's actually listenable! I'm very glad to have this.
|CD 10 - 100 club 20/9/76
||This is actually 31/8/76 100 Club NOT 20/9/76 as claimed. However, it's good to have this gig on CD.
|CD 11 - Nikkers Club, Keighley 19/12/77
||Great! The highlight for me.
|CD 12 - Electric Circus 76
||Manchester 9th Dec 1976. This is the LP source, not the Never Mind The Bans CD source. It has extra crowd noise at the start and is speed correct, but is missing the track Problems.
|CD 13 - Randys Rodeo 8/1/78
||Runs too fast but it's listenable.
|CD 14 - San Antonio
||Garbage. Horrible, horrible, sounding version of Atlanta, rearranged and labelled as San Antonio.
|CD 15 - Happy House, Sweden 77 / Moganbo Disco 77
||The first half of this CD is redundant; it's a sped up version of 28/7/77 Stockholm lifted from the bootleg LP Scandinavian Tour 77 (SOYA 4395518). However, the second half is a good recording of Mogambo Disco, Helsingborg, Sweden, 16th July 1977.
Review by Tim Bucknall (June '09)
Sex, Anarchy & Rock'n'Roll Swindle
Pink Vinyl LP
Anarchy Music (Cleopatra Records) June 2009
Review by Tim Bucknall (June '09)
Track review & comments
|1. My Way
|| Sounds like the normal single with the start missing.
|2. Pretty Vacant
||Live at Winterland January 14 1978. Sped up.
|| Dave Goodman Spunk demo but at the correct speed.
|4. No Lip
||Massive upgrade on other available versions! The original version without overdubs. Blows away the version on Sexbox and Pirates Of Destiny.
||Goodman Spunk demo but at correct speed.
|6. Did You No Wrong
||Chelmsford Prison gig, but with a bassline! Presumably Goodman overdubbed it; I can't hear any other overdubs on the track.
||Scottish interviewer. Clips from the interview appeared on Some Product, however the Lydon portion featured here was not on Some Product.
|8. New York
||Burton-on-Trent gig, but at least it's the correct speed and good quality.
||Goodman Spunk demo. Massive upgrade on other available versions. Equal to the sound on the Long Lost Videos DVD but without the anti-piracy bleep. Note; when the Long Lost Videos DVD was later issued as Spunk The Movie it had inferior sound, even though there was no annoying bleep.
||Goodman Spunk demo; correct speed but sounds muddier than tracks 3, 5 & 9.
| 11. God Save The Queen
||Gooseberry Studios January 77. When listening to this I didn't notice the glitch that occurs around 0:12 on other copies of this session. If it's there it's less noticable.
12. Anarchy In The UK
||"Bible quotations" version, Oct 76. Dave Goodman's mix.
|13. Bill Grundy Interview
||A little more complete at the start than some versions I've heard - starts with Grundy rambling about "chains round the neck".
|14. Watcha Gonna Do about it?
||Manchester June 4th 1976
This is a great compilation. I didn't expect it to be this good as even the ebay seller I bought it from described it as "stuff we've heard a million times before!"
If the Winterland track was at the correct speed I'd give this compilation 100/100 with no hesitation.
This is very much the sort of compilation Dave Goodman would have put out on Dojo records if he was still alive.
In fact I'm certain that this stuff leaked from his "stash". No Lip & Substitute are the original Oct 76 versions without overdubs
but in the best available quality. The versions on Pirates of Destiny were smothered in fake reverb by Goodman and the 2002 Sexbox set remastered the tracks from this source. These versions are vastly superior; it is just a shame they didn't include Stepping Stone. Hopefully it will surface on another release.
To sum up: The 2 tracks mentioned above make this a great purchase. I'll be listening to this LP much more than, for example the 2006 Spunk reissue which for me was ruined by speed problems (the 1976 tracks are too slow). This LP has the Spunk tracks at the correct speed.
Sid! By Those Who Really Knew Him Odeon Entertainment
Feature running time: 80 minutes.
DVD Extras: Trailers for Punk In London, Punk In England & Sid!.
Plus Sid Live in New York 10 Track CD and 28 page booklet containing a biography by Mark Paytress
Nice packaging. A zip-up wallet, with 3D plastic lettering and Sid picture. What more could you want? Well, let's see.....
The documentary starts off promisingly (ignoring the awful graphics which utilise a Sid doll) with Jah Wobble discussing Sid's early days. Much of what he says is new: his first meeting with Sid and early recollections of his first visit to Mrs Vicious' flat and the shocking scenes that greeted him. The new interview footage in the documentary has been filmed in HD and it shows – it's crystal clear and vibrant. Steve Severin weighs in with a new angle on the birth of the pogo. However, it soon becomes apparent that it's the same people who are contributing to this project that did so to Who Killed Nancy? and any number of other Pistols projects. What they say in isolation is well worth hearing, and to be fair, they are fairly consistent with their anecdotes, it's just that we've heard most of it before. More than once.
The Mclaren interview footage is disappointingly from 1980s TV shows, including the famous South Bank Show McLaren special. Annoyingly, the picture is given some kind of arty treatment - Lord knows why - it adds nothing to the viewing experience. It's a pity because the interview is good. What I can not understand is that while many clips appear in stunning quality, others undergo the “arty” treatment, with psychedelic spots and other camera wizardry applied.
And what about all the unseen footage “culled from ITN's extensive archive?” You guessed it; it's very much the same old, same old....... with a few exceptions.
I'll list the good stuff...... Sid & Nancy cable TV footage in brilliant quality; Atlanta TV news report on the Pistols first US show; and numerous LWT clips which are for the most part, excellent quality. The down side is that, yet again, we've seen most of it before. Purists will also balk at the fact that only clips appear, not the full interviews, but this is not a collection of TV appearances, it's a documentary. Some clips have cropped frames, which will also annoy a few people.
There are a few extra seconds here and there which didn't seem familiar to me, but not a great deal. I hate to say this, and I may be wrong, but some US news footage of Sid seems to have been taken from YouTube. It's excellent footage, mind you.
Frustratingly, there is no Pistols music, even when there is footage of them playing. The only exception is during the occasional news clip. What we have as the soundtrack is Sid Vicious live in New York. Incidentally, the bonus Sid 10 track live CD has already appeared as part of Jungle Records Sid Lives 2 CD set.
As for the story itself, all bases are touched once more, with not everyone speaking in glowing terms. 100 Club promoter Ron Watts is one such dissenting voice. Ron is filmed in the 100 Club showing the exact spot where Sid attacked Nick Kent; from where he threw a glass at the Damned; and how and where Ron himself relieved Sid of his knife. I can now imagine Pistols fans standing in these locations trying to travel back in time to these historic moments!
My conclusion. Overall, it's a well paced film, but it just seems so familiar.
The cupboard really is bare now. Unless someone is willing to release unedited programmes/interviews/footage etc. I for one hope that this is the end of the Sid documentary saga. I've had enough. The zip-up wallet is nice though.
Review by Phil Singleton (March '09)
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