11/10/17 – Public Image Limited – Death Disco – 1979

Video Of The Day

Song Of The Day

Life & Death

At the end of Public Image Limited’s performance of Death Disco on Top Of The Pops, presenter/DJ Mike Read refers to the band as Johnny, Jah and the boys – one camp baiting the establishment by their mere existence, the other camp not really understanding what they were so angry about and failing to draw a distinction between a band and a football team. How did too famous English Radio presenter Tony Blackburn ‘and the boys’, that is, the powerful BBC Radio 1 DJs that presented Top Of The Pops, deal with Punk and Post-Punk’s apparent tuneless nihilism? Did they resent it as much as Punk resented them? Of course they did.

Notice Keith Levine’s jagged Swan Lake motif amongst the razor guitars, the song appearing in an alternate version on the second album Metal Box with Tchaikovsky’s original title. The charts had begun to fill with energetic and aggressive simple songs with topical lyrics dealing with real issues suffered in a growing difficult political climate. With raucous music and outrageous fashion statements rising from the street, the establishment was turned on its head as they ceased to call the shots. Heaven forbid that the street determined what was a hit and not them. In a three year period from 1977-1980 the musical climate was changed completely and forever.

Death Disco jumped into the UK charts on the 1st July 1979 at No.34, leap frogging Bonnie Tyler’s masterpiece Married Men. The BBC DJs were no doubt relieved (maybe John Peel was digging it) that the following week the song only jumped two places to No.32 (straddled by Siouxsie And The Banshees’ Playground Twist at No.33 and Blondie’s Sunday Girl at No.31) if Death Disco stalled they wouldn’t have to play it. Frenchman Patrick Hernandez was galloping up the charts at the time waving the Disco flag with Born To Be Alive. The following week Death Disco went to No.20, never to catch Patrick (he himself stalled at No.10 but managed a mega-hit throughout the world with what I consider one of the worst songs I ever heard). Sex Pistols were at No.3 in the charts with Eddie Cochran’s C’mon Everybody that had been released in June from the soundtrack to The Great Rock And Roll Swindle, sung by Sid Vicious who had died in February. I wonder what Johnny, Jah and the boys made of it all? For those of you that don’t know, Jah is groove machine Dub bass player Jah Wobble.

Gary Numan’s Are Friends Electric? was No.1, The Ruts’ Babylon’s Burning was high in the charts fighting the Village People’s Go West. It was as disparate as the sixtes when Engelbert Humperdinck’s Release Me kept The Beatles’ Penny Lane from reaching No.1. Worlds collided as Sister Sledge’s We Are Family sank and The Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays rose. Squeeze and The Pretenders were fighting with Dollar and The Dooley’s. But despite the dross, somehow it was better than now, wasn’t it? There was hope, but there was a difference, the charts mattered – they don’t anymore.

On the surface and to the establishment, Death Disco was a noise, a passing phase fueled by fashion and the publicity generated by Sex Pistols’ day in The Sun – literally. But on closer examination, Death Disco is a moving, emotional and painful description of Lydon’s mother’s death from cancer, one imagines that this poignant outpouring from the man the establishment loved to hate was most probably missed by the Radio 1 DJs.

John Lydon’s mum had asked her son to write her a disco song for her funeral. He complied with her request in the only way he knew how – with a tragic cacophony of loss and the howl of honesty.

Seeing in your eyes
Words can never say the way
Told me in your eyes
Final in a fade
Never no more hope away
Final in a fade
Seeing in your eyes
Seeing in your eyes

Never really know, never realize
Silence in your eyes
Silence in your eyes
Never really know, till it’s gone away
Never realize
The silence in your eyes
Seen it in your eyes
Seen it in your eyes

Never no more hope away
Final in a fade
Watch her slowly die
Saw it in her eyes
Choking on a bed
Flowers rotting dead
Seen it in her eyes

Ending in a day
Silence was a way
Seeing in your eyes
Seeing in your eyes
Seeing in your eyes
I’m seeing through my eyes

Words cannot express
Words cannot express
Words cannot express

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Image_Ltd

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Disco

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2 Responses to “11/10/17 – Public Image Limited – Death Disco – 1979”

  1. Jed B October 11, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

    It’s cool to read the lyrics and hear the backstory on this very cool song. It’s hard to hear the actual lyrics in the song when listening, hiding behind all that reverb and attitude.

  2. delay plus chorus October 19, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

    Great song, and great look back at the charts when there was actually vital music scattered amongst the usual junk.

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