“Flowers Of Romance” by Public Image Ltd. - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1981Album Chart of the Decade: 1980s

TJR says

Almost serving as a clue to the turmoil within the ranks, the group's manager, Jeanette Lee, was the front-cover star on PiL's third record. Co-founding bassist Jah Wobble had recently left: “People were getting drunk, using drugs. There was a big pool of money, no manager, so no onus on having to work. We played three gigs in the whole of 1979. I used to get really bored and I wasn’t interested in hanging around the court of King John, and he respected that. So I left to do what I was supposed to be doing and actually play music.” According to Lydon, however, Wobble was sacked for using some PiL tapes for his own recordings, without asking. You can read between the lines to make sense of the stories from both sides. Lydon's reaction? Sod it, we'll just turn the drums up louder! Exotic rhythms and Synth / Tape loops with a great deal of found-sound experimentation were the new play. Those who found “Metal Box” challenging would be in for an even greater surprise, but even though the percussion-heavy “Flowers Of Romance” was super-weird it gave them their biggest hit album (#11) to date, go figure. Essentially, they were now just a core duo of John Lydon (vocals, violin, saxophone, percussion) and Keith Levene (guitar, bass, piano, cello, synthesiser, percussion, drums). Drummer Martin Atkins, who couldn't seem to make up if he was in or out of the band, turned up towards the end of the sessions to contribute to a few of the tracks. As you might imagine, a tone of austerity permeates throughout the whole spartan, often rudimentary, affair which, as Levene pointed out, was probably “the least commercial record ever delivered to a record company”. Personally, I enjoy this album even more than its acclaimed predecessor, not only for the sheer bollocks of it, but for the fact that much of the tribal action is just such an intriguingly wild trip. The cathartic “Francis Massacre”, which arrives second-to-last on the set, recalls some brutal treatment recently received by Lydon at the hands of the Irish police (the Gardaí) at Dublin's Mountjoy Prison, which I'll tell you about in a minute.

I do love to see the Top of the Pops lot being put under the masher and, brilliantly, the album's sole single, “Flowers Of Romance”, made #24 in the UK hit parade. You wouldn't believe the background story to the recording of the song. It was October 6th, 1980, when John, of Irish parentage, was out in Dublin: “I went to a pub and the barman wouldn’t serve me. Words were exchanged and the police were called. I was arrested for attacking a policeman’s fist with my face and thrown in Mountjoy for the night. Some homecoming. On my arrival the warders decided to make an example of me. They stripped me down, threw me into the yard and hosed me down. The police and the screws made a big deal out of me, they tried to shatter my morale – well, good luck on that one. I left Dublin and went straight into the studio for two weeks solid: slept there, did everything myself, practically. No band; couldn't find Keith, more of less had to engineer the bloody thing myself cos the engineer there ran out going, 'That's impossible – you can't do that!' I did it. That particular song, I timed how long it would take me to turn the tape on, run into the studio and turn it all off. I had to rehearse that about 20 bloody times before I got it right!” I can't begin to tell you how much I love John Lydon for that story. “I sent you flowers, You wanted chocolates instead, The flowers of romance”. Dealing with the love diva is nothing compared to the twisted Gardaí.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:44] 6.2.png Public Image Ltd - Four Enclosed Walls (John Lydon, Keith Levene, Martin Atkins) Post-Punk
A2 [03:15] 6.9.png Public Image Ltd - Track 8 (John Lydon, Keith Levene) Trance Rock
A3 [02:40] 7.1.png Public Image Ltd - Phenagen (John Lydon, Keith Levene) Trance Rock
A4 [02:51] 8.9.png Public Image Ltd - Flowers Of Romance (John Lydon, Keith Levene) Avant-Garde
A5 [04:33] 7.2.png Public Image Ltd - Under The House (John Lydon, Keith Levene, Martin Atkins) Avant-Garde
B1 [03:18] 6.1.png Public Image Ltd - Hymie’s Him [instrumental] (John Lydon, Keith Levene) Avant-Garde
B2 [04:49] 7.9.png Public Image Ltd - Banging The Door (John Lydon, Keith Levene, Martin Atkins) Post-Punk
B3 [03:46] 6.5.png Public Image Ltd - Go Back (John Lydon, Keith Levene) New Wave
B4 [03:31] 8.0.png Public Image Ltd - Francis Massacre (John Lydon, Keith Levene) Avant-Garde

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