What often gets lost in the mythology of pop music is that John(ny) Lydon/Rotten is undoubtedly one of the most important figures of the last 30 years. So important, he changed the face of music twice. Most famous as the face of the Sex Pistols alongside his less talented and now deceased good friend Sid Vicious, his departure from the band prompted him to form a group that arguably had more of an impact on pop music: Public Image Ltd.
Sticking with the label that dared to release Nevermind The Bollocks…, in a span of four years PiL released what Simon Reynolds has called “three of the most extreme albums ever released by a major label.” First Issue, Metal Box (later issued stateside as Second Edition), and Flowers Of Romance were all challenging records that were so disparate, it’s amazing they were released by the same group. Their core consisted of Clash reject Keith Levene on guitar, self-taught Jah Wobble revolutionizing how the bass was played, and the mad genius of Lydon as their lone voice. Wobble and Levene would eventually drop out (in that order) due to the difficulty of working with Lydon and the unusually commercial direction he was taking the project in. In fact, their fourth LP was under the working title of You Are Now Entering A Commercial Zone.
More accessible, sure, but PiL remained unconventional for a band that was rebranding themselves as “commercial.” Their 1983 single “This Is Not A Love Song” was a self-effacing satire on pop music that was a ironic Top 5 hit in the U.K. Anchored by a sadistically percussive bass line provided this time by Keith Levene doing the double duty of guitar and bass after the the departure of Wobble, it serves as the foundation for a caustically repetitive hook that only Lydon could get away with.
Levene would be told to “get out of my fucking studio” by Lydon after he tried to “salvage” the mix of the song. Thankfully, the song remained the commercial enterprise that Lydon hoped it would become. Out of this song, you can hear countless disco-punk and indie-dance bands rise out of the flames of the self-destruction of one of the group that led the way.
Unfortunately, the original single mix of this song is only available on CD in John Lydon’s compilation The Best of British £1 ♫, at this point an import-only CD. The version on This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get and The Greatest Hits, So Far is a mix with some Miami Sound Machine-eque horns.
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