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Entry date: 3-9-2024 – Spring Broke – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

As we approach the bathroom battle, I’m feeling good to be on Spring Break. Nine glorious days of no one ignoring me or raising their hand just to hear the sound of their own voice.

 

Yesterday was not terrible, though. I only had about half of my class by 1:30PM as students were getting taken out early one after the other. The ones who stayed were in a pretty good mood and we had some fun. Even Cocaine Baby had a good day, although a short one. He was picked up just after lunch.

 

We found out yesterday that summer school is not an option this year, which kind of sucks because the extra money was really nice, but things will work themselves out. I have a training in mid-June I have to attend, so I still need to stay in town until June 19 before heading to Maine for a while. I’m sure I can find something to keep myself busy.

 

A few of the teachers I talked to after we got that email were pretty bent out of shape. I get it. The gig is a tough one and those little extras make it more bearable. Supposedly there are going to be other opportunities to make a little extra scratch over the summer. Hopefully those can be done remotely.

 

*****

 

I really want to see the second part of Dune. I might have to make a trip to the movies over the break. I had wanted to re-read the book, but my stack of things to read is sofa king long right now. Tall, too.

 

***** 

 

Looking forward to the day, though. I hope you are, too.

 

***** 

 

From the moment I first heard Sex Pistols, I loved them. I had heard of them way before I actually heard them. Go figure. If it weren’t for the Sex Pistols, though, there probably wouldn’t have been a Public Image Ltd., and I would have had to find another band to champion for several years of my life.

 

There is a lot of great PiL music. Today, though, I’m going to start with 1987’s Happy?. Why start here? Why not? If I have learned anything from John Lydon over the years, it is to do what you want when you want to do it. Over the course of this exploration of my musical history, I will write about multiple PiL records.

 

Happy? came out the day before I was originally supposed to leave for the Army. I didn’t know there was a new PiL record coming out at the time, but I learned of it after I got kicked out and got home. “Seattle” is the first song on the record and was an instant new favorite for me. I’ve never considered what my top 5 PiL songs are, but “Seattle” would definitely have a shot at it and for sure is in my top 10.

 

As with most PiL music, the lyrics seal the deal. “Don’t like the look of this old town/what goes up must come down/character is lost and found/on unfamiliar playing ground” is a great opening line, but I’ve always loved “The ordinary will ignore/whatever they cannot explain/as if nothing ever happened/and everything remained the same again.”

 

I’ve read that the song is about a gig in Seattle with Green River from 1985 or 1986 where things didn’t go well, and the crowd turned on PiL. This kind of tracks as I can see how the Green River guys (who later became Mudhoney and Pearl Jam members) might have egged on the crowd a bit, but having seen PiL in 1986, they were firing on all cylinders. The band Lydon put together for the Album tour was scorching.

 

Regardless of what “Seattle” is truly about, the song is great. It’s almost got a whole dance vibe going on while still being a terrific piece of post-punk music. PiL doesn’t get enough credit for being a vanguard for the post-punk genre. At the time, people were kind of critical of much of Happy?, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone out and out diss “Seattle.”

 

I happen to love track two, as well. “Rules and Regulations” is such a typical PiL song. The combination of John McGeoch (Magazine/Siouxsie) and Lu Edmonds (Damned/Mekons) was a double-backed beast on guitar. I met the late John McGeoch outside of Mesa Amphitheatre once and he was a total sweetheart. I was young enough to be a bit starstruck, but he was patient and super kind. He was also a ripper on those later 80s PiL records. I think Lu Edmonds’ keyboard work on “Rules and Regulations” is pretty rad, too. Mr. Lydon’s in fine form, vocally, too. Between Album and Happy? he really found his stride and confidence, for sure.

 

“The Body” starts off with some excellent drums from Bruce Smith. He was a member of Pop Group, so the guy is pretty darn great. Smith and Allan Dias completed a great rhythm section on Happy? and they really stand out on “The Body.” I have wondered many times about John Lydon’s personal history with abortion. I read his autobiographies, but I don’t remember any big revelations. He certainly has brought it up a few times in his lyrics, and he mentions it again in this song.

 

“Save Me” is a big, over the top post-pop song. There is, like on several other tracks, some pretty great female backing vocals. They really work on “Save Me.” I also dig how the song totally sounds like some of the other popular alternative music of the day. In the beginning, before the vocals start, it could almost be a Depeche Mode or New Order riff.

 

Allan Dias creates a really cool feel on “Hard Times” with his bass line. Outside of “Seattle,” the bass line on “Hard Times” is probably my favorite on the record. One of the guitar players is also doing a cool baritone thing in the background, too. Probably Lu Edmonds, but who the fuck knows or cares.

 

“Open and Revolving” is a big nod to the ’82 to ’84 era PiL. A bit disco-ish and it moves nicely. One of the things that separates it is the huge, lush guitar part that helps the song swell up before each verse. McGeoch does a really cool little riff that is cleverly hidden in the right channel, too. I love it.

 

While Happy? is only eight songs, it’s definitely still substantial. Even in its utter simplicity “Angry” is a song that I really like. Lydon is ranting about conformity and saying how someone makes him angry, but the band makes it way more interesting. Dias and Smith’s rhythm section steps up again.

 

“Fat Chance Hotel” is another underrated PiL song. Dias is fully channeling Jah Wobble here with a big, fat reggae-ish bass line. The song could have easily been on 2nd Edition. I used to listen to this song a lot in the early 90s. Takes me right back to being in my early 20s and feeling like I didn’t have much to contribute to anything. For some reason, this song made me feel better.

 

Still does. It’s a bit hopeful due to the music. Again, Dias’ bassline is reminiscent of some of my favorite PiL basslines.

 

***** 

 

See you tomorrow.



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