So, the Flowers of Romance did eventually get finished, thanks to a kick up the arse from Martin Atkins and the studio skills from Nick Launey who produced the album. The Manor sessions were complemented by a couple of weeks at the Townhouse where Martin added further to the album. No sooner had the sessions been completed at the end of October then Martin and I went off to the United States for the first of our Brian Brain jaunts to the big new world.
Martin had given Birth to the Brian Brain idea off the back of his association with PiL, being the eternal opportunist he figured that this would give him a passport to greater things. In a way he was right, it seemed booking gigs in smaller US clubs was a breeze and from his tiny flat in Willesden, by hook or by crook, he managed to cobble together some dates and once the visas were sorted off we went!
We made 4 separate visits to the states during the early eighties plus we did further dates while Martin and I were both playing for PiL. They were always mad car crash tours, fuelled mostly on alcohol, bluff and bravado but we had a real hoot along the way. John Lydon turned up at one of the gigs, midway through our cover rendition of PiL’s “Careering”.. Much to Martins surprise and embarrassment. Of course, it would have been hilarious had John had the bottle to get onstage and perform it with us properly but he preferred to mosh around the front of the stage acting the goof instead.
We met up with John at a later date, in a club somewhere in NYC, where he joined us for a couple of beers. I said hello and as I had heard that he was now living in NYC asked him where he was living. “In a loft space on the Lower East Side, near the river” was the reply. Now I didn’t know that this particular area wasn’t the most salubrious in Manhattan, and that the back of his building was a frequent hang out for gay sex encounters so I casually remarked “Oh, that sounds nice” quite innocently and not really knowing what else to say. John immediately span round, fixed me with that wide dark-eyed stare of his and through taught lips hissed “Don’t play that fucking game with me sonny” and held my gaze until I looked away.
This was John all over, he thought I was taking the piss (I wasn’t) and his immediate reaction was to attack. I found it all too funny so just smiled and walked away to get another beer. It was the second time he had spoken to me and both times he had strayed into smack in the mouth territory. At that point, ending up as his bass player was the furthest thought from my mind and was left thinking he was a complete and utter cunt.
These stories of mine first appeared on my website back in the day when I had a website. Due to apathy, and a lack of interest in anything I let the website fall into disrepair to be honest, the technology was moving on at such a pace I couldn’t keep up. I mean, a bit of HTML I could cope with, but beyond that it was a mystery. I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it for me and in the end, who gave a fuck who Pete Jones was?
What did seem to be popular on my old site were the “Johnny Tales” which were my little anecdotes from back in the day of my involvement with Public Image Limited, the events leading up to my playing for the band, and my eventual exit.
So, I have decided to resurrect the stories, rewritten for the modern age (coz the originals are lost on a floppy disc somewhere). So here it is, the complete account of my involvement with one of the World’s most iconic bands.
JOHNNY TALES #1
I first met Mr Lydon at The Manor studios in Oxford whilst the Infamous Public Image Limited were recording their much acclaimed album, Flowers of Romance. However, whilst I was there, very little progress had been made on the recording front, with the band having been ensconced within the four enclosed walls for some considerable time without contributing much in terms of output.
At that point, I had known Martin Atkins for some time; we had played previously in a local Watford band called “The Hots”, Martin had joined the band after he answered our ad in Melody Maker and we had played the London club circuit for a while. He left that band once he got the opportunity to join PiL, again, after answering an advert in Melody Maker. He then went off to tour the USA with PiL in 1980. Shortly thereafter, I joined Cowboys International for a European tour for a few weeks and upon my return we met up, and Martin invited me to join him at The Manor one aftennoon.
The Manor was Virgin Records’ studio of choice for rostered bands like PIL; the studio was well equipped and the facilities for the bands were sumptuous. The kitchen was well staffed, it had a nice snooker table and the lounge areas we’re well appointed.
I had a listen to what had been recorded so far, and I was underwhelmed by what I heard. The best track I was given privy too was a Beatles cover version of Twist and Shout which had Johnny singing over the original Beatles backing… It was shit.
There were other bare bones recordings that ended up becoming the finished album but it was hard listening, all bits if ideas without any cohesion. I formed a view that it needed a swift kick up the pants to get something good enough for an album and it was Martin who gave it just that by putting down some some slamming drums for “Four Enclosed Walls’ and “Banging the Door”. I believe that that if Martin Hadn’t got involved at that point, the album wouldn’t have even been finished.
As it was, the band were lounging around doing fuck all when I arrived and I was introduced to John by Martin in the lounge area. “Alright John?” I said. “Yeah” said he, then, coughed up a large clump of phlegm, from the back of his throat and deposited it at my feet in the middle of a sumptuous Persian rug that adorned the lounge. After a short pause, I gave him that “What are you? Some sort of cunt” look then got up and walked out. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be impressed or intimidated……… I was neither, and it pretty much summed up in that one moment, all that Johnny was about and I saw through it all, for he was rotten, well and truly Rotten.
I have been getting involved with local radio lately, much fun it is too. Given my access to other bands while playing live with Department S, I have taken the opportunity to start interviewing them for radio pieces to go out on Verulam radio. I have interviewed JC Caroll from The Members and Spizzenergi and a very special interview with two members of King Crimson.
My king crimson interview will be going out this Friday 27th February between 8-10 pm on the Music Lab with Alex McKay and can be listened to at http://www.radioverulam.com or streamed from any decent internet radio app such as tunein radio.
So, have a listen and let’s see if I truly do have a face for radio.