06/22/05
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

As we are want to do from time to time, As The Disc Spins is offering up a treat for both the ears and eyes alike. On the docket this week are recently released multi-media entries from Public Enemy, Manic Street Preachers and The Sex Pistols.


Public Enemy -- It Takes a Nation - The First London Invasion Tour 1987 (Slam Jamz)

Public Enemy (P.E.) first began mixing social and political consciousness into their equally hard-core rhythms and rhymes nearly two decades ago. It Takes A Nation -- The First London Invasion Tour 1987 (2005) reveals that P.E. and their at times outrageous stage presentations represent more than your average rap concert. Not only were their lyrics and attitudes undeniably militant, one especially unnerving omnipresence were the fatigue-wearing and urban assault weapon toting S1W (Security of the First World) who just stood and essentially intimidated attendees without saying a word.

The roughly hour-long presentation features the sextet of Chuck D., Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Professor Griff, Brother Mike Williams and Brother James Norman during their maiden voyage to the UK in November of 1987. Their European excursion presented Public Enemy alongside their Def Jam label mates L.L. Cool J and Eric B and Rakim. The performance consists primarily of sides from their debut long player Yo! Bum Rush The Show (1987) and the genre-defining follow-up It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988). Seminal selections such as the opener "Countdown To Armageddon," along with "Too Much Posse," "Rebel Without A Pause," "You're Gonna Get Yours," and a show-stopping "Bring The Noise," recall a freshness and intensity that, if anything, has become more potent with age.

While the contents were previously available on VHS tape -- most likely the source of this DVD -- the commentary track from Chuck D. is a newly supplied addition. He gives some of the band's personal background and puts the set into the larger context of how Public Enemy were interpreted by their fans and in the press. There is bonus footage from a 2003 Australian show and a library of still images. Plus, initial pressings are also treated to an extra CD with audio taken from the DVD, as well as rare remixes of "MKLVFKWR," "Public Enemy Number One," two alternates of "Do You Wanna Go Our Way," "Rebirthinstrumental," and Bring That Beat Back," -- the latter dubbed a 2005 "sneak peak".

Manic Street Preachers -- The Holy Bible: 10th Anniversary Edition (Epic/Legacy Records)

If ever the case existed for a rock 'n' roll album to be extended and expanded upon, a prime candidate would be The Holy Bible (1994) from the mod Brit-rockers Manic Street Preachers. It was the third full-length outing from the Wales-based combo. Tragically, it would also be the last to feature guitarist and composer Richey James, whose disappearance in late January/early February of 1995 remains unsolved. The album offers more than just a modicum of insight into James' sinister world.

He and lyrical partner Nicky Wire -- who was likewise the Preachers' bassist -- created a maze of dark imagery. "Archives Of Pain," the anorexia anthem "4st 7lb," "Die In The Summertime," and the undeniably unsettling "Of Walking Abortion," provide glimpses into what must have been a harrowing existence. Yet a decade of separation from James' death has revealed another facet in the Manic Street Preachers complex music. The quirky melodic sense heard on "Yes," the attitude-laden "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart," and the catchy "Revol" are all among the Preachers' most solid material.

The set consistsof both Mark Freegard's original U.K. mix as well as Tom Lord-Alge's previously unissued version. The latter was due for release, but eventually scrapped after James turned up missing. Disc One is fleshed out with live readings of "The Intense Humming Of Evil," "4st 7lb," Yes," and "Of Walking Abortion," while Disc Two contains demos of "Die In The Summertime," and "Mausoleum," plus live-in-the-studio recordings of "Yes," "She Is Suffering," and "Of Walking Abortion," from BBC Radio One. Disc Three is an unqualified treat with a DVD sporting half-a-dozen television performances from the U.K. programmes Top Of The Pops, Butt Naked and MTV Europe's Most Wanted. Plus, clips from the Preachers' appearances at the 1994 Glastonbury and Reading Festivals, the music videos for "Faster," and a rarity titled "Judge Yr'self," as well as a recently produced short film for the song "Yes." Finally, there is a new 30 minute documentary with current band members frankly discussing The Holy Bible and its impact.

This is a must-own for indoctrinated enthusiasts, although probably not the best place for the curious or casual consumer to begin their respective audio-visual odysseys. That said, this 10 th Anniversary Edition perfectly encapsulates all the angst and ardour synonymous with the Manic Street Preachers.

Sex Pistols -- The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (Shout! Factory)

Finally, someone has gotten around to issuing director Julian Temple's brilliant mock documentary about the Sex Pistols on DVD in the States. Thankfully the guilty parties are the toffee-nosed anarchists at Shout! Factory, as they've upgraded the film's audio track to include both a 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround Sound audio options. Or, listen to a running commentary and dialogue between Temple and rock journalist Chris Salewicz.

The motion picture itself is a surreal blend of fantasy and musical performances. The story centres on the "classic" line-up of Johnny "Rotten" Lydon (vocals), Sid Vicious (bass/vocals), Paul Cook (drums) and Steve Jones (guitar/vocals). Under the tutelage of their enigmatic manager Malcom McLaren -- who also portrays himself -- the group's history is re-enacted from inception to dissolution. McLaren reveals his methodical plan to essentially rip off the bloated capitalists in the world's largest record companies. Alas, the great rock and roll swindle.

A brief summation of the events reveals that after being given a 40,000£ advance from EMI Records, they were dropped after swearing on a nationally broadcast television show. The following week A&M Records picked the Pistols up for a 75,000£ contract. Meanwhile, the boys worked out a deal with the then-relatively unknown Virgin label for 50,000£ upfront. So, the Sex Pistols have yet to utter a note in public and they have already gotten a tidy 165,000£. Their Virgin deal came just as England was celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977. In honour of that once-in-a-lifetime occasion, they released their version of "God Save The Queen." The song was immediately barred from national airwaves and the large record shops refused to carry the single. Still, somehow it managed to rise to a literal "blank spot" on the charts. This designation meant while the tune "officially" reached the #2 position, because it was banned, it could not get to #1. So, in protest it was given the "blank spot."

All the while behind the scenes -- as Temple reinforces both on the screen as well as in his newly-recorded commentary -- the Sex Pistols were decaying within from the results of poor management and the excess of drug and drink. Footage of the band in action includes the infamous boat ride incident while unleashing "God Save The Queen," as well as a stab at "No Fun," from their last performance held January 14, 1978 at Winterland Arena in San Francisco. The fantasy sequences are personal favourites with Sid Vicious in a thong (no lie) warbling a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Something Else," or Steve Jones' steamy neon encounter on "Lonely Boy." The movie concludes with a suitably Vicious interpretation [read: slaughter] of "My Way," which must have made even Ol' Blue Eyes himself shudder in his skivvies.


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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