Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

2. Public Image LtdMetal Box

Do you still have the original metal box?

Yeah, my mum bought it for Christmas. I must’ve been 18 at the time or something. I find it quite cool that my mum actually went into a record shop and asked for Metal Box by Public Image! There were only a few thousand made, so it was limited edition. But I was a huge PiL fan, I loved the Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten/Lydon and when the Pistols split, everybody was waiting to see what he’s going to come back with. Nobody could believe that he would return with this.

They sounded like nothing you’d heard before. The first track, ‘Albatross’, is basically listening to Lydon screaming that he wishes he would die for ten minutes, or a junkyard having a nervous breakdown! The album has these metallic smashes and clangs, which I’d never heard in music before. This is considered one of the first post-punk albums, alongside the Siouxsie and the Banshees record, but before Metal Box, it would probably have been Pere Ubu’s first album. From a UK fan’s perspective, Banshees and PiL would have made the first post-punk records. We’d bought ‘Death Disco’ on 12" records, but to buy an album in a canister, cut and mastered really loudly, bursting out of my speakers was something strange. These were not rock & roll songs, they didn’t have a lot of dynamic to them at times either. They were danceable though, with a disco drumbeat, a dub reggae bass, playing Swan Lake on guitar, with Lydon screaming about his mother having cancer over the top of it and ending up on Top Of The Pops. That’s avant-garde being taken into the fuckin’ mainstream. To me that’s very revolutionary and subversive. It was a real howl from the soul. Every time I listen to Metal Box, I remember what it was like to live in Britain in the late ’70s when I was a teenager. It was a grey, damp, repressive country and that record reflects the state and times perfectly. It was a snapshot of the times.

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: Helm, Steve Mason, Sarah Cracknell, Doug McCombs, Youth
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