The question posed by the title of the posting relates to the b-side of the 45 I’m having a look today:-
mp3: Public Image Ltd – The Cowboy Song
It borders on unlistenable, but then again, I’m assuming that was the whole point of it. Julian Cope, over at Head Heritage, provides as perfect a description as there is:-
“The Cowboy Song”is a throwaway single that sounds like it was ALREADY tossed into the bin: the screech of a needle being ripped and torn back and forth across the surface of a record cuts in as the single begins. Then you hear Lydon in the studio tell the producer it’s so loud, they can’t hear the backing track. Ha; like they fucking even needed to, as they are preparing to scream and toss tambourines in the studio over a towering bass drive and general overall mayhem. The ludicrous “Thick As A Brick”-styled newspaper parody this single originally came wrapped in details the ‘lyrics’ (16 lines of “clipy ty clop/clipy ty clop/clipy ty clop”) but they do not appear on the single. Or if they do, they are drowned out by a deafening racket of multi-tracked screaming, talking and general pandemonium. The only distinct sound is that of the bass guitar of John Wardle (aka Jah Wobble) although it’s oddly un-dub and pre-set to ultra-strum. The lyrics should’ve been “Make it stop/make it stop/Make it stop” so that everybody who bought this single in 1978 could sing along. There’s also further stylus-scratching effects just to drive the rest of us up the wall. When the noise finally subsists, only Lydon’s coughing and sputtering of amphetamine-loosened phlegm can be heard — right before the record picks up after being trapped in the locked-groove for a revolution and a half.
I don’t have the single, but I do have a vinyl copy of Public Image : First Issue, the debut album, on which it is included:-
mp3: Public Image Limited – Public Image
Issued in October 1978, meaning it’s not that long until it turns 44 years of age. I think it’s fair to say that the tune, and in particular, that killer bass line, have aged spectacularly well. For those who like the technical side of things, (hi JTFL!!!!) it seems it was Wardle’s/Wobble first bass line that he presented to the rest of the group, Keith Levene‘s guitars were double-tracked on the back of a live take and Lydon’s vocals went through a Space-Echo (aka Roland RE-201), a bit of kit which produced delay and reverb effects.
Me? I just love dancing to it.