Anton Newcombe on PIL – Second Edition


The Hidden Gems feature continues to bring out some of the best recommendations, and this time another legend walks through the pages of the piece. Ahead of the debut LP from L’epée, his new collaboration with The Limiñanas and French songwriter Emmaunelle Seigner of Ultra Orange, Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe throws a recommendation into the ring for Gems. It should be no surprise that Newcombe’s got a shelf-full of punk and psych classics to cull from and he gives puts a solid stamp on the US edition of Public Image Ltd.’s Metal Box given the less pricey package and name Second Edition over here. Its taken as a given now that the album is a post-punk canon staple, easily accessible for punk youths looking to expand their soundscapes these days, but keep in mind that Newcombe stumbled into the record on original release in 1980, when word of mouth, record counter recommendations were the best inroads and import prices made purchases more selective. Find out how this one came into Newcombe’s orbit below.

“All of my friends had older brothers and sisters into music in Southern California,” recalls Newcombe, “People got into punk rock right from the start and we had college radio. It quickly morphed into new music of all types — from new wave to punk to outsider stuff of all kinds. I liked the Sex Pistols and by ‘80 PIL was playing the Olympic Auditorium. I missed that, but they circled back around quick — so quick that the posters were still hanging on the power boxes on street corners from the 1980 show when new ones went up.”

“Back then, import records were $20-$25, there were no exchanges and no real second hand shops. a new album was about $3.50 -$7 so you picked things by the cover and you learned to like it. We went to all concerts by anyone that seemed to fit under the broad umbrella of ‘new music.’ It was a social thing, about being together and in the know. I remember people selling acid for 50 cents a tab at their concert and the drug seemed perfect for what they were presenting. I heard First Edition first. Then, we knew a rich girl who was very nice but sort of homely. She had the maid’s Cadillac, she had credit cards, and she’d made friends with my girlfriend and our crazy older friends. She asked us to take her shopping out for records one time and we emptied the import section of about 150 albums including this. I think the first time I heard it we were getting smashed on vodka and acid, amazing album. Looking out over Newport harbor from Lido Island, upstairs, just floating on a weekend…. then the concerts.”

Asking Newcombe what makes it such a gem of a record, he notes, “It was ambitious, a combination of influences from dub, to poly-rhythmic drumming, industrial techniques, and Keith Levine’s guitar work — both a tonal and drone. It’s fantastic. It’s influenced me in almost all of my work since then. I use the Korg MS 10 and Delta for bass a lot and I am always thinking of Jah Wobble and the maximum stretch between notes in a dub scale and I learned that from him. I would describe my bass outlook as a combination between Jah Wobble and Paul McCartney, and my guitar playing as a cross between Keith Levine, or My Bloody Valentine and everything else that is fantastic in history, but Keith is up there. I often detune a guitar and have a go at a song with him in mind.”

No argument here, Second Edition is a complete classic for all the reasons Anton notes and should be on the shelf of any music fan. As recently as 2016, Four Men With Beards has a repress of the original US version available. The Metal Box version has been duplicated a few times since it’s 1979 release, but will usually run you quite a bit of money, if you can find it. I’d recommend picking up the 4 Men version, if you can’t find an original bopping around your local shop (which is pretty common). While you’re there check for L’epée’s debut, Diabolique which lands next week from Anton’s own A Records.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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