“Fat, forty and baaaack!” – Johnny Rotten
Late to the punk rock scene in ’96, I threw Filthy Lucre Live on the speakers in-store. Impressed by their canon of catchy, simple guitar rock, I decided I was a fan and bought a double disc version of Never Mind the Bollocks. I still think the reunited 1996 band were valid and put out a worthwhile document of that tour. I was fortunate to finally stumble upon the Japanese version with additional B-side bonus tracks, from the concurrent “Pretty Vacant” live single. It was brand new and cost only $20 at the 2013 Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale.
Recorded on 23 June, the album was released only a month later. Even though a big money reunion tour isn’t very punk rock, a one month turnaround isn’t bad! The backing vocals however sound so clean that I wonder if some very un-punk overdubs happened in that time. I don’t know. I do know that the vocals of Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook deliver the hooks required while Johnny Rotten rants with full-on vibrato. Either way it sounds brilliant.
Scorching through “Bodies”, the Pistols in ’96 kicked many competitors in the ass. “Seventeen”, with its classic chorus* of “I’m a lazy sod!” lacks some of the edge it used to have in the 70’s, but I don’t think the thousands of people singing along minded too much.
“New York” rocks sloppily, and Johnny Rotten delivers his voice with that vibrato…almost distracting, almost unnerving, but strangely catchy. His vocals have become more exaggerated and dramatic over the years and I like these renditions of the songs. Steve Jones’ sloppy guitar riffs are mixed too low, or perhaps mixed that way to hide a multitude of feedbacky sins? Who cares. “No Feelings” slams just as hard either way.
“Don’t be naughty…I’ve done you no wrong,” Johnny scolds the crowd before diving into “Did You No Wrong”. One song is much the same as another, but that hasn’t stopped AC/DC either. “We’re not that fucking bad after all, are we?” sneers Johnny. Do I detect some pride? “God Save the Queen” is early in the set, but as venomous as ever.
Through “Liar”, “Satellite”, and the cover of “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” the set drags a bit. “Holidays in the Sun” brings back that excitement and reckless abandon. “Submission” is next, another riffs as simple and memorable as “Holidays”, and do I detect a touch of “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” by the Kinks there at the end?
“Pretty Vacant”, “EMI”, “Anarchy” and “Problems” close the set for a memorable end. Even though I don’t think they ever really gave two shits about the music, there was a lot of good music. John Lydon is a parody of himself, and he knows it and embraces it. He’s become a grumpy, angry elder statesmen of punk and Filthy Lucre Live is representative of that version of him. Either way, it’s an enjoyable departure from the same old versions.
The Japanese CD comes with some B-side bonus tracks. “Buddies” is what sounds like an audience recording of “Bodies”. I guess for that raw punk authenticity? “No Fun” is also present, a Stooges cover to add to the count of classic punk rock.
*I’m aware that Johnny Rotten would likely kick me in the ass for calling his music “classic”. He’d probably also disagree with many more of my words, but I love that crazy guy.