Thursday, 2 February 2017

JOE STRUMMER & the Mescaleros - Seattle 2001 / PIL - Commercial Zone Limited Edition

Bootlegs of the Month - January 2017

Prior to downloading this show, the best sounding complete live Mescaleros set I had heard was the famous Benefit Concert (Firefighters) at Acton Town Hall in London, from November 2002. In fact it originally featured as the second post on the blog in 2011. It was then removed with some others, during a restructuring of those that had been officially released during the blog's lifetime. It's now available as a digital download from Hellcat Records and also on a limited Record Day vinyl release.

The following show was discovered over the Christmas/New Year holiday break and has been selected as one of the best bootlegs of the month. January is often a quiet time and this year was no exception. The best bootlegs for each month (assuming there are any) will be subsequently posted throughout the year.

Joe Strummer, former frontman of the Clash, took to the road with his band the Mescaleros, for promotional work and live dates to publicise the release of their second album 'Global A Go-Go'. The album was released by Hellcat Records/Epitaph on July 24, 2001.

After a set of in-store appearances and a one-off show in Los Angeles on August 4, the Mescaleros returned to North America in October 2001 for a limited set of shows. The North American tour was followed quickly by a short five-date UK tour, during November 2001. I was fortunate to be present for one of those shows. It was the second time I had seen the Mescaleros and when Joe took to the stage, he strode on wearing a suit, earning immense cheers and surprise at his attire. The set list was similar to this earlier show from the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington on October 17, 2001.

Where this live recording has been previously posted, the lack of source details must surely have caused many to overlook it, believing it to be an audience recording. It is either a soundboard or FM recording and has an excellent mix. I have seen it noted as an FM broadcast on old trader's lists and some compression is noticeable on the louder uptempo numbers. Limited quality recordings are available from this tour and for those reasons I recommend it to any Clash fan.

The radio interview is a bonus track and was broadcast by the BBC earlier in the year on May 24, 2001. Joe can be heard discussing Bob Dylan's 60th birthday, along with Stevie Wonder and a rather snobbish BBC presenter, who allows Joe to sing brief snatches of 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues'

Interviews with ex members of the band mention they had misgivings over the quantity of Clash songs included in the set lists of this tour. Here there are only three Strummer/Jones compositions. The new Mescaleros album has eight of its eleven songs performed live. Most of the 'Clash' songs were actually covers of some of Joe's favourite reggae tunes.

Key Arena, Seattle, WA.
October 17, 2001

Soundboard / FM
Lineage:  Trade > CDR > EAC > WAV > Traders Little Helper > FLAC

01. Cool 'N' Out 
02. Global-a-Go-Go 
03. Rudy Can't Fail 
04. Bhindi Bhagee 
05. Armagideon Time (Willi Williams) 
06. Shaktar Donetsk 
07. Mega Bottle Ride 
08. Tony Adams 
09. Police And Thieves (Junior Murvin/Lee Perry)
10. Mondo Bongo 
11. Johnny Appleseed 
12. Bummed Out City

01. Police On My Back (Eddy Grant) 
02. The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff) 
03. Pressure Drop (Toots Hibberts) 
04. I Fought The Law (Sonny Curtis)
05. Bankrobber 
06. Yalla Yalla
07. A Message To You Rudy (Dandy Livingstone)
08. London's Burning 
09. Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones) 
10. Radio Interview

                                  released by Hellcat Records/Epitaph on July 24, 2001


PiL - Commercial Zone Limited Edition
(PiL Records Inc. XYZ-007)

Vinyl, LP, Album, Unofficial Release, Limited Edition (Second pressing)
Released: USA 1984

A1 Mad Max (4:15)
A2 Love Song (4:29)
A3 Young Brits (3:43)
A4 Bad Night (3:24)

B1 The Slab (3:36)
B2 Lou Reed Part I (3:59)
B3 Lou Reed Part II (Where Are You?) (2:52)
B4 Blue Water (3:34)
B5 Miller High Life (2:44)

Recorded At - Park South Studios, Manhattan, NYC
Produced by Bob Miller & Keith Levene

Second pressing in black sleeve, retitled "Commercial Zone - Limited Edition."
On this version of "Commercial Zone" the order of the tracks on side A was changed, the song "Solitaire" was been retitled "Young Brits," and the version of "Bad Night" is slightly shorter than on the first pressing of the album. Also, "Lou Reed Part II" has been subtitled "(Where Are You?)"

Lineage: Ripped from a vinyl album released on PiL Records Inc. (XYZ 007) in 1984.

In May 1981 PIL moved from London to New York City,  their American record contract with Warner Brothers expired in October 1981 and was not renewed. In January 1982 the British music press reported that PIL had tried to record a new album in New York with producers Adam Kidron and Ken Lockie, but split instead - this was promptly denied by the band in a press release the following week.

In May 1982 drummer Martin Atkins rejoined the band and PIL started recording their new studio album for Virgin Records at Park South Studios in Manhattan, with sound engineer Bob Miller co-producing. On 29 August 1982 new bassist Pete Jones joined the band in the studio, the new line-up played its debut concert four weeks later (28 September 1982 in New York City). During the summer and autumn of 1982 the band planned to form their own record label (Public Enterprise Productions) and license its releases to Stiff Records USA for the American market, but these plans never materialized.

In early November 1982 PIL announced the imminent release of a new single "Blue Water" and a six-track mini album You Are Now Entering A Commercial Zone on their new label. This did not happen, instead the band continued recording at Park South Studios for a full-length album.

By May 1983 a new track "This Is Not A Love Song" was earmarked as a new single for Virgin Records, but PIL broke up when first Pete Jones and then Keith Levene left the band.

Keith Levene, guitarist and song writer recalls of the time “By 1983 we’d had some success and it was time to position PiL in a more mainstream yet ambiguous arena. This was an area I referred to as the Commercial Zone.” “So I went into the studio on 57th Street in Manhattan  and began writing and composing the music for the album bearing that title,”

The efforts of Levene’s labour on the first Commercial Zone demonstrate his range as a composer. Take for instance the orchestral and serene “The Slab” or the contrast of the bluesy guitar-driven Lou Reed Part I and II. Unfortunately, however, before Commercial Zone was completed, creative differences over the project resulted in Levene’s declining to continue with PiL. "It was the last thing I wanted but I had no choice really. To have stayed would have meant compromising the integrity of the project which is something I could never do,” he explains.

The remaining members, John Lydon and drummer Martin Atkins hired session musicians to fulfill touring commitments and carried on under the PIL name. The single "This Is Not A Love Song" (with "Blue Water" as a 12" single b-side), both from the Park South sessions, was released by Virgin Records in September 1983 and went to no.5 in the UK single charts.

In summer 1983, in PIL's absence, Keith Levene took the unfinished album tapes and did his own mix. He then flew over to London and presented them to Richard Branson as the finished new PIL album for Virgin Records, but John Lydon decided to completely abandon the tapes and re-record the whole album from scratch with session musicians. This new version of Commercial Zone became This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get in 1984.

Levene decided to put the album out himself on the American market and founded the label PIL Records Inc. for this one-off release. The first limited pressing was released in November 1983 and was heavily imported to the UK and European market. A second pressing (with the track listing changed around and a shorter mix of "Bad Night") followed in August 1984 in an edition of 30,000 copies, to compete directly with the official re-recorded album This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get.  Virgin Records promptly took legal actions and stopped the distribution and any further re-pressings of Commercial Zone.

Viewed by many as the last true PIL album, Commercial Zone was reviewed by Melody Maker upon release:

"THIS is not a bootleg, this is the real alternative to that other record, a private view of the Public Image, a strictly import-only insight into the way they were. This record sets the record straight from the Keith Levene point of view, a collection of original PiL ephemera which puts the tin lid on Levene's involvement in the band up to the acrimonious parting of the ways last summer. Five of the eight tracks on This Is What You Want... appear here in embryonic form, accompanied by one or two Levene works and a couple of apparently unreleased Lydon/Atkins/Levene efforts.

Of the exclusives, Bad Night (no relation to Bad Life) is the most intriguing item, Levene owning up to his Velvet's influence and Lydon wailing in a particularly discordant, yet peculiarly appealing manner. And doubtless the faithful will make the sacred pilgrimage to the local disc relic of PiL history, featuring as it does an authentic sounding Public Image, the last of the real McCoy before the advent of the last cynical studio bound release.

The Slab is a moody instrumental worthy of Irmin Schmidt which surfaced on This Is What You Want as Order Of Death. Mad Max evolved into Bad Life, and Lou Reed Part 2 became Where Are You - all different enough in execution to warrant a listen if only out of curiosity. Commercial Zone is not such a bitter PiL to swallow - perhaps this is what you want? (Andy Hurt - Melody Maker, August 1984)

                          The official release appeared in July 1984 on Virgin records V 2309
So now you know the story behind the album and are wondering, what are the real differences between the two versions? Here's my opinion:

01. Bad Life (aka Mad Max)
Compared to 'Mad Max' this is evidently more finished but it reminds me of those needless remixed versions you would get on a 12-inch single. The more minimalist Levene version is best
02. This Is Not A Love Song (aka Love Song)
Add in horns and vocal overdubs, and it makes for a too busy mix. A great song with a superb bass line, the rhythm section at times is reminiscent of Frankie Goes To Hollywood! The remix is good but the horns really detract from the song.
03. Solitaire (aka Young Brits)
A more funky disco version, a reviewer wrote 'Death Disco' without the Death.
04. Tie Me To The Length Of That 
05. The Pardon
06. Where Are You? (aka Lou Reed Part II (Where Are You))

On Commercial Zone it's as close as PIL came in the 80's to the jagged dissonant sound they had in 1978-79. Here the guitar is vanquished and replaced by keyboards with additional vocals, the sharp edges and spooky feel of the original is lost, overdubbed into excessive 80's oblivion.
07. 1981
08. The Order Of Death (aka The Slab)

The original was a perfect example of less is more. This remake has additional repetitive vocals and keyboards with the drums more upfront. Still a decent tune but Levene's version is superior.

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