Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Public Image Limited—
Flowers Of Romance/Home Is Where The Heart Is


Released 1981 on Virgin
The Seth Man, December 2001ce
This single is still as unforgivably chaotic as it was when it was first released (get this) twenty (20) years ago.

Like all of PIL’s preceding 12” singles on Virgin, the grooves marked into this round slice of black plastic were cut so unbelievably hot and deep that they made the space between grooves discernable to the naked eye from a fair distance. There are as many advantages as disadvantages to analogue sound production, but PIL just kept in all the advantages. So much so, that to this day there has not been any CD mastering or re-mastering of their colossal double album “Metal Box” (a.k.a. “Second Edition”) to rival its pre-digital counterpart. Because after the pre-production, the production and cutting of the discs, all that is left...is in the grooves. And what PIL left in the grooves of their records can, has been and will stand up for years, because just as the simplest technology is usually the best, so are the simplest of songs. And “Flowers Of Romance” is essentially a simple song. But what it is exactly about is as indefinable as fragments of a dream rendered in only epigrams and atmosphere.

The A-side of this 12-inch version of “Flowers Of Romance” is a far longer, echo-chambered version of the title track from Public Image Limited’s third studio album. A concussion-inducing drum ritual of a track, from its opening crack of two drum patterns which bifurcate into a background rhythm and a louder lead accent, “Flowers Of Romance” is far louder and crisper in its fidelity than its counterpart, and that’s no mean feat at all. Echoed drums clatter in front of Keith Levene’s violent, violin drones and discordant runs, desecrating the piece in an almost percussion-as-graffiti exercise as John Lydon barges in with his opening sneer/snarl: “No-o-o-o-w it’s summer” in an enveloping, raging son-of-“Street Fighting Man” manner -- (which in itself was, in turn, the idiot bastard son of Martha & The Vandellas’ “Dancing In The Streets”) as the slowed-down, Strangeloves-styled tom-toms resound over the gathering and darkening storm clouds of sawing violin drones that hover above. There are scant hi-hats that reappear hither and thither but much like the drum-dominated album from which the A-side was taken, they are the sole embellishments upon its stark rhythm patterns. Although the album version of “Flowers of Romance” ends on Lydon’s final “I’ll take the furniture/Start all over aga-a-a-a-a-i-n...” and a final violin screech/flourish, here on the 12” it DOES start all over again -- from the top. Exchanging the vocals for an additional violin part that relates to Lydon’s previous “I could be Nero” verse, it is an ever-uncoiling, sinewy chaos as Levene scratches away as London’s Blitz Kids burn in their boredom behind their pre-Goth makeup. Only faint background sighs to suggest not even vocals but muted nightmares, as they weave in and out of the Middle Eastern-ness of the violin’s mad discord.

About as lugubrious a piece as PIL ever recorded, “Home Is Where The Heart Is” is an outtake recorded prior to bassist Jah Wobble’s departure from PIL. I have no information to support this but for the sound of that familiarly patient bass line that ALMOST drops off the face of the earth…to continue and continue on its course charted to pattern and fan out forever. It steamrolls a small, distant birdsong to coax the small drum kit rendered in an airtight, 20 foot basement of dub to behind its cracking. Lydon free-associates in clusters of words when he’s not silently straining and screaming into the deep distance as the snare continues slapping back its ghostly counterpart drawn hugely in echo. Which become even more so after a slight editing silence, though textured into a rippling soup of electronic noise more than anything close to a “drum” sound. Levene’s mid-tempo guitar, synthesizer or guitar synth notes search gently in the distance for one of several spaces it occupies, rolling over all the dub foxholes like a dimly lit early morning Ardennes fog. Without ever drawing attention to itself. The drummer (Dave Crowe? or Martin Atkins??) flubs the beat, but makes up for it with a hi-hatting that regains its pace into the slowly fading ending, which gets clipped before it disappears.

Which is perfect, as PIL never sought to be polished craftsman. But they were PERFECT in so many ways, it’s still a pity twenty years on to recognise that this was the last single of its kind that they would release.