|Photo courtesy of Keith Levene|
Keith Levene, the hugely influential guitarist with The Clash and Public Image Ltd has just released a brand new book entitled “I was a Teenage Guitarist 4 The Clash”. These customized hand made books are all unique and are available in Prototype and Standard issue, hand printed and put together by Keith himself and he will also sign them to order at your request. If you are interested in ordering a copy then check out the gallery and store on the official web-site to get an idea of what will be coming your way. With regard to the book’s content, Keith says “This is a story about the beginning of The Clash…the only band that matters according to some. The alternative original punk choice to The Sex Pistols, another band that mattered. Join Keith as he takes you along his teen ride through real life. This is not an autobiography but it is a true story. It will put in the time at the place. The only place that mattered? Well maybe to some. Take a ride through The Hippest Scene in London in 75/76 and witness how it really came together”.
|Keith & Mick Jones pre-Clash|
At 17, the skateboarding/pin-ball playing/guitar virtuoso Keith Levene met his future Clash co-founder Mick Jones in West London against the backdrop of the then-developing Punk scene. Thereafter, the two young men decided to launch The Clash - the band that was second in importance on the burgeoning punk scene only to the Sex Pistols in the mid-1970s. In “I Was a Teenage Guitarist 4 the Clash” Levene recounts the early days of Punk and his love of skateboarding and playing guitar. True to the original punk ethos, Levene is self-publishing his book and the original custom covers that come with each one. “This is not unlike my experience in distributing my original “Commercial Zone” LP back in 1983-84. I created the custom covers, pressed the albums myself, and distributed them to various record shops around Manhattan – on my skateboard!”. Levene laughs as he recounts the dangers of dodging busy NYC traffic while maneuvering boxes of LPs on his beloved red wheeled skateboard. “Later when I was with PiL and recording “Metal Box” the record company took the wheels off my board because they were afraid I might fall and break my arm,” he smiles. In his book, Levene details his encounters with other central figures in the classic first wave of British punk, including Sid Vicious, John Lydon, Billy Idol, Viv Albertine, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes. “It was a very exciting time,” recalls Levene. “There was a very young, very fresh, very exuberant feeling in the air – like anything was possible", Levene recalls. “And not just for those of us involved in music. It wasn’t just about expressing oneself through music although the music was certainly very important. If you had a viewpoint you wanted to express – whether the vehicle was through fashion, art, the written word, or even how you presented yourself to the world – the emerging scene in West London welcomed you,” he explains. “The feeling I want to relate to those who read this book is that they are accompanying me on a magical mystery tour of West London during those incredibly exciting early days of punk” Levene says.
|Keith (Centre) with Tommy, Dee Dee, Paul Simonon & Johnny - Photo by Danny Fields|
Although it might appear that once he had left Public Image Ltd Keith had disappeared from the musical landscape, he has actually been involved in various projects over the years. For example he has produced demos for the debut Red Hot Chili Peppers album and worked together with DJ Matt Dike, experimenting with sampling and hip-hop. He released his first solo album “Violent Opposition” which featured members of the Chili Peppers and contributed to industrial rock super group Pigface's album “Easy Listening”. He’s also been involved in soundtrack and computer work and has released several other solo records, among which was the “Killer in the Crowd” EP in 2004. In 2010 Levene got back together with his former colleague in Public Image Ltd, bassist Jah Wobble and collaborated on the album “Psychic Life” and later on the pair released an album “Yin & Yang” as well as performing “Metal Box In Dub” on stage. So, “Commercial Zone” will be a title familiar to fans of Public Image Ltd, but why is it resurfacing now? It seems that Keith has decided that the time is right to revisit the officially unreleased album that was the catalyst for his leaving the band back in 1983. It all boiled down to those familiar “creative differences” when towards the end of 1982 the band were planning on releasing a mini-album entitled “You Are Now Entering A Commercial Zone” and a single “Blue Water”. However, against Keith’s wishes this was all scrapped and the band went back to the studio to start work on a full length album that would go on to be released as “This Is What You Want...This Is What You Get”. Before the new version was released Keith Levene took the unfinished “Commercial Zone” tapes and did his own mix.
He then tried to persuade Virgin Records to release this version under the album’s original working title to no avail. Snubbed by his own band and record label, Keith paid for a limited pressing of the album and distributed it himself in America on his own PiL Records Inc. However, Virgin Records took out legal action to prevent Keith re-pressing any more copies of the album and that was the end of that, until now! Keith stated on his web-site the reasons for suddenly revisiting “Commercial Zone”. “Finally producing the album my way will allow me to finish important unfinished business. I know there’s been a gap in time of thirty years. However, it seems like it’s coming right on time for a myriad of reasons. For instance PiL’s debut album “First Issue” from 1978 was released in America for the first time ever only last year by PiL Official. And now they’ve released another re-packaged album called “PiL Gold” which contains something like 24 of 28 tunes from the first three albums – which I composed. So now with “Commercial Zone 2014” you will get what the fourth album was supposed to be – and much more. It will be much better because it’s current; it contains the best of the original tracks, plus remixes, plus original material, and has the benefit of 30 years of my work. So it’s not another tired, old, re-release of stuff that’s been out since 1978 or 1981. It’s fresh. I’ve had time to reflect. So yeah, it’s better.”
|One of the new book's custom covers|
Subscribe to Keith’s YouTube channel where he will be doing readings from “I was a Teenage Guitarist 4 The Clash” and showing viewers some of the various customized options that are available. He also has a Twitter account which you can follow to receive regular updates and news. If you are interested in the “Commercial Zone 2014” album then visit the Indie Go Go Campaign page where you can contribute and pledge your support. All photos courtesy of Keith Levene.