THE TOMORROW SHOW
With Tom Snyder
Thurs 27 June 1980
from "Random Notes"
Rolling Stone, August 7, 1980
"What the fuck are you doing?" Tom Snyder angrily asked Public Image Ltd. leader John Lydon during a commercial break in the calamitous June 27th edition of NBC's Tomorrow Show. "You're making a fucking fool of yourself."
Snyder, for once, was right on the mark. Former Sex Pistol Lydon and PiL guitarist Keith Levene had flown in from London just to appear on the show, but when it was all over, no one could quite figure out why. The show's first guest, film producer Alan Carr, apparently anticipated the worst. Winding up a promotional visit on behalf of his Village People movie "Can't Stop the Music," Carr remarked, "If you think I'm strange you should see what's coming on next. Trust me, it's the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"
Lydon more than lived up to that intro. Bumming cigarettes from Snyder and generally jerking him around throughout the broadcast. "Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting," Snyder said with quiet exasperation. "Humor me," Lydon replied. "Not for long," said Snyder. But if the on-the-air atmosphere was tense, things were considerably more hostile during the commercial breaks, with Lydon disparaging the show's set as "fucking stupid." At one point, according to a witness, Snyder called Lydon "a fucking asshole." "Why did you come on the show if you're not going to talk?" he asked. "You can leave if you want to." Lydon and Levene stayed, but to no apparent purpose. Afterward, Lydon contended that he'd been set up and was heard to describe Snyder as a "fucking cunt" and "a wanker." Snyder, however, may have had the last word: dismissing his difficult guests, he said, "It's unfortunate that we are all out of step but you."
TOM: "Now joining me are Mr. John Lydon, who used to be known as Johnny Rotten, and Mr. Keith Levene and they are both associated now in something which is called Public Image Limited."
TOM: "Is it limited or unlimited?"
KEITH: "It's limited."
TOM: "Limited. What is that? Is a band? Is it a public relations firm? What does it do and what is it?"
JOHN: "We ain't no band, we're a company. Simple. Nothing to do with rock 'n' roll. Doo dah."
TOM: "Doo dah. Okay, it's a company, not a band - simple. What kind of a company is it? What does it do?"
JOHN: "It's just a . . ."
KEITH: "It's a communications company."
KEITH: "It's a communications company."
TOM: "To facilitate communications, how?"
JOHN: "Videos, movies, sound-tracks for films, we hope, soon! Sometimes we perform live gigs, and that depends on how we feel. Just about anything that's available."
TOM: "When you perform a live gig, do you bring musical instruments to it?"
JOHN: "So far."
TOM: "Well, but you said it's not a band."
JOHN: "It's a company."
TOM: "Company. Would you rather not . . ."
JOHN: "Companies can mess about with musical instruments. There's no limits."
TOM: "Would you rather not talk about the company?"
KEITH: "No, I like to talk about it."
TOM: "I beg your pardon?"
JOHN: "This is why we are here!"
TOM: "Well, I want you to talk about it, and I've made five passes at it, and so far I'm not getting anywhere, and I . . ."
JOHN: "Well, surely you've studied your history of us. I mean, come on - prompt! Do your business."
KEITH: "We're jet-lagged."
JOHN: "Humour us."
TOM: "Well, ah, I've asked you what kind of a company it is, and you've said it's a company that deals in communications . . ."
JOHN: "Well, it's simple - right. We do anything that we're offered if it's worthwhile. So, like, at the moment, me and Keith want to dabble with film sound-tracks."
TOM: "Dabble with film sound-tracks. What does that mean? I don't know what that is."
KEITH: "Well... we started off... with Public Image Limited... we didn't want to be, or have anything to do with rock 'n' roll... So... we thought being in a band and doing gigs... wouldn't be the thing to do."
JOHN: "I'll have a cig."
TOM: "Would you like a cig?"
KEITH: "We ended up doing an American tour."
JOHN: "I'll find a way to your hearts, yet, though - I'll tell ya!"
KEITH: "We ended up doing an American tour, which, umm... definitely prompted us to stop... the band side of it, and concentrate on the company side of things."
TOM: "Both you and John have said that you don't want this to have anything to do with rock 'n' roll. Why do you dislike rock 'n' roll so much?"
JOHN: "It's dead. It's a disease. It's a plague. It's been going on for too long. It's history. It's vile. It's not achieving anything, it's just regression. They play rock 'n' roll at airports. It's about as like advanced as it can possibly get!"
TOM: "But there was a . . ."
JOHN: "It's too limited."
TOM: "But there was a time when you didn't feel that way!"
JOHN: "It is too much like a structure, a church."
TOM: "Yeah, but there was . . ."
JOHN: "A religion. A farce."
TOM: "A time when you did not feel that way! What made you change your mind?"
JOHN: "No, I've always felt this way."
TOM: "Even when you were with the Sex Pistols?"
JOHN: "I wondered when you'd get round to that one! Yes, even then! Because the Sex Pistols was going to be the absolute end of rock 'n' roll, which I thought it was. Unfortunately, the majority of the public, being the senile animals that they are, got that wrong. Too bad. All's I want is an image - something flash."
TOM: "Where did the name The Sex Pistols come from? Who thought that name up?"
JOHN: "Some animal, I can't remember. It doesn't matter. It's history."
TOM: "Well, I think history matters a little bit! When you say 'some animal,' was this a member of the band that made it . . ."
JOHN: "History does not matter. I mean, your program's called Tomorrow - there must be a reason behind that!"
TOM: "Well, unless we remember our yesterdays, there will be no tomorrows."
KEITH: "Getting back to Public Image."
TOM: "I beg your pardon?"
KEITH: "Getting back to PiL."
TOM: "Oh, to Public Image."
KEITH: "Yeah, we were saying we learned from our yesterdays, and our recent American tour... that it was embarrassing to go on stage and do gigs. Cause, um, it's... it seems to be an old fashioned format to go on stage with guitars and... play loud music. I mean, I'm definitely into loud, annoying music, but, um... like, um, getting back to the communications side of things. The people that we are communicating to . . ."
JOHN: "Instead of, like . . ."
KEITH: " . . .is just the wrong people."
JOHN: "A concept these days is a bunch of gits on a stage with all these idiots down in the pits, worshipping them - thinking they're heroes. There should be no difference between who's on stage and who's in the audience. And we've tried very hard to break down those barriers, but it's not working! So we have to think again So in the meantime, we'll put our attentions somewhere else."
TOM: "Can I ask you what you did to try to break down the barriers between the people on stage and in the audience? Some of the things?"
KEITH: "We were totally honest with them! We went on stage and we were totally honest. We weren't - we weren't saying, 'Look at me! I'm great! I'm a superstar!' And we weren't saying particularly anything. We were going on there and playing our music. And anything could have happened when we went on stage."
JOHN: "And it did!"
KEITH: "And it did happen! But we were totally honest with our audience. And the reactions we got... which, uh... we got about four years ago in England, or the Sex Pistols got, and various other punk bands... were the reactions we got in America."
JOHN: "That's the trouble with America, it is so regressive! So backwards!"
KEITH: "John said something in an interview, everyone's really preoccupied with going backwards; and I think... the reason... that it's a good idea not to be a rock 'n' roll band, and to concentrate or direct our energies as a company is because."
(John and Tom start speaking at the same time. Quite improbable to hear what is being said.)
TOM: "Excuse me for talking while you were interrupting. I have to do a couple of commercials here."
John: "Humour me!"
TOM: "Not for long with this fascinating discussion right after these announcements. Isn't this fun, gang?"
TOM: "Back now with John and Keith who are with Public Image Limited. You know, it's been so long that I've almost forgotten where we were when we were at it!"
JOHN: "Uh, you went into a bit of a tantrum as I likely remember."
TOM: "Oh, yes I did."
JOHN: "You want to hear about us. Right. We have record commitments with Warner Brothers in America and Virgin for the rest of the world. We will, of course, oblige them, but, in the meantime, there is the possibility of us doing a sound-track to a film in Hollywood. This interests us greatly."
TOM: "What are . . ."
JOHN: "We are not a band, we are a company. We have many interests. We are also making our own film in England right now at this very moment."
TOM: "The music that you will do for the record companies that you mentioned. How will this music differ from what we thought was rock 'n' roll?"
JOHN: "It's no more of that twelve-bar ditty, waving hair in the breeze, platform boots, flap your flair nonsense. It's not a packaged image of third-rate idiots. It's not a pose. We just do our stuff, hated as it usually is. I was very shocked by the reviews of the last album. I believe none of them. I think they liked us for the wrong reasons."
TOM: "Well you told me all the things..."
JOHN: "Trendy reasons. Can I have a cigarette again, please?"
TOM: "Ah, yeah, if you'll just..."
JOHN: "This won't cause an argument now?"
TOM: "No, of course not, but you told me all the things that your music is not, but you didn't tell me what it is!"
JOHN: "I don't know what it is."
TOM: "Oh, well that's probably the reason why you didn't..."
JOHN: "It doesn't matter. It doesn't need a title anymore! It doesn't need a bracket, a category or any of those things."
JOHN: "As I have said, it is not the Church."
TOM: "Well, let's go to some questions for John and Keith from our viewers. Can I ask you a question sent in by one of the viewers?"
JOHN: "It's bound to be awful, come on."
TOM: "No, as a matter of fact, it's, I think you'll find it's an interesting question. I hope you'll find it's an interesting question."
JOHN: "All right."
TOM: "If it isn't, we'll throw the question away. Is that okay?"
JOHN: "Go on."
TOM: "'Could you please ask John the following question when he's on your show: regarding a song on the Second Edition album, what is The Chant? It's been driving us crazy.' This is signed by some viewers in Indianapolis, Indiana. There's the question right there. What is the chant? It's driving us crazy."
JOHN: "Well, Keith, what's the chant?"
TOM: "Well, gang, out there in Indianapolis, there's your answer! You've been going crazy for it now for months, and you got the answer! That's fantastic! What an answer!"
JOHN: "It's a ditty!! Simple as that. Hate it or love it."
TOM: "You really don't care what your audiences thinks of you, do you?"
JOHN: "No. It doesn't matter. It's irrelevant."
TOM: "What is relevant?"
JOHN: "Just us getting on with what we want to do. If people appreciate it, that's fine; but we're certainly not going to condescend. Too bad if that makes us look like snot-nosed little gits; but that's probably what we are. At least we're doing it. This ain't no armchair outfit. I mean, you seem confused by the fact that."
TOM: "I'm very confused, John - I'll tell you."
JOHN: "We don't want to be a band - we are a company."
TOM: "No John, let me tell ya . . ."
JOHN: "But I mean, you look at any business - how many interests do they have? You take EMI Records. You look at what they're connected to. You can drag them into Golden Egg restaurants, even supplying arms to South Africa! I mean the list is long."
KEITH: "We're into positive interests."
TOM: "Let me try this: what do you like? I mean, I've heard you tell about a lot of things you don't like; what do you like?"
KEITH: "In terms of what?"
TOM: "In terms of 'The World."
JOHN: "Not very much!"
TOM: "Ah, well, could he answer it, then?"
JOHN: "But that's not my fault!"
KEITH: "No, I don't think I could. Not offhand. Not without having to think about it for a long time. Um, what do I like?"
JOHN: "Being allowed to get on with it without record company hassles. They seem as confused as you do about us. That's just unfortunate."
TOM: "Well, it is unfortunate that, uh . . ."
JOHN: "See, we're not very intellectual, we just do it."
KEITH: "I know. I only know what I don't like."
TOM: "You only know what you don't like."
KEITH: "Yeah, but I'm a very easygoing chap."
JOHN: "We're looking for that shining star, somewhere up there!"
TOM: "Well, it's unfortunate that we are all . . ."
JOHN: "Somewhere over the rainbow!"
TOM: "It's unfortunate that we are all out of step except for you. I wish that something could be done."
JOHN: "This is what I've been telling the world for about five, six years now. I wish you'd all grow up."
TOM: "Well, I hope we do."
JOHN: "Oh, it was great watching Carter, and his boat, not being able to land in Venice. Oh I was impressed!"
KEITH: "Yeah, that's something John liked."
TOM: "John and Keith, it's been really interesting."
JOHN: "I liked watching Carter fall down."
TOM: "Interesting having you on tonight."
JOHN: "The steps of his plane."
TOM: "Interesting having you on tonight. One of the most interesting moments in my life."
KEITH: "I'm sure it could be."
TOM: "Well, as I say, it's unfortunate that we're all out of step except you. Too bad."
JOHN: "We'll be your shoes!"
TOM: "Yeah, maybe that. We'll continue after these announcements from the NBC television stations. Come back.
Now for those people that would like a full transcript of tonight's show, with, ah, with footnotes, you send ten cents to me and I will try to return the transcript to you. I don't understand that, but they'll probably make a million dollars with it - and that's, that's showbiz. What a night, huh? The interesting part is, is that we talked to these two gentlemen a couple of weeks ago, a pre-interview, apparently that went all just fine and it made great sense, and what I read about them this afternoon, but somehow it got a little lost in translation tonight. But that's probably my fault."