|Day 85: Big Audio Dynamite II (Rush)
July 20, 2020
The best punk musicians' careers were abbreviated. No, I don't mean Sid Vicious dead at 21, or even the Sex Pistols with their one album. No, I mean, two of the greatest punks moved from what made them famous, Johnny Rotten from The Sex Pistols, and Mick Jones from The Clash, to form bands better known by their initials. Rotten shed his rotten-ness, reverted to his birth name, John Lydon, and formed Public Image, Ltd, recording 10 albums while the band became known as PIL. Jones, meanwhile, skidaddled on Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon and The Clash, to form Big Audio Dynamite, creating almost as many albums as PIL under the acronym BAD.
Makes you wonder if they wanted to hide behind the acronyms. In the case of Jones, he seemed in a bit of a rush to distance himself from his punk roots.
Jones had significant musical cred for a punk, having been in a glam rock band and straight R&B group before The Clash, and while Lydon's work with PIL shows a maturity never offered through the Pistols, Jones took BAD to some interesting places no one else was willing to go. 1986's "E=MC2" established Big Audio Dynamite as one of the most innovative bands of the 1980's.
"Rush" took much of the innovation of "E=MC2" and mainstreamed it a little more. Instead of multiple movie samples, "Rush" employs basically one. While both songs tended to have more changes than a vaudeville act, "Rush" pretty much contained its changes to its bridge section, but we'll cross that when we get to it (did I really need 85 days to finally write that groaner?).
The chorus of "Rush" articulates perfectly what Jones and Lydon must have felt by being so identifiable with punk: "Situation no win/rush for a change of atmosphere/I can't go on/so I give in/gotta get myself right out of here." Punk was self-fulfilling prophecy, as only losers could be punks, and all punks were losers. More than Lydon, Jones struggled to be seen as a loser. He got quite a few victories under his belt while with his punk band, broke Top 40 charts with songs that didn't have to be censored, "Train In Vain" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" most notably; got the girl, Ellen Foley, the hot singer/actress in the early 1980's; and produced records for Foley, Ian Hunter, and Theatre of Hate. Even though the story is that The Clash kicked him out in 1983 or 1984, he may have embraced his new freedom.
Jones spent most of his career after 1984 rushing away from situations, whether no win or not. He co-formed General Public although he was out of there when their first album hit the stores, created Big Audio Dynamite, eventually stripped that band of all the original musicians, and formed Big Audio Dynamite II at the time of The Globe, the 1991 album with "Rush." Not liking the atmosphere, I suppose, a new line up led to the dropping of dynamite, first or second, from the group name, with the next album attributed to Big Audio. Then there was some band called Carbon/Silicone and too many of us probably lost track, which is too bad, because Jones might have been able to do a lot more if he had stayed in one place.
All of this is exactly why I do appreciate "Rush" so much: no regrets and complete acceptance of one's flaws, which leads to the song's keynote moment, Jones' mangled singing during the bridge, a moment more punk than anything he ever did with The Clash. That mockery of a vocal is embedded within a sampling of Peter Sellers from an old movie: "Mm, I wish I could sing like that/not everything's singing you know/the only important thing these days is rhythm and melody." The song's breakdown of rhythm versus melody at this point in the song is really catchy, pretty anti-freaking-punk, but may also serve to show just how artificial, perhaps even unnecessary, musical bridges are.
It probably doesn't matter since Jones keeps asserting, multiple times at the end, "gotta get myself right," with "outta here" presented almost as an afterthought. Jones has been rushing for over thirty years now. I wonder if he ever gets himself right.
"Rush." Big Audio Dynamite II. The Globe. 1991. Columbia. Link here.
Day 84: Aimee Mann "Deathly."
Day 85: Bob Geldof "The Great Song Of Indifference" ->
See full unfinished list here.