Keith Levene, Public Image Ltd guitarist has passed away, the influential musician who also played a part in The Clash was 65. The news was broken by author, writer and friend Adam Hammond, who revealed that Levene died on Friday (November 11th) – “It is with great sadness I report that my close friend and legendary Public Image Limited guitarist Keith Levene passed away on Friday 11th November,” Hammond wrote. “There is no doubt that Keith was one of the most innovative, audacious and influential guitarists of all time.” and then went on to post “Keith sought to create a new paradigm in music and with willing collaborators John Lydon and Jah Wobble succeeded in doing just that. His guitar work over the nine minutes of ‘Theme’, the first track on the first PiL album, defined what alternative music should be. As well as helping to make PiL the most important band of the age, Keith also founded The Clash with Mick Jones and had a major influence on their early sound. So much of what we listen to today owes much to Keith’s work, some of it acknowledged, most of it not. Our thoughts and love go out to his partner Kate, sister Jill and all of Keith’s family and friends. The world is a darker place without his genius. Mine will be darker without my mate.”
Known for his love of prog, at fifteen he worked as a roadie for Yes on their Close to the Edge tour before becoming what was, without a doubt, a vital cog in the the big post-punk experimental music machine (I always considered PiL a brilliant prog rock band). He played a big part in founding The Clash in 1976 alongside Mick Jones, famously persuading Joe Strummer to leave his then band, The 101ers, and join the the nnew outfit. Levene actually left The Clash before they began recording music and then surfaced again to form the absolutely underrated Public Image Ltd with John Lydon and company after Lydon’s departure from the by then falling apart Sex Pistols. After some absolutely vital releases he left the always evolving PiL line up in 1983, those albums he made with Public Image surely have to be seen as some of the most important of the time, his and PiL’s influence was massive, it may not always have been acknowledged but it really was. Post Public Image, he went on to record solo material, worked as a producer, did things with Pigface as well as others…. On a personal note I recall writing, as a young art student, an end of term dissertation, somewhere in the mid 80’s about how important PiL were, I got ridiculed for it it, I think time has proved I was more right (although I did write it usung vatious green felt tip pens), always did love PiL!
Sad to be writing this so soon after writing about the passing of Nik Turner, once again, our thoughts are with Keith’s friends and family, another fine legacy/ R.I.P Keith Levine.