“Who listened to the bass in rock music before Public Image?” - John Lydon

The Band

It has been said that Public Image Limited has had more line-ups than an Iranian firing squad...


"If you really want to know, I think the Sex Pistols failed . . . miserably . . . it was a bit embarrassing.
The other people in the band never understood what I was singing about." - Johnny Rotten

After the Sex Pistols crashed and burned, John Lydon rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the punk behemoth to create the experimentalist post-punk band PiL. The goal of the band, in Lydon's own words was "anti-music of any kind" on account that he was "tired of melody." The name of the band itself is tied intimately to the tragedy of the Sex Pistols as Lydon recounts:

"Poor Sid. The only way he could live up to what he wanted everyone to believe about him was to die.
That was tragic, but more for Sid than anyone else. He really bought his public image."

In other words, the name of the band means exactly this, "Our image is limited." With that, Lydon rescinded all ties with the Sex Pistols, furthermore, PiL's debut single, Public Image was an attack on the Pistols and their manager Malcom McClaren (who fired Lydon after a show at San Francisco's Winterland in January 1978).

Other Ramblings

The line-up that I listed at the top of this write-up is hardly complete, yet it does include the three founding members of PiL (before everyone hopped in and out of the band like a revolving door with Lydon holding the whole thing together). The band released their best work during the time that those three were working together - end of story. That said, 1980's Paris au Printemps (never released Stateside) is the formulation of the band's past formlessness, "which is to say that if they could reproduce their apparently inchoate, unpremeditated music letter-perfect live (and they could), then it wasn't really orderless or even all that experimental. Yet it was visceral" (Gilmore 155). Two nights in Paris, in spring, represent the greatest moment of their more than decade run.

LP Discography (UK)

  • Public Image - First Edition (12/78)
    1. Theme
    2. Religion I
    3. Religion II
    4. Annalisa
    5. Public Image
    6. Low Life
    7. Attack
    8. Fodderstompf
  • Metal Box (11/79) Came packaged as three 12" 45's in a film canister.
    1. Albatross
    2. Memories
    3. Swan Lake (Death Disco)
    4. Poptones
    5. Careering
    6. No Birds Do Sing
    7. Graveyard ('Another' inst)
    8. The Suit
    9. Bad Baby
    10. Socialist
    11. Chant
    12. Radio 4
  • Second Edition (2/80)
    1. Albatross
    2. Memories
    3. Swan Lake
    4. Poptones
    5. Careering
    6. Socialist
    7. Graveyard
    8. The Suit
    9. Bad Baby
    10. No Birds Do Sing
    11. Chant
    12. Radio 4
  • Paris au Printemps (11/80) Recorded live at The Palace, Paris, France on January 17th & 18th, 1980.
    1. Theme
    2. Psalmodie (Chant)
    3. Precipitamment (Careering)
    4. Sale Bebe (Bad Baby)
    5. La Vie Ignoble (Low Life)
    6. Attaque (Attack)
    7. Timbres de Pop (Poptones)
  • Flowers of Romance (4/81)
    1. Four Enclosed Walls
    2. Track 8
    3. Phenagen
    4. Flowers of Romance
    5. Under the House
    6. Hymies Him
    7. Banging the Door
    8. Go Back
    9. Francis Massacre
  • Live in Tokyo (9/83) Recorded live at Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo, Japan on July 1st & 2nd, 1983.
    1. Annalisa
    2. Religion
    3. Low Life
    4. Solitaire
    5. Flowers of Romance
    6. This is Not a Love Song
    7. Death Disco
    8. Bad Life
    9. Banging the Door
    10. Under the House
  • Commercial Zone (11/83)
    1. Love Song
    2. Mad Max (Bad Life)
    3. Bad Night
    4. Solitaire
    5. The Slab (The Order Of Death)
    6. Lou Reed Pt 1
    7. Lou Reed Pt 2 (Where Are You)
    8. Blue Water
    9. Miller Hi-Life
  • This is What You Want... This is What You Get (7/84)
    1. Bad Life
    2. This is Not a Love Song (re-recorded version)
    3. Solitaire
    4. Tie Me to the Length of That
    5. The Pardon
    6. Where Are You
    7. 1981
    8. The Order of Death
  • Album (2/86)
    1. FFF
    2. Rise
    3. Fishing
    4. Round
    5. Bags
    6. Home
    7. Ease
  • Happy ? (9/87)
    1. Seattle
    2. Rules and Regulations
    3. The Body
    4. Save Me
    5. Hard Times
    6. Open and Revolving
    7. Angry
    8. Fat Chance Hotel
    9. Save Me (instrumental)
  • 9 (5/89)
    1. Happy
    2. Disappointed
    3. Warrior
    4. U.S.L.S. 1
    5. Sand Castles in the Snow
    6. Worry
    7. Brave New World
    8. Like That
    9. Same Old Story
    10. Armada
  • The Greatest Hits So Far (10/90)
    1. Pubilc Image
    2. Death Disco (7" mix)
    3. Memories
    4. Careering
    5. Flowers of Romance
    6. This Is Not a Love Song (LP Version)
    7. Rise (Bob Clearmountain remix)
    8. Home
    9. Seattle
    10. The Body (UK 12" remix)
    11. Rules and Regulations
    12. Disappointed (12" mix)
    13. Warrior (Dave Dorrell remix)
    14. Don't Ask Me
  • That What Is Not (2/92)
    1. Acid Drops
    2. Lucks Up
    3. Cruel
    4. God
    5. Covered
    6. Love Hope
    7. Unfairground
    8. Think Tank
    9. Emperor
    10. Good Things

See also: Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire if your post-punk palate is salivating yet.



Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll by Mikal Gilmore

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