Following the Sex Pistols' breakup in 1978, Lydon approached Jah Wobble ( John Wardle) about forming a band together. The pair had been friends since attending the same school in the early 1970s, and had sometimes played music together during the final days of the Sex Pistols. Both had similarly broad musical tastes, and were avid fans of reggae and world music. Lydon also approached guitarist Keith Levene, with whom he had toured in mid-1976, while Levene was a member of The Clash. Jim Walker, a Canadian student newly arrived in the UK, was recruited on drums, after answering an ad placed in Melody Maker.
PiL began rehearsing together in May 1978, although the band was still unnamed. In July 1978, Lydon officially named the band "Public Image" (the "Ltd." was added several months later). PiL debuted in October 1978 with "Public Image", a song written while Lydon was still a member of Sex Pistols. The single was well received and reached number 9 on the UK charts. In preparing their debut album, Public Image, the band spent their recording budget well before the record was completed. As a result, the final album comprised eight tracks of varying sound quality, half of which were written and recorded in a rush after the money had run out. The album was considered groundbreaking on its release in December 1978. Grounded in heavy dub reggae, Wobble's bass tone was called "impossibly deep" by contemporary reviews. Levene's sharp guitar sound, played on an aluminium Veleno guitar, was to become widely imitated.
The album Metal Box (1979) was a more focused effort. In addition to the drugs and disorganization that were the normal condition of the band, Jim Walker had quit from general disillusionment, making way for a series of drummers. Metal Box was originally released as three untitled 12-inch records packaged in a metal film canister (later reissued as 2LP set, Second Edition), and features the band's trademark hypnotic dub reggae bass lines, glassy, arpeggiated guitar, and bleak, paranoid, stream of consciousness vocals.
The third album, not released in the U.S., was the live Paris au Printemps (1980). Lydon and Levene, plus hired musicians, made up the group by that time. Martin Atkins, who had initially joined at the tail end of the Metal Box sessions was re-recruited to drum on Flowers of Romance, an album considered much stranger and more difficult than the already strange Metal Box. Levene had by then largely abandoned guitar in favour of synthesizer. Levene being incapacitated on heroin much of the time -- had to leave. The aborted fourth album recorded in 1982, was later released by Levene as Commercial Zone. Lydon and Atkins claim Levene stole the master tapes. In 1983, PiL scored its biggest U.K. hit, when "This Is Not a Love Song" , by this time, PIL was a vehicle for John Lydon. Atkins stayed on through a live album, Live in Tokyo -- in which PiL consisted of him, Lydon, and a band of session musicians -- and left in 1984, following the release of This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get.
Anyone's first thousand guesses as to who Lydon would work with next couldn't possibly come close, as the unlisted credits for Album read as a motley crew of established musicians who literally have no business being anywhere near Lydon, let alone in a studio with him or with one another. Well, maybe that made perfect sense, given Lydon's ability to baffle. Bill Laswell--whom he worked with in Time Zone the year before--produced and played bass, which isn't too much of a stretch. But Steve Vai, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ginger Baker ? With its emphasis on big guitars and big drums, Album was written off by some as PiL going stadium rock, but others remarked that Lydon's confrontational lyrics and caterwaul vocals, and the abundance of Eastern-style melodies, helped steer this album away from the realm of conventional 80s metal. The album is rife with surprising and very effective musical flourishes: never is this more evident than on the closing "Ease," a beautiful, monumental mood/rock piece with synth, sitar, didgeridoo and a Steve Vai guitar solo.
In the liner notes of PiL's Plastic Box compilation (1999), John Lydon remarked that "In some ways . Obviously the most important person was Bill Laswell. But it was during the recording of this album in New York that Miles Davis came into the studio while I was singing, stood behind me and started playing. Later he said that I sang like he played the trumpet, which is still the best thing anyone's ever said to me. To be complimented by the likes of him was special. Funnily enough we didn't use him..."
PiL released Happy? in 1987, and during the spring of 1988 performed throughout the United States as part of the INXS Kick tour. The album was less well received by critics than its immediate predecessor, but still produced the classic single "Seattle" In 1989, PiL toured with New Order and The Sugarcubes as "The Monsters of Alternative Rock". PiL's ninth album, 9, appeared earlier that year. The album was produced by Stephen Hague, Eric "ET" Thorngren, the band, and not as planned by Vigin, Bill Laswell. In 1990, PiL released the compilation album The Greatest Hits, So Far. The band's last album to date, 1991's That What Is Not, saw Atkins also returning to play on the recorded album, but did not remain for the subsequent tour. Lydon disbanded the group a year later after Virgin records refused to pay for the tour supporting the album, and Lydon had to pay for it out of his own pocket. After completing his memoirs in late 1993, Lydon decided to put an end to PiL and pursue a solo career. In 1997 he released a solo album, Psycho's Path.
Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box (now in Flac 363mb)
A1 Albatross (10:32)
B1 Memories (5:05)
B2 Swan Lake (4:19)
C1 Poptones (7:45)
C2 Careering (4:32)
D1 No Birds (4:43)
D2 Graveyard (3:07)
E1 The Suit (3:29)
E2 Bad Baby (4:30)
F1 Socialist (3:10)
F2 Chant (5:01)
F3 Radio 4 (4:25)
Public Image Ltd. - This Is Not A Love Song (37mb)
A1 This Is Not A Love Song (4:27)
A2 Blue Water (3:46)
B1 This Is Not A Love Song (Re-Remixed Version) (4:27)
B2 Public Image (2:58)
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