Public Image Ltd. [Special]

Public Image Ltd. [Special]
Public Image Ltd (PiL) was the "company" formed by John Lydon (b. 31 January 1956, Finsbury Park, London, England) when he left behind both the Sex Pistols and his previous moniker, Johnny Rotten, in January 1978. With Lydon on vocals, classically trained pianist and early Clash guitarist Keith Levene on guitar, reggae-influenced bass player Jah Wobble (b. John Wardle, 1958, Stepney, London, England), and Canadian drummer Jim Walker (ex-Furies), the band was put together with the working title of the Carnivorous Buttock Flies.By the time the debut single - the epic "Public Image" - was released in its newspaper sleeve in September, they had adopted the less ridiculous name.

Their live debut followed in Brussels on 12 December, and they played the UK for the first time on Christmas Day. In January 1979, ex-101ers and Raincoats drummer Richard Dudanski replaced Walker, who went on to punk band the Straps. The Metal Box set came out later that year as a set of 12-inch records housed in tin "film" cans (it was later reissued as a normal album). One of the most radical and difficult albums of its era, its conception and execution was a remarkable blend of Lydon's antagonism and Levene's climatic guitar.

The single, "Death Disco", also reached the UK charts. With Dudanski leaving, Fall drummer Karl Burns was enlisted until Martin Atkins (b. 3 August 1959, Coventry, England) from Mynd, joined in time to tour the USA in the spring of 1980. A live album, Paris Au Printemps, was recorded, after which both Wobble and Atkins left. Wobble went on to record solo material and work briefly in 1987 for London Transport as a train guard, while Atkins formed Brian Brain. In May 1981, Lydon and Levene, augmented by hired musicians, played from behind an onstage screen at the New York Ritz. The crowd failed to grasp the concept and "bottled" the band. After Flowers Of Romance, Pete Jones (b. 22 September 1957) became bass player and Atkins returned on drums. Around this time subsidiary members Dave Crowe and Jeanette Lee, who had been with the band since the beginning in business roles, both departed and the group started a new era as Lydon decided to settle in Los Angeles. In 1983 Jones left as the hypnotic "This Is Not A Love Song" became a Top 5 hit, and Levene also departed as it was climbing the chart.

In a relatively quiet period when Lydon collaborated with Afrika Bambaataa on the Time Zone single "World Destruction', PiL released only the 1984 album This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get, and another set of live recordings from foreign fields. Lydon also made his first feature film appearance in Order Of Death (1983). PiL returned to the forefront with 1986"s Album, from which came "Single" aka "Rise", featuring the drumming talents of Ginger Baker. The album included numerous guest/session musicians such as Steve Vai, Ryûichi Sakamoto and Tony Williams. The next year, Lydon assembled a permanent band once again, this time drawing on guitarists John McGeoch (b. 28 May 1955, Greenock, Strathclyde, Scotland, d. 4 March 2004, London, England; ex-Magazine, Siouxsie And The Banshees) and Lu Edmunds, American bass player Allan Dias, and drummer Bruce Smith. Edmunds was forced to leave in 1989 because he was suffering from tinnitus (Ted Chau was a temporary replacement), and Smith left in 1990 as the band fell into inactivity once more. The three remaining members came back to life in 1990 when Virgin Records issued a Greatest Hits ... So Far compilation, confidently including the new single "Don't Ask Me" - Lydon's nod to the environmental problems of the world. PiL then recruited new drummer Mike Joyce (ex-Smiths; Buzzcocks), but Lydon concentrated more on his autobiography and other musical projects (such as the Leftfield collaboration "Open Up") than PiL in the 90s. He also released a critically derided solo album in 1997.

After several years and countless collaborators, Lydon has remained the enfant terrible of the music industry, a constant irritant, and occasional source of brilliance: "I've learnt to manipulate the music business. I have to deal with all kinds of stupid, sycophantic people. I've just learnt to understand my power. Everyone should learn that, otherwise they lose control".

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