"The way we see things is affected by what we know and what we believe," wrote John Berger in Ways of Seeing. "The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled."
"You could only take the punk thing so far. You had to try to listen to new things. I'm talking about the influence of PiL. 'Death Disco' had a reggae bassline, disco drumming, 'Swan Lake' on the guitar and then Lydon singing lyrics about his mother dying. It's the most bizarre mix up. It's inspirational really."
Public Image Ltd (abbreviated as PiL) are an English post-punk band formed by singer John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), guitarist Keith Levene, bassist Jah Wobble, and drummer Jim Walker. Lydon has been the sole constant member.
Following the breakup of the Sex Pistols, Lydon was eager to pursue a more experimental project and formed PiL in 1978. Later that year, the group released its debut First Issue (1978), featuring an abrasive, bass-heavy sound and drawing on elements of dub, noise, and progressive rock. Their second album Metal Box (1979) pushed their sound further into the avant-garde, and is often regarded as among the most influential and challenging albums of the post-punk era.
Public Image: First Issue (1978)
The photography for the album was shot by Dennis Morris who also created the iconic PiL logo.
"PiL was the simple thing of four different people doing different drugs at different times," Wobble observed to Select. "It was only in any way together for the first two months of its existence. We had a fuckin' good drummer called Jim Walker, but he fucked off after a few months [in early 1979] and it just fell apart. Somehow it had sort of death throes that produced a couple of blinding albums."
I've had questions asked of me as direct as 'What do you think of the fact that The Edge ripped off your sound?' and I just say 'Good luck to him'. Some people say 'A lot of people use your sound. Do you resent their position as opposed to yours?' Actually I don't, I put it down to good taste.
"'Public Image', despite what most of the press seemed to misinterpret it to be, is not about the fans at all, it's a slagging of the group I used to be in. It's what I went through from my own group. They never bothered to listen to what I was fucking singing, they don't even know the words to my songs. They never bothered to listen, it was like, 'Here's a tune, write some words to it.' So I did. They never questioned it. I found that offensive, it meant I was literally wasting my time, 'cause if you ain't working with people that are on the same level then you ain't doing anything. The rest of the band and Malcolm never bothered to find out if I could sing, they just took me as an image. It was as basic as that, they really were as dull as that. After a year of it they were going 'Why don't you have your hair this colour this year?' And I was going 'Oh God, a brick wall, I'm fighting a brick wall!' They don't understand even now."
Metal Box The title of Metal Box refers to its original packaging, which consisted of a metal 16mm film canister embossed with the band's logo and containing three 12" 45rpm records. It was designed by Dennis Morris and was innovative and inexpensive, costing little more to the label than the cost of standard printed sleeves for equivalent 12" releases (although Virgin did ask for a refund of 1/3 of the band's advance due to the cost). Before the metal tin was finalised, there was discussion of the album being released in a sandpaper package that would effectively ruin the sleeve art of any records shelved next to it. That idea would later be realised by the Durutti Column for their 1980 Factory Records debut, The Return of the Durutti Column.
The album's lack of accessibility extended to the discs themselves. Packed tightly inside the canister and separated by paper sheets, they were difficult to remove, and were prone to being nicked and scratched in the process. Since each side only contained about ten minutes of music, the listener was required frequently to change sides to hear the complete album.
"The abrasive textures and powerful sounds they discovered...would influence all manner of experimental music for decades to come", while describing it as "cold dank, unforgiving, subterranean."
The Flowers of Romance is the third studio album by English experimental rock band Public Image Ltd, released on 10 April 1981 by record label Virgin.
The first studio album recorded since the departure of founding bassist Jah Wobble, The Flowers of Romance found PiL delving further into an experimental sound. Flowers was recorded mainly by singer John Lydon and guitarist Keith Levene, both of whom made heavy use of percussion and various tape and processing effects.
The title of the album makes reference to The Flowers of Romance, an early punk band of which Keith Levene (as well as Sid Vicious) was a member. "The Flowers of Romance" was also the title of an early Sex Pistols song.
The cover photograph is of the band's videographer, Jeannette Lee. Regarding "Flowers of Romance", Lydon comments: "The romance referred to is not being romantic, but alludes to people romanticising over past events with their memories [...] What I'm on about is that I wanted to move on and carry on with trying to create new things.” Levene recounts that Lydon "bowed the bass" on the track.
"Listening to that again reminded me of coming out of jail [after being arrested for alleged assault in 1980]," John Lydon told Select in 1990. "That's when I recorded it. I left Dublin and went straight into the studio for two weeks solid: slept there, did everything myself, practically. No band; couldn't find Keith; more of less had to engineer the bloody thing myself cos the engineer there ran out going, 'That's impossible – you can't do that!' I did it. That particular song, I timed how long it would take me to turn the tape on, run into the studio and turn it all off. I had to rehearse that about 20 bloody times before I got it right!"
Live In Tokyo Live in Tokyo is a 1983 live album released by Public Image Ltd as a 2-EP 45 RPM set. Live in Tokyo was the world's first digitally recorded live album according to Martin Atkins and the band recorded the concerts specifically to use the new Japanese digital technology.
A challenging thin & distant audience recording of P.I.L.’s second ever live performance, copied from this European release called Extra Issue:
Mock up of a magazine cover ('PME' - Extra Issue, 26.12.78) Green, front cover features two b&w Dennis Morris Lydon photos, along with lettering "We only wanted to be loved", "Have a Rotten Christmas from the directors of PiL LTD." Back cover features b&w group photo, plus track listing. Labels feature black PiL logo label on A-side, and track listing on B-side - both taken directly from 'First Issue' and doctored to suit LP (ie: Vicious Records instead of Virgin Records).
The LP was later re-issued in a pink sleeve instead of green, with red PiL labels on each side.
The LP states it was issued in 1978, however, this would seem highly unlikely. The album is also "Dedicated to Sid Vicious", and that would make it impossible... Sleeve also states it is a special promotional only release, but of course it's a bootleg. Limited edition of 400?