Blue Plate Special: Public Image Limited
Public Image Limited (PiL) is an English post-punk band formed in 1978 by John Lydon, former lead singer of the Sex Pistols. The initial lineup consisted of Lydon on vocals, Keith Levene on guitar, Jah Wobble on bass, and Jim Walker on drums. They released their debut album, “Public Image: First Issue,” in 1978, which was followed by several more critically acclaimed albums, including “Metal Box” and “Album.”
I became a fan of several of their singles from their mid-80’s albums ‘This Is What You Want…This Is What You Get’ and ‘Happy?’, and remember seeing them for the first time on American Bandstand with Dick Clark, of all places. PiL’s music is characterized by a blend of punk, dub, and experimental rock, with Lydon’s distinctive vocals and politically charged lyrics. The band went through several lineup changes over the years, with Lydon being the only consistent member.
Despite their critical acclaim, PiL’s commercial success was limited, and the band went on hiatus in 1992. They reformed in 2009 and have since released several more albums, including “This is PiL” and “What the World Needs Now.” Throughout their career, PiL has been credited with influencing a wide range of artists in various genres, including alternative rock, industrial, and trip-hop. They are regarded as one of the most innovative and influential bands of the post-punk era.
Some of my favorites from their catalog:
Seattle – from the album Happy? (1987)
Probably their most commercially successful single.
Public Image – from the album Public Image: First Issue (1978)
Post-punk at its finest. I love Keith Levene’s guitars on this.
The Order of Death – from the album This Is What You Want…This Is What You Get (1984)
Such a great background song. I used to add this to just about every tape mix that I’d make for friends and family. Sounds like a movie soundtrack. Epic.
Rise – from the album Album (1986)
This song reminds me of my freshman year at university when this song was released and could be heard a few times a day on any college radio station. A classic that is, in my mind, one of the best songs of the decade.
This Is Not A Love Song – from the album This Is What You Want…This Is What You Get (1984)
Several different versions of this song with different pacing and tuning. This video seems like an earlier edit and more raw than later versions. Still really good. Here is the album version for comparison. Much more polished.
Careering – from the album Metal Box (1979)
Musically, this sounds almost like a Bauhaus song with cryptic guitar layers over a David J bassline…but with Johnny Rotten on vocals.
Disappointed – from the album 9 (1989)
I remember this song getting a lot of airplay on college radio at the time. Musically much more mature than earlier records, and John almost actually singing.
The Body – from the album Happy? (1987)
One of my favorite songs from my favorite PiL albums. As with the rest of this album, a more polished sound as they move from punk into more of the modern music sound.