Public Image Limited Album

“I like everything on this album. I really, really do think it’s a record you need to play from start to finish. You can see with the titles of the songs they’re just one name things: Round, Fishing, Rise.
They are simple little things. I like it like that; Album is supposed to be played as a piece altogether. It is one big, solid mass.
People used to listen to music rather than bitty two minutes and thirty seconds of this, or thirty seconds of that. You’ve have to have the patience to sit down and really let Album spin in your head. You have to let your own ideas take over because that’s what music really is for. It’s to teach people how to exercise their brain.”
John Lydon

In 1978 John Lydon crawled from the wreckage of the Sex Pistols to form Public Image Ltd along with guitarist Keith Levene and Jah Wobble. PiL were described in the NME as arguably the first post rock group earning their reputation as early innovators by successfully fusing krautrock with dub reggae. The line up often changed but John Lydon always remained its driving force. PiL’s first release, called First Issue, was certified silver while Metal Box and The Flowers of Romance were critically acclaimed. It was the band’s fifth album, however, which was called simply Album, that earned them their stripes. The record was issued in February 1986 and was recorded at the Power Station, Quadrasonic RPM and Electric Lady Studios in New York and was produced by John Lydon and Bill Laswell.

Lydon used session musicians because he didn’t think his live band was good enough to bring these songs to life. Steve Vai, Tony Williams, Ginger Baker, and Ryuichi Sakamoto played alongside Lydon and Laswell, providing tight, powerful performances throughout. The album stayed in the UK album charts for six weeks reaching number fourteen and still stands as an example of lead singer / song writer Lydon’s willingness to take risks and challenge the public’s perceptions. It featured an epic, heavily-produced sound that represented the realisation of Lydon’s creative vision for Public Image Limited.

Public Image Ltd’s most commercially successful release, Album, drew a mixed reception. Critics viewed it as the moment in which the former punk leader of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon, finally sold out. He was no longer the spokesman for a generation; no longer the sneering, fingers-up anti-hero of 1977 legend. Lydon united with the most unlikely group of musicians of his career: he famously called them ‘old guys with beards and long hair’. Cream drummer Ginger Baker and shred guitarist Steve Vai were the antithesis of all things punk. Yet they gave him the precision that he required to make good his musical vision. Album featured Lydon’s most melodic and memorable song of all time, Rise, with its delightful arpeggio and shuffling beat; a curious marriage of rock with Celtic folk. Elsewhere, Lydon was driving and defiant, playfully experiment with heavy metal, among other things. Lyrically, Lydon took no prisoners. Each song was a sonic middle finger to the world.


John Lydon / Phil Strongman, Author / Dr Paul Long, Birmingham School of Media / Bruce Smith, drummer for Public Image / Tim Wall, Professor of Popular Music / Presenter; Ian Camfield /Assistant Producers; Oliver Carter / Exec. Producers; Andy Ashton, Mike Walsh