a 40 year timeline of PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, the band everyone’s heard of but knows almost nothing about.
1978: The beginning of PiL
Less than a year after the Sex Pistols split, John Lydon found himself back in the studio with PiL claiming: “We’re not a band we’re a business.” The new band includes Keith Levene on guitar, Jah Wobble on bass and Jim Walker on drums. PiL is a far more experimental outlet for Lydon and their debut album ‘First Issue’ is released in December.
1979: The band’s second album ‘Metal Box’ is released, pushing their sound to the avant-garde. Today it’s considered one of the most important albums of post-punk.
1980: PiL release their first live LP ‘Paris au Printemps’ which ends up being their last album to feature Jah Wobble. All song titles on the album sleeve are translated into French alongside artwork painted by Lydon.
1981: ‘The Flowers of Romance’ LP is released, named after Sid Vicious’ first band. Within the band, in fighting bubbles up and Jah Wobble leaves ahead of the recording. The album has a noticeable lack of bass parts but is praised for its drum sound and Lydon’s expressive lyrics.
1982: PiL begin recording a fourth album which is aborted. Levene later releases the recordings as ‘Commercial Zone’ in 1984.
1983: PiL release one of the first digital live albums ever recorded, ‘Live In Tokyo’ whilst ‘This is Not a Love Song’ becomes their biggest hit single, reaching No. 5 in the UK singles chart.
1984: Levene leaves the band due to drug addiction. Fourth album ‘This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get’ is released with the band’s sound morphing into a Lydon solo project.
1985: Atkins leaves and the band is down to John Lydon alongside session musicians.
1986: ‘Rise’ reaches 11 in the UK chart and to tour, Lydon brings in guitarist John McGreoch (Souxsie and the Banshees), world music multi-instrumentalist and former Damned guitarist Lu Edmunds, bassist Allan Dias and former drummer of The Pop Group and The Slits, Bruce Smith.
1987: ‘Happy?’ LP is released. Lydon summarises the album: “It captures a doom, death and destruction feel about it, very crunchy, tanks rolling, very military in its approach.”
1988: PiL hit the road for the ‘Kick’ Tour, in support of INXS in the USA.
1989: PiL tour with New Order and The Sugarcubes under the secret name ‘The Monsters of Alternative Rock’. They release ‘9’, their seventh studio album and ninth release including their two live albums.
1990: John Lydon acts in Richard Stanley’s movie ‘Hardware’ and the soundtrack heavily features PiL’s song ‘The Order of Death’, from the album ‘This is What You Want…This is What You Get’.
The band also release the album ‘Greatest Hits…So Far’ featuring one new song, about the environment called ‘Don’t Ask Me’.
1992: After 14 years, 10 album releases, tours and line-up changes, the band decide to call it a day. They release one final record, ‘That What Is Not’.
1996: John Lydon reforms with the Sex Pistols and play a concert in Finsbury Park.
2009: After a 17 year hiatus, PiL get back together and hit the road for a UK tour. The new lineup features Lu Edmonds on guitar, Bruce Smith on drums and Scott Firth on bass and keyboards.
2012: The band release ‘This is PiL’, their first studio album in 20 years. This is the first album they’ve released on their own label ‘PiL Official’, all previous releases were on Virgin Records.
2015: PiL release another LP, ‘What The World Needs Now’. Lyrics like: “What the world needs now is another fuck off!” take the public by surprise, rekindling Lydon’s Sex Pistols fury and drawing added attention to the band.
2016: The band tour the UK, selling out shows across the country.
2017: PiL take a break from touring and release the documentary ‘The Public Image is Rotten’. John Lydon also releases a collection of his lyrics ‘Mr Rotten’s Songbook’ which proves to be very popular with fans. Lydon is denied entry for the Eurovision song contest as Ireland’s entry.
2018: This year, PiL are celebrating their 40th year with a huge anniversary tour across the UK.
Way Out Radio – A Brief History
Way Out Radio is a music brand dedicated to reviews, interviews and radio. The fire was lit in 2012 when we held our first event at The Queen Charlotte in Ramsgate and launched a fanzine. Poets and artists performed with Riskee and The Ridicule topping the bill. We also held a raffle and gave away a signed Buzzcocks t-shirt.
Led by music journalist, writer and drummer Paula Frost, the brand has gone from strength to strength over the years. We hosted a successful radio show on Kane FM for five years and undertook a world tour in 2017-18 meeting fans and bands across the globe and DJing live.
We look to the future with excitement and joy for music will never die! Keep dancing.