Public Image Ltd. launch North American tour

pil.jpg It's basically John Lydon and his backing band, no Keith Levene, no Jah Wobble, no Martyn Atkins. But still. They were one of the most important bands in my formative years (what I remember of those years, anyway). Above, one of the best songs of all time, and I will personally mosh disapprovingly at anyone who disagrees with me in the comments.

PiL will launch a North American tour after Coachella (brooklynvegan, thanks Metzger)

UPDATE: Oh god. This classic video clip of Public Image on American Bandstand is awesome. Alternate: YouTube version. (WFMU, via Q-Burns Abstract Message)

And this blog post includes Wobble's thoughts on not being included in the new formation of the band. (


  1. …or indeed in adverts for Country Life butter in the UK. Much as I love Lydon, it was a bit disconcerting to think of him anywhere near my dairy products.

  2. A Public Image reunion without Jah Wobble? Without Keith Levene? What’s the point? Oh yeah– $$$. Wish I could be excited about this, but without 3/4 of the band, it’s not so much a reunion as it is the John Lydon Karaoke Show. I saw them when I was a lad and they absolutely killed.

    And sorry, Xeni, “Careering” is the best P.I.L. song.

  3. I still have the PIL Metal Box in what’s left of a once grand album collection. That one I can never lose.

  4. I’m a huge fan of PIL but I saw the last tour supporting “That What Is Not” and it was truly awful. I hope he’s got a good band together and isn’t just out to cash in.

    1. Absolutely. Back when I was in high school, I had a timer hooked up to an old console stereo with a turntable and I woke up to the Pil theme song every morning. At the time, it was only available domestically on a Warner Brothers sampler (I forget the name, but Jonathan Richman was on it too.) Anyway, every time I heard that first U2 single on the radio (KMET in LA, I believe) I was sure I was hearing this. Just one more of a trillion reasons to despise Bono and his land-raping guitarist.

  5. there are some decent clips of the 2009 reunion shows up on youtube. While I generally don’t like reunions, Lydon actually found some musicians that seemingly understand the music…unlike the bland pickup musicians that came and went through the revolving door after the band’s implosion. I mean, they’re playing stuff from Flowers of Romance…tough and abrasive stuff even by today’s standards. Lydon’s caterwaul has matured nicely, actually.

  6. um, skifijazznik, perhaps you are being a little cynical, although i can understand. Another reason i would think to do a tour is because of the fans. I’ve seen a PIL show, don’t remember which memebers, but it was an awesome show, one of my favorites ever, and i’ve been to many shows bigger and smaller. There are tons of people who because of age or situation have been unable to see PIL live, but listen too and love the music. I would think this would be as much of a reason to have another tour as the money. Live music can often be far better then recorded music for some people, i think PIL is a great example of this.

    As a side note this is one of my favorite bits of trivia about Mr. Lydon and his work with The Discovery Channel,

    1. I assure you, I’m being a lot cynical.

      I’m an old fart. I’ve seen way more awesome shows than any one person is rightfully entitled to. And I understand the appeal of the reunion thing because I’m guilty. I saw Slint a few years back when they did their reunion and it was majestic. However, it was the real band, not the singer and a few other dudes who learned the parts. The other three members of PiL were absolutely integral to the sound. And, not unlike the Bauhaus reunion or maybe even the Pistols reunion (though Sid was obviously unavailable,) if it were all the original members, I would certainly consider plopping down the cash to go.

      But I think my own cynicism is beat 10 times by Lydon’s own. If you think this has to do with anything other than a quick buck, I’m afraid you’re being naive.

  7. no Keith Levene, no Jah Wobble, no Martyn Atkins. But still.

    Still what? That’s like saying “no George, no John, no Ringo, but still. . . .”

    Mosh away Xeni.

    (Of course, I am also a big fan of the PiL “Album” with the all-star cast of Steve Vai, Jonas Hellborg, and Ginger Baker, I just don’t think of it as a PiL album as much as a Bill Laswell album featuring John Lydon. Heresy.)

  8. Thanks for bringing this back to my mind. I use to had the “9” LP, and I heard the “Album” LP a couple times at a friend’s house, but I hadn’t heard “Public Image” in ages. Thanks.

    That said, I wouldn’t go to a PiL show now, unless invited or for free. Nothing to do with being a “3/4 reunion” ’cause I’ve never seen the original band live, it’s just that I prefer to keep my memories of what more or less was a nice time of my life. Now I’m into something completely different.

  9. First three albums were stunningly amazing (yes, even Flowers Of Romance) but I have to agree with Wobble’s assessment in the interview bit toward the bottom of the linked article. If only for the money then Lydon might as well continue churning out butter.

    Ill Lich: You nailed it on the head. “Album” was a Laswell album through and through, albeit with Lydon fronting. It’s great but sounds like all the other stuff Bill’s band did in that period (no wonder, it is with the same musicians too.) Ironically it is the only listenable thing labeled PIL since the glorious first 3. I’ve got the “Plastic Box” too, but the only things any good on it are out-takes and live (BBC) versions of the early material.

    Wobble’s got a substantial amount of amazing music he’s done since PIL. I heard his use of the many of the same bass riffs he wrote for the Metal Box on his first solo album are what Johnny fired him for. Can anyone substantiate this rumor?

  10. The tune “Not Another” from Wobbles first solo album does sound an awful lot like a Metal Box out-take (very similar to “Swan Lake” from Metal Box), and there’s another Wobble solo tune that sounds like PiL’s “Memories.” But those riffs are the cornerstones of Wobble’s style, without them he’s just another bass player, so he had the right to reuse them (and it’s not as if his solo album was a huge hit, so Lydon was quibbling.)

    Bringing up Laswell again– a few of the albums Wobble did with him I quite enjoy, in particular “Radioaxiom Dub Transmission”, though you’re right– all Laswell albums end up sounding the same in the end. Never really dug the albums Wobble did with Holger Czukay, although they seem to be popular with collectors.

  11. I once way back bumped in to Mr. Johnny Lydon after a PIL gig in Copenhagen, he blessed me with a “who the fuck are you”…. Divine! Like ´85-ish.

  12. I need to go ahead and agree with Anon #3 that Rise is high on my list.

    Listen, I didn’t hear about PIL (I was indisposed, don’t ask). Quite a number of years later a friend of a friend gave me a copy of Cassette. I KNEW INSTANTLY I’d been CHEATED! when Rise finished and I picked my jaw up.

  13. No one mentions ‘this is not a love song’ ? Or was that released in Europe only ?
    Now I’m gonna have to dig it up in my basement. I think I might even have the 12″ version, or extended version of whatever you guys call it over here…..

    1. Yeah. For good reason.

      Ill Lich: I like those noodley crazy jams. But then, I’m a CANatic. I like all the Lazwell canon too, especially the dub stuff (which is most of it.)

      And Jah Wobble is one of the finest trance-groove players ever, imho. It’s a shame Lydon can’t be bothered to try to do something new with him, and the others from the original band. That would have the potential of being something really spectacular.

  14. Personally my favorite song of theirs is Poptones. But these comments about U2 ripping them off are silly… “Band Sounds Like Other Band” isn’t a very newsworthy headline, nor is it a punishable offense.

  15. Q: What’s the difference between the Sex Pistols and PIL?

    A: PIL knew *four* chords and did less with them than the Pistols.

  16. Yeah, Full Circle, I have the LP still. I pull it out and listen every few years thinking I will finally enjoy it but it just seems like a bunch of throwaway noodling jams. Maybe it’s time to ebay it.

    Note: U2’s The Edge (god what a pretentious stage name, even beats out the pomposity of “Sting”) played with Wobble on the Snake Charmer EP, though his style of playing was pretty much full formed by then.

  17. I roadied a bit for PIL as they were touring U.S. colleges with Big Audio Dynamite II, like ’91…it seemed like Lydon (and Mick Jones) was cashing in then; all pale antics and mockery of music they once used for passion, politics, love & loathing. By then it was as if the contempt for self and audience had already passed into self-conscious apathy. It seemed that the thing that kept them going then besides the music was a genuine surprise that people responded to the crap they dished and an amusement at the fools willingness to be fooled while being told it was all foolish. It made it hard to listen to the Clash & Pistols without getting sad…I can’t imagine enduring that two decades later!!!

  18. Big business is very wise
    I’m crossing over into

    I’m going over to the other side
    I’m happy to have not to have not
    Big business is very wise
    I’m inside free enterprise

    I’m adaptable and I like my new role
    I’m getting better and better
    And I have a new goal
    I’m changing my ways where money applies

  19. I got to see them back in ’86. I wouldn’t mind catching them again, even if Rotten has different band members. They put on an amazing show.

  20. A few thoughts on this:
    As someone who named the Pistols reunion “The Filthy Lucre Tour” I think we can assume what Lydon’s motives are. (And as Black Francis noted about upcoming Pixie shows, “We’re interested in anything that’s going to earn us a fair wage. It’s not to say it’s not about art, but we made that art fucking 20 years ago. So forget the fucking goddamn art. This ain’t about the art anymore. I did the arty farty part. Now it’s time to talk about the money.”)

    Besides, when has Lydon ever done something “for the fans”? Bless his contrary heart, he’s only answered to himself and himself only.

    While punks like Patti Smith or David Byrne have continued to make interesting music (note I did NOT say that it was as compelling as their 70’s stuff but everything they’ve done this millennium has its merits), Lydon has done butter commercials and appeared on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”.

    So personally, the PiL nostalgia trip doesn’t interest me at all (nor did the Velvets or Devo or the Pixies, for that matter, all of whom I love dearly). I’ll happily shell out to see Patti or David (for the reasons mentioned above) but I’m not interested in reliving my teenage glory days.

    Finally, “Public Image” is a great great song, prolly their best, although a case could be made for “Poptones”, “Death Disco”, “Flowers of Romance”, even “Rise”. Oh, and the video of them on “American Bandstand” is genius. In a similar vein, here’s Patti Smith (okay, I worship her, mostly for her generosity of spirit) on “Kids Are People Too”.

  21. I didn’t know who Martin Atkins was when I used to listen to PIL, but I saw him live three times with Pigface, the hybrid (post-industrial?) band he led. That guy is the goddamn lifeforce. I’ve outgrown Pigface’s music, but the energy he pumped into those shows was unbelievable. I won’t bother going to see the new & improved PIL-Lite.

  22. Enjoyed the read so far . . . . . even when the performer does it for “art”, the performer is usually willing to accept payment. Of course, why not?

    All these performers are, in some way, in the same bag: Johnny Lydon, Tom Petty . . . so how is one “true to their art” ?

    Can we say that John Lennon was truer to his art than Johnny Lydon? Getting beyond the public image is perhaps more difficult than becoming famous, when you’re a “role model”.

    So, in this case . . . beyond the economic incentive . . . the creativity might have gone missing . . .

    I saw P.I.L. on their first tour in Boston, the band was already falling apart, but Wobble and Martin had the groove tight and Johnny was in form, even Keith was chipping in. The show would grind to a halt, the drummer throwing his sticks into the audience. Levine left the stage for lengths. The concert security were sucked into the aimless vortex, and the audience was able to misbehave more thoroughly than any previous “punk” concert. Wobble and Martin played the Chic “Good Times” riff for minutes on end while Lydon collected coins that the audience had thrown, and the whole glorious mess was occasionally sustained by that P.I.L. chunk, the caterwauling bass groove from all four corners. One of the best all around shows I ever attended.

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