Public Image Ltd

Public Image Limited — commonly truncated as Public Image Ltd. and acronymically known as Pil — are an English post-punk/art-rock band from London. Vocalist John Lydon assembled the band following his departure from The Sex Pistols. The first five Pil albums feature guitarist Keith Levene, who briefly played in a formative lineup of The Clash in 1976. Original Pil bassist John Wardle (aka Jah Wobble) was part of Lydon’s pre-fame posse known as “The Johns,” which also included the Pistols’ second bassist John Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious.)

Members: John Lydon (vocals, keyboards, percussion, violin, saxophone), Keith Levene (guitar, keyboards, bass, percussion, keyboards, 1978-83), Jah Wobble (bass, vocals, percussion, 1978-80), Jim Walker (drums, vocals, 1978-79), Jeanette Lee (manager, 1978-83), Dave Crowe (manager, 1978-81), Vivian Jackson (drums, 1979), David Humphrey (drums, 1979), Richard Dudanski (drums, 1979), Karl Burns (drums, 1979), Martin Atkins (drums, percussion, keyboards, guitar, 1979-80, 1982-85), Steve New (guitar, 1980), Ken Lockie (keyboards, 1982), Pete Jones (bass, 1982-83), John McGeoch (guitar, 1986-92), Allan Dias (bass, keyboards, 1986-92), Bruce Smith (drums, 1986-90, 2009-present), Lu Edmonds (guitar, saz, keyboards, banjo, cümbüş, 1986-88)

Public Image Ltd. were assembled in the spring of 1978, soon after vocalist John Lydon left The Sex Pistols during their brief American tour. That March, he visited Jamaica with Virgin Records head Richard Branson to scout for new reggae talent. Upon his return to England, Lydon approached his longtime friend John Wardle about forming a new band. The two reconnected over a shared affinity for dub, reggae, and experimental Krautrock.

Wardle’s nickname, Jah Wobble, sprung one evening from a slurred utterance of his real name by a drunken Sid Vicious. The bass was a natural instrument for Wobble due to his large hands.

Another person Lydon summoned was guitarist Keith Levene, who had played in an early, pre-record version of The Clash. Nearly two years earlier, after a Clash/Pistols double-bill, Levene approached Lydon about  the possibility of collaborating in the future.

Through an ad in the Melody Maker, the new band found Canadian transplant drummer Jim Walker. Lydon lifted the name Public Image from the title of a 1968 novel by Scottish author Muriel Spark (“Ltd.” was added shortly thereafter).

One of the first idea’s Lydon brought to the band was “Sod In Heaven,” a lyrical screed that he first ran by the Pistols on their US tour. Pil developed this into the two-part soliloquy jam “Religion.” They also created a theme song from a two-note bassline supplied by Wobble. When issued as their debut single that October, “Public Image” became an instant hit (UK #9).


  • Public Image – First Issue (1978)
  • Metal Box [aka Second Edition] (1979)
  • Paris au Printemps (live, 1980 • Image Publique S.A.)
  • The Flowers of Romance (1981)
  • Live in Tokyo (live, 1983)
  • This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get (1984)
  • Album (1986)
  • Happy? (1987 )
  • 9 (1989)
  • That What Is Not (1992)
  • This Is PiL (2012)
  • What the World Needs Now… (2015)


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