Album (Public Image Ltd album)

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Album/Cassette/Compact Disc
Studio album by Public Image Ltd
Released 27 January 1986 (1986-01-27)[1]
Recorded 1985, Electric Lady Studios, The Power Station, Quadrasonic Sound Studios, RPM Sound Studios, New York City
Genre Alternative rock
Length 40:55
Label Virgin/Elektra
Producer John Lydon, Bill Laswell
Public Image Ltd chronology
This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get
Cover of CD issue
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau B+[3]
Trouser Press favourable[4]

Album (also known as Compact Disc or Cassette depending on the format) is the fifth studio album by English rock band Public Image Ltd, released on 3 February 1986. It features John Lydon backed by a group of musicians assembled by producer Bill Laswell, including Steve Vai, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tony Williams and Ginger Baker.

Composition credits[edit]

Most of the songs were written by Lydon with Mark Schulz and Jebin Bruni and registered in September and October 1985, such as "Round And Round (European Cars)",[5] "Fairweather Friend",[6] "Fishing (Pearls Before Swine"),[6] "Black Rubber Bag"[7] and "Things In Ease".[7] "Fairweather Friend" featured originally music written by Schulz and Bruni. An unrecorded Lydon/Schulz composition "Animal"[7] was registered too. Schulz and PIL tour bassist Bret Helm had previously registered a further (presumably non-PIL, therefore unused) composition called “Cat Rap”.[8]
John Lydon: “Most of the songs on the 'Album', for instance, were written at home and put onto demonstration tapes. But I didn't think the [1984/85 touring] band were good enough or experienced enough really to, like, record the song properly. And that's why I use session people. [By using session musicians] the songs obviously changed - their shape, and not their direction.”[9] “I had a live band before recording took place and a lot of material together before going into the studio. But the band was totally inexperienced, they would have put the budget up by an incredible amount. So we decided to use session people.”[10] “I make records for myself. I want them to be completely precise. Accuracy is very important to me. Otherwise it's bad work and a waste of my time, and I really don't want to waste my time. There must be a conclusion to what you do, no vagueness. There must be a sense of completeness. Every song is an emotion and it has to succeed as that, otherwise you've failed. It's bad work. That annoys me. Bad work from anyone just annoys me. I just don't need it.”[11]
Producer Bill Laswell: “When we did PiL he had put a band together in California of some kids. And I had sort of decided to make a heavy group, so I invited Tony Williams, Ginger Baker, Steve Vai, and all these people came. We fired John's band and there were many nights of really harsh arguing in bars. When the smoke cleared, we made sort of a classic record, an unusual record for the time.”[12]

Artwork and packaging[edit]

The packaging concept is a pastiche of the generic brand products manufactured in the early 1980s; it is similar to those sold at the Ralphs supermarket chain (dark-blue lettering and light blue stripe over white ground) in the USA.

In pop culture this design was popularised by the cult punk film Repo Man.[13]

Producer Bill Laswell: “We purposely didn't put the credits of the musicians on the record because nobody would have believed it and most of the critics probably would have only talked about the people on the record and not the music.”[12]

In 1982, Flipper, a punk band from San Francisco, California, had released an album with the same concept and a near-identical name, Album - Generic Flipper, a pastiche of generic products manufactured for Lucky Stores supermarket chain (black lettering over yellow ground). Later in 1986, Flipper retaliated by releasing a live album entitled Public Flipper Limited Live 1980-1985.

The concept of the packaging also spread to other releases by the band from this period, the 7" single of "Rise" was called "Single" whilst the 12" single was called "12-inch Single", and the music video had the title card reading "video". A compilation of music videos by the band released in this period was titled Videos. All of them were like the LP, CD and cassette covers due to the white background, dark blue generic fonts also had the light blue stripe reading 'public image limited' beneath with the PiL logo to the right. The MP3 reissue of the album is titled MP3. Unusually, the 2012 CD remaster of the album is titled Album when it should correctly, if following the original scheme, read Compact Disc. A tribute album by the band is also homage to the album covers, titled Tribute.

Recording sessions[edit]

The album was recorded in late 1985 in New York. Ginger Baker's and Tony Williams' drums were recorded at The Power Station by engineer Jason Corsaro. Steve Vai's lead guitar parts were recorded at Electric Lady Studios and the rest of the album at RPM Studios and Quad Recording Studios, all engineered by Robert Musso. The recording took three weeks, followed by one week of mixing the album at The Power Station.[14]
In the liner notes of PiL's Plastic Box compilation (1999), Lydon remarked that Album was "almost like a solo album" since he was working on his own with several musicians. He said that Miles Davis came into the studio while the album was being recorded and commented that Lydon sang like Davis played the trumpet. Lydon said it was "still the best thing anyone's ever said to me."[15]
Lead guitarist Steve Vai: “Bill Laswell, the producer, called and I flew in and out of New York from Alcatrazz shows to cut the parts. I did basically all the guitar parts in two days. Bill Laswell took a very interesting approach to the production of this disc. Some of the material I'd never heard and just went in and started playing on it. At the end, Johnny Lydon came in and liked it [...] There was the consideration of putting a band together - him, myself, Bill Laswell on bass and Ginger Baker on drums. Would have been quite a band.”[16] “I went in in a day and did everything, then I flew back out on tour. And then I went in for another half-day, and Lydon came in on the second day. He's just like ultracool and it's the first time he's heard any of my parts and he goes 'This is fucking great, man, how did you fucking know I wanted it like that?' [...] We were thinking about turning it into a band - me, him, Bill Laswell and Ginger Baker, but well, I was doing some other things, you know? It would have been cool. To this day that's one of the projects I'm most proud of.”[17] “John Lydon came in when I was done, they were playing a track back, and he made a grimace and said 'Fookin' great man!' in that way of his. So that was funny. I'd obviously done okay.”[18]
Drummer Ginger Baker: “People simply call me up, like Bill Laswell did on behalf of PIL. He just called me and persuaded me to do it.”[19] “I never met or even spoke to John Lydon, it was all arranged for us to go into the studio and just put the tracks down. Tony Williams and I did half each, but as they released the record without the personnel on it, all the reviews and write-ups could never tell who was who. We had a big laugh about it!”[20]
Producer Bill Laswell: “The whole thing with [Ginger Baker] came out of John Lydon suggesting playfully that he wanted Ginger to be the drummer in PIL, and I thought that was a great idea. So I was stupid enough to go to the north of Italy and find Ginger. I kind of brought him out of retirement and brought him back to New York and we did these tracks with Lydon.”[21]
Roger Trilling (Bill Laswell's manager): “I wasn't there, but apparently Ginger played for Bill in his barn. Just solo with the horses there, apparently the trees swayed and the flowers cried. The drum god would return. One small step for Ginger, one giant leap for John Lydon. The rest of the cast was quickly assembled - Tony Williams, Steve Vai, Bernie, Nicky, Aïyb. First we recorded the drums, with Jason Corsaro in the Power Station and its huge concrete resounding garage. Then we moved over to Quad for bass, keyboards and rhythm guitar. I would give John bulletins as we drank beer in bars - 'Today Steve Turre blew into conch shells, tomorrow a didgeridoo. Oh, Sakamoto did great today!' John grew wary, restive, even aggravated. Howard Thompson, in charge for Elektra, was even more importunate, I remember at one point physically barring him from getting into the elevator. We recorded a few days of Vai at Electric Lady, and then moved over to RPM for three days of vocals. John, I think, got a cassette the evening before. The idea was to get him on the initial take, and if it didn't work, keep the tapes, which was Bill's music anyway. Well, John's declamations were eloquent ones and no less aggressive or irritating than the music. Everyone was pleased, and though I remember John's presence in the anteroom during the mix, what I mostly remember is an all-night Korean restaurant, where we would start drinking at three, four, or five in the morning.”[22]

Track listing[edit]

Listed on the album cover as "Ingredients"

  1. "F.F.F." (John Lydon, Bill Laswell) – 5:32
  2. "Rise" (Lydon, Laswell) – 6:04
  3. "Fishing" (Lydon, Jebin Bruni, Mark Schulz) – 5:20
  4. "Round" (Lydon, Schulz) – 4:24
  5. "Bags" (Lydon, Bruni, Schulz) – 5:28
  6. "Home" (Lydon, Laswell) – 5:49
  7. "Ease" (Lydon, Bruni) – 8:09

Track by track commentary by Lydon and associates[edit]


  • John Lydon (1986/99): “Farewell to fairweather friends. There's a hell of a lot of them in the music business, clingers, dead wood, dead weights. So I had a great pleasure just flicking them out of my life.”[23] “Farewell, fairweather friends! [...] It could be applied to quite a few people [...] There's a few, there's a whole host of them. They know who they are.”[24] “'F.F.F.' is also pretty much clear - more references to people falling by the wayside. Not that I have a problem with that, I've always thought it's inevitable. When you work with people, you eventually drain each others' ideas and energy, and then it's time to move on.”[15]
  • Martin Atkins (former PIL drummer, 2002): “I think I initially left [the band in 1985] to try and jolt John into realising how awful I felt. He simply fuelled the shit storm with my betrayal - 'F.F.F.'!”[25]


  • Sid Vicious (1978): [about new Sex Pistols lyrics] “Yeah, we've got one about South Africa, about how those, about how the, like, blacks are repressed so bad there. And, like, that's not on and they are gonna rise up and they're gonna kill those, those people.”[26]
  • John Lydon (1986): “I read this manual on South African interrogation techniques, and 'Rise' is quotes from some of the victims. I put them together because I thought it fitted in aptly with my own feelings about daily existence.”[27] “It's about South Africa. The blacks can't be subdued for much longer. [...] The song is not as personal as it could be because I've never been to South Africa, but it can apply to lots of other situations.”[11]
  • John McGeoch (1990): “I actually heard demos of the stuff from before, songs like 'Rise' which was called 'South African Song', and 'F.F.F.' and stuff, and it wasn't written as a heavy metal album as such. But with the players and stuff it came out like that.”[28]


  • John Lydon (1986): “I'm referring to people who have to be in crowds, who can't stand up for themselves and who have no point of view. I don't like that kind of person. I think they're lazy and destructive. I don't like mass opinion.”[29]


  • John Lydon (1986): “The nuclear holocaust is imminent [...] These bastards are going to kill us all off, and of course I bloody worry about it!”[30]


  • John Lydon (1986): “That's about my fear of height [...] The end result when somebody falls off a cliff or building, and the black rubber bag is what they take you away in.”[29]


  • John Lydon (1986): “Susan and Norman, you dreary couple with the Ford Cortina and your names on the windscreen. There's actually a Susan and Norman out there right now, driving around in a blue Ford Cortina feeling well proud of themselves for being utterly dull.”[27]

Related tracks[edit]

"World Destruction" (John Lydon solo single with Afrika Bambaataa):[31]

  • John Lydon (1984/85/86/90): [first meeting Bill Laswell] “So, you're the E.T. of the music business!”[32] “I got in touch with Laswell to the 'Album' album from the Bambaataa project.”[33] “I'm gonna be doing more work with Bill Laswell, the man who produced it, because he's going to be working on my new album. No, of course [PIL] is not finished! Damn cheek!”[34] “Well, we had a few lyrics. We went in, put a drum beat down on the machine and did the whole thing in about 4 1/2 hours. It was very, very quick. They say you can't rush talent, but you can.”[24]
  • Afrika Bambaataa (1984/96): “The fact that he seems not to care while I'm trying to warn the people, I like that. Makes the record more scary.”[32] “I was in Paris and I was just sitting in the hotel room watching CNN, which played a big role to me, and a movie that was called The Man Who Saw Tomorrow about the predictions of Nostradamus, with Orson Welles in it. So when I saw that, this thing just hit me to write something based on what Nostradamus was talking about, so that became the idea for 'World Destruction'. Then I was talking to Bill Laswell saying I need somebody who’s really crazy, man, and he thought of John Lydon. I knew he was perfect because I’d seen this movie that he’d made. I knew about all the Sex Pistols and Public Image stuff, so we got together and we did a smashing crazy version - and a version where he cussed the Queen something terrible, which was never released.”[35]
  • Bill Laswell (2005/09): Bambaataa called me and said he wanted to do a song with the lead singer for Def Leppard. I told him I didn’t know the singer for Def Leppard, but I knew John Lydon. So the request to do it actually came from Bambaataa.”[36] “It seemed like a very natural thing at the time. It wasn’t really my idea, I got a call from Afrika Bambaataa who wanted to incorporate what he does with metal to make 'World Destruction'. And he said to me 'Do you know Def Leppard?' And I said 'No, I don’t know Def Leppard.' At that time I didn’t know many metal people, I would later on but not then. So I told him that I had just got to know John Lydon. I told him that he was Johnny Rotten who had been in this band the Sex Pistols, saying 'It’s not really metal, but you might think it is,' and he said 'Yeah, that sounds good.' So we went and did this thing very quickly and it seemed very natural to me [...] I really liked 'Never Mind the Bollocks', I thought that was a great record, I liked the guitar and production. It was a really great album, intense and believable. And then when I heard PIL I liked that a lot as well because I was already interested in dub and Jah Wobble already had that low end sound. I liked them quite a lot – or the first few albums at least.”[37]

"The Animal Speaks" (John Lydon collaboration with The Golden Palominos):[38]

  • Anton Fier (Golden Palominos drummer, 1986): “Oh it was sort of boring, a really elaborate session, much like a tooth extraction. Three days before recording I gave him a tape to listen to, which of course he didn't. The result is okay but the proceedings were quite difficult. I like the guy but he's really paranoid, and I know why – because over the years all sort of people have tried to take advantage of him. It just took a while until I had persuaded him that I wouldn't do that. Somehow it's a bit difficult to communicate with him until he trusts you.”[39]


Additional personnel[edit]



  • “Album” entered the UK Album Charts, where it stayed for 6 weeks and reached #14 on 15 February 1986.[40]
  • The single “Rise” entered the UK Top 75, where it stayed for 8 weeks and reached #11 on 1 February 1986.[40]
  • The single “Home” briefly entered the UK Top 75, where it stayed for 1 week at #75 on 3 May 1986.[40]
  • The single “World Destruction” by Time Zone entered the UK Top 75, where it stayed for 9 weeks and reached #44 on 19 January 1985.[40]


  • “Album” entered the Billboard 200 album charts, where it stayed for 16 weeks and reached #115 on 12 April 1986.[41]
  • The single “Rise” did not chart.

Other countries[edit]

  • In Canada, “Album” entered the Canadian Albums Chart, where it stayed for 5 weeks and reached #95 on 5 April 1986.[42]
  • In New Zealand, “Album” entered the Top 50 Albums Chart, where it stayed for 2 weeks and reached #34 on 27 April 1986. The single “Rise” entered the Top 50, where it stayed for 4 weeks and reached #29 on 30 March 1986. The single “World Destruction” by Time Zone entered the Top 50, where it stayed for 5 weeks and reached #12 on 21 April 1985.[43]


  1. ^ (US release date according to United States Copyright Office website)
  2. ^ Album (Public Image Ltd album) at AllMusic
  3. ^ Robert Christgau
  4. ^ Trouser Press
  5. ^ United States Copyright Office website (song registered on 9 September 1985)
  6. ^ a b c United States Copyright Office website (song registered on 9 October 1985)
  7. ^ United States Copyright Office website (song registered on 30 July 1985)
  8. ^ Richard Skinner: “John Lydon Interview” (BBC Radio 1, 18 January 1986)
  9. ^ Howard Johnson: “Feature” (Kerrang!, 20 February 1986)
  10. ^ a b Paul Morley: “This Is What You Want” (New Musical Express, 8 February 1986)
  11. ^ a b John Garratt: “Do Or Die: An Interview with Bill Laswell” (PopMatters website, 20 February 2012)
  12. ^ Cox, Alex (July 2008). X-Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker. I.B. Tauris. p. 90. ISBN 1-84511-566-X. 
  13. ^ Jim Bessman:“Sidebar” (Musician, June 1986)
  14. ^ a b John Lydon liner notes (Public Image Ltd.: “Plastic Box” compilation, Virgin Records, 1999)
  15. ^ [1] Steve Vai: “Notes: Public Image Limited” ( website, last update 18 January 2006)
  16. ^ Ben Myers: “John Lydon - The Sex Pistols, PIL & Anti-Celebrity” (Independent Music Press, 2004, pages 152,154)
  17. ^ Simon Sweetman: “The Steve Vai Interview” ( website, 15 March 2012)
  18. ^ “Ginger Baker - Auf Tuchfühlung mit einer Legende” (Drums & Percussion magazine, Reiner H. Nitschke Verlags-GmbH, Germany, May/June 2009)
  19. ^ Ginger Baker: “Hellraiser - The Autobiography Of The World's Greatest Drummer” (John Blake Publishing 2010, page 234)
  20. ^ Anil Prasad: “Bill Laswell - Extending Energy And Experimentation” (Innerviews website, April 1999)
  21. ^ Peter Wetherbee: “Axiom History, Part Two: Memory Serves” ( website, 1999)
  22. ^ Daniel Richler: “John Lydon And John McGeoch Interview” (“The New Music”, CITY-TV, Toronto, 16 June 1986)
  23. ^ a b Edwin Gould: “John Lydon and Bruce Smith Interview” (KROQ-FM radio station, Los Angeles, 3 July 1986)
  24. ^ Jean Encoule: “Martin Atkins - The Boy Looked at Johnny” ( website July 2002)
  25. ^ Bonnie Simmons: “Sid Vicious and John Lydon Radio Interview” (KSAN radio station, San Francisco, 14 January 1978)
  26. ^ a b Tom Hibbert: “The Man Who Invented Punk” (Smash Hits, 2 February 1986)
  27. ^ Robin Gibson: “PIL Crazy After All These Years” (Sounds, 27 October 1990)
  28. ^ a b Jack Barron: “John Lydon - The Private Eye” (Sounds, 15 February 1986)
  29. ^ Carol Clerk: “Apocalypse Now” (Melody Maker, 24 May 1986)
  30. ^ [2] Time Zone: “World Destruction” single (Celluloid Records USA, released 1 December 1984 / release date according to United States Copyright Office website)
  31. ^ a b Paul Rambali: “Punk Vs Funk” (The Face, December 1984)
  32. ^ Edwin Gould: “John Lydon Interview” (KROQ-FM radio station, Los Angeles, 6 November 1990)
  33. ^ Richard Skinner: “John Lydon Phone Interview” (Whistle Test, BBC2, 5 March 1985)
  34. ^ Dave Davies: “Knowledge of Godfather - A Conversation with Afrika Bambaataa” (Rufmouth website, 12 December 1996)
  35. ^ Patrick Ambrose: “Bill Laswell's Method Of Defiance” (The Morning News online magazine, 20 December 2005)
  36. ^ John Doran: “Bill Laswell Interviewed: Bass. How Low Can You Go?” (The Quietus online magazine, 15 July 2009)
  37. ^ [3] The Golden Palominos: “Visions Of Excess” album (Celluloid Records USA, released 24 May 1985 / release date according to United States Copyright Office website)
  38. ^ Hans Keller: “Golden Palominos” (SPEX magazine, Germany, April 1986)
  39. ^ a b c d website
  40. ^ entry
  41. ^ website
  42. ^ website