Public Image: First Issue

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First Issue
Studio album by Public Image Ltd
Released

8 December 1978 (UK)

February 1979 (Japan)
Recorded July–November 1978
The Manor Studio (Shipton-on-Cherwell)
Wessex Studios, Gooseberry Sound Studios, Townhouse Studios, Advision Studios, London
Genre Post-punk, experimental rock
Length 39:54
Label Virgin
Producer Public Image Ltd
Public Image Ltd chronology
Public Image: First Issue
(1978)
Metal Box
(1979)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10[2]
Smash Hits 5/10[3]

First Issue (also known as Public Image) is the debut album by post-punk band Public Image Ltd, released in 1978 by Virgin Records.

Recording sessions[edit]

"Public Image"[edit]

"Public Image", the debut single, was recorded first. Recording started on a Monday in mid-July 1978 (most probably 10 or 17 July) at Advision Studios[4] with engineer John Leckie and assistant engineer Kenneth Vaughan Thomas. For mixing and overdubs the band then went into Wessex Studios[5] with engineer Bill Price and assistant engineer Jeremy Green.

  • John Leckie (engineer, 2003): “I [...] came down Monday morning from The Manor after a few hours sleep to Advision Studios, a studio I hadn't worked in before [...] I engineered the session [...] Keith Levene took the multi-track tape home that night and came in the next day having forgotten it and accused me of stealing it! The track was pretty much a live take with Levene's guitar double-tracked. John Lydon did his vocal through a Space Echo, dub-style. I did a rough mix and went home. The next day the band never showed up and my rough mix was the record. I got no credit but Richard Branson did give me £250! It wasn't stressful, just a lot of fun!”[6]
  • Bill Price (engineer, 2008): “They'd recorded it and he wasn't quite happy, so he came to me to mix and do overdubs. Johnny was nominally in charge but he would look over his shoulder and ask Jah 'Is this the right direction?'”[7]

On Saturday, 22 July 1978 the music press reported that the band had been in the recording studio,[8] the following week Virgin Records announced the release of PIL's debut single for 8 September 1978.[9]

"Theme", "Religion", "Annalisa"[edit]

The whole of the first side of the record was then recorded in autumn at Townhouse Studios[10] and The Manor Studio[11] with engineer Mick Glossop.[12]

"Low Life", "Attack", "Fodderstompf"[edit]

The last three songs on the second side were recorded at Gooseberry Sound Studios[13] with engineer Mark Lusardi[14] and assistant engineer Jon Caffery,[15] a cheap reggae studio used because the band had ran out of money. Lydon knew the studio from the recording of Sex Pistols demos in January 1977.
By late September 1978 the recording of the album was finished.[16] The band had briefly considered putting an alternative version of "Public Image" with different lyrics on the album, a plan that was finally rejected.[17]
In November or December 1978, Wobble and Levene returned to Gooseberry Sound Studios to record a 12 inch EP Steel Leg V. The Electric Dread with guest vocalists Vince Bracken and Don Letts.

Final mix of the album[edit]

For the final mix of the album tracks, the band returned to Townhouse Studios with engineer Mick Glossop: “I do remember working on those other three [Gooseberry Studio] tracks, but I can't remember exactly what I did - probably mixing.”[18]

Cancelled American release[edit]

On 9 February 1979, Warner Bros. Recording Studios in North Hollywood manufactured a test pressing of the album for PiL's United States label Warner Bros. Records.[19] The sound of the record was considered as too uncommercial for an American release and PiL were asked to re-record parts of the album.[20] Although the band recorded new versions of some tracks between March and May 1979,[21] the album was never released in the US. Only in 1980 Warners released the song “Public Image” on the compilation album “Troublemakers”, the only album track released in the US until the 2013 release of the entire album.[22]

On 18 June, 2013, the album was finally officially released in the US via Light In The Attic Records.[23]

'Public Image' promo video[edit]

In August 1978 a promotion video for the upcoming single "Public Image" was shot by Peter Clifton's production company Notting Hill Studio Limited, which had just completed The Punk Rock Movie.

  • Peter Clifton (video producer, 2006): “They formed Public Image and hired me and Don Letts to shoot their first video clip for Virgin. I hired a theatre in Fulham and dressed the band up on stage with garbage bags as a backdrop, and Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin, came down to witness the filming. There was a quiet lull in the middle of one of the takes, and Sid Vicious screamed at the top of his voice 'Peter Clifton, where's the 200 quid you owe me?'”[24]
  • Don Letts (video director, 2007): “Before the PIL promo, I was Don Letts, DJ at The Roxy, dread with a camera. All of a sudden I had a film crew and a 16 mm camera. The promo was shot at a studio in Olympia and I was making the shit up as I went along, having never been to film school. The video suited PIL's mood, being totally anti-celebrity, it showed them playing in a dimly-lit studio. Because it was John's band, I naively decided people just wanted to see him - due to my total inexperience I went for the safe option. It is just John's dynamics that give the video any substance whatsoever. It was a very intense and dark performance [...] I have made near enough 400 promo videos in my time. My first was for PIL. They chose me as they did not want to use boring old farts, and we had a good relationship.”[25]
  • John Lydon (1978): “The promotional film was made and paid for by ourselves out of our advance. Virgin weren't interested.”[26]

The promo video was released on 15 September 1978 and shown on British TV two times in October 1978.[27][28] In December 1986 it was released on VHS,[29] in October 2005 on DVD.[30]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by John Lydon, all music composed by Public Image Ltd..

No. Title Length
1. "Theme"   9:05
2. "Religion I"   1:40
3. "Religion II"   5:40
4. "Annalisa"   6:00
5. "Public Image"   2:58
6. "Low Life"   3:35
7. "Attack"   2:55
8. "Fodderstompf"   7:40

Track by track commentary by the band[edit]

“Theme”:

  • John Lydon (1978): “Didn't you ever have that feeling when you get up with a hangover, and you look at the world and think 'Count me out, I'd rather die!'?”[31]
  • Keith Levene (2001): “'Theme' came together because Wobble had this bassline and there was Jim playing and me doing that, and I fucking got it off on the first go. By the time we recorded it, which was probably the third time we played it, that was where it was at. It went down well in gigs and we loved the tune. John made the lyrics up as he went along or he had them stashed secretly [...] He came up with a lot of stuff just perfectly, like what he did with 'Theme'. He did it the first time and it was perfect.” [32]


“Religion I”:

  • Keith Levene (2001): “Putting 'Religion' on the album with just vocals, I just did that as a producer. I thought that this had to be done so I said 'Run it off, John' and I just recorded it. That was a cool idea.”[32]


“Religion II”:

  • Sid Vicious (1978): (on new songs) “Yeah, we've got one about God, and it's a real attack. It is a real attack. And it's played to the Death March.”[33]
  • John Lydon (1978/89/92/94): “A putdown of what they have made religion into. I started writing that song in the States.”[34] “When I showed Sid, Paul and Steve the lyrics to 'Religion' on the bus, their only response was 'Whoa!' [...] We had a very long wait at the San Antonio gig[35] when we got there very early. I wanted them to listen to what I was doing, but they wouldn't have it under any circumstances. I knew it was over with Steve and Paul from that point onward.”[36] “There's one picture[37] from America where we're all sitting on the stage, and Sid's got the bass and I'm pointing, and Steve's sitting behind. That was 'Religion', and they wouldn't touch it: 'It's vile, can't do that, people won't like us', haha!”[38] Malcolm said 'Ooh no, that's bad for the image, can't do things like that!'”[39]
  • Joe Stevens (Sex Pistols tour photographer, 2011): “They needed to write some new songs and deliver them to the record label. They had a crack at writing 'Sod In Heaven' but it wasn't happening.”[40]
  • Paul Cook (1988): (Q: Did you rehearse 'Religion'?) “No. there was an idea, John wanted to write a song about that but never got round to it.”[41]
  • Keith Levene (2001): “With 'Religion', we made up this tune and told him to sing the lyrics over it [...] He had the words but he didn't know how the tune was going to go.”[32]
  • Jah Wobble (2012): “I think Lydon had the words for 'Religion' already, I ended up not liking the song [...] I don't like the sensibility behind 'Religion', I don't like religion getting knocked per se. [...] I wasn't mad on the mix either, it tries a bit too hard. It's just my taste, so I think it's rather turgid that song, it's my least favourite. Keith likes it though.”[42]


“Annalisa”:

  • John Lydon (1978): “[It's] about these silly fucking parents of this girl who believed she was possessed by the devil, so they starved her to death.”[17]
  • Jim Walker (2007): “At The Manor we wanted a live drum sound, and so we had to use the old billiard room. It was set up so it was just me and Rotten eye to eye, as I drummed and he sang.”[43]


“Public Image”:

  • John Lydon (1978): “'Public Image', despite what most of the press seemed to misinterpret it to be, is not about the fans at all, it's a slagging of the group I used to be in. It's what I went through from my own group. They never bothered to listen to what I was fucking singing, they don't even know the words to my songs. They never bothered to listen, it was like 'Here's a tune, write some words to it.' So I did. They never questioned it. I found that offensive, it meant I was literally wasting my time, cos if you ain't working with people that are on the same level then you ain't doing anything. The rest of the band and Malcolm never bothered to find out if I could sing, they just took me as an image. It was as basic as that, they really were as dull as that. After a year of it they were going 'Why don't you have your hair this colour this year?' And I was going 'Oh God, a brick wall, I'm fighting a brick wall!' They don't understand even now.”[17]
  • Jah Wobble (2009/12): “Indeed the first bassline that I ever presented to John and Keith [...] It had been the first song that we had worked on in the rehearsals.”[44] “It's the open E string with an interval to the B which I always really like, that was first ever proper b-line I wrote. I made that up at home and took it into the studio and we finished it off there. There was another bass line at the beginning which I'm not sure if it got used, it might have kind of got turned into 'Religion'.”[42]

“Low Life”:

  • John Lydon (1978/99): “Malcolm McLaren the bourgeoisie anarchist - that about sums him up!”[17] “'Low Life' is about Sid and how he turned into the worst kind of rock 'n' roll star.”[45]
  • Keith Levene (2001/07): “There was this guy that was an old mate of John's (...) This guy, [fashion designer] Kenny MacDonald, made his suit and all of ours, and it made him look good to have the guys from PIL wearing his stuff (...) He wouldn't be his lapdog, and John thought he was a star and wanted that. John named him on our first album on 'Low Life'.”[32] “That song was about Malcolm McLaren in theory, but at one point I think it was about [Lydon's schoolfriend] John Gray. Lydon's usually got the hump with someone, and he usually writes with someone in mind, someone he's not too happy with.”[46]
  • Jah Wobble (2009): “It's kind of rock, but with a weird feel.”[47]


“Fodderstompf”:

  • John Lydon (1978): “You should've seen Branson's face when he heard that, he was furious!”[48]
  • Jim Walker (2001): “Not even a song just a wank, ripping off our fans. It still turns my stomach thinking about it.”[49]
  • Tony Dale (roadie, 2004): “It's mostly Wobble on the track, as you probably realise, with his Northern falsetto, wise-cracks, and fire-extinguisher antics. [...] I remember Wobble coming in[to the control room] for the cigarettes. It's the engineer [Mark Lusardi] who's 'Suspicious', not me, I am accused of not realising that 'Love makes the world go around'.”[50]
  • Jah Wobble (2005/09): “In its own way, it's as mental as Funkadelic. And it had the perfect funk bassline.”[51] “Keith didn't make it down for the initial recording of that track, so it was just me, John and Jim.”[52]

Related tracks[edit]

“The Cowboy Song” (single b-side):

  • John Lydon (1978): “You can dance to that song, and it cost us approximately £1 to make. It's just a jolly good disco record and it came about cos we were bored and couldn't think of a b-side.”[53]
  • Jim Walker (2001/07): “The thing was, I'd come up with the idea for that song one morning. I was trying to rip off the theme song for Bonanza.”[49] “We all sat around the mic drunk, did two takes, screaming randomly.”[54]

“You Stupid Person” (unreleased instrumental demo):

  • Jah Wobble (1999/2007): “It was an instrumental from when we very first started, when Jim Walker was on drums. That was really good.”[55] “That was a good one, a really strong song.”[56]
  • Jim Walker (2001): “Once during a break I stayed on my kit, you know, fooling around, when suddenly Keith jumped up and shouted to me to repeat whatever it was that I'd been playing. It was just some hi-hat thing. I'd always focused on developing my left hand side, in other words my hi-hat side. Anyway, I repeated it. Wobble instinctively came up with the perfect bassline part. Then Keith, who had heard exactly what he wanted through the thing I'd started, played the most blistering guitar part I think I ever heard him play. That was how PIL wrote: through the subconscious. That song ended up being named 'You Stupid Person'. It was meant to be our second single. [...] It was actually a lot better than 'Public Image'. It would have been impossible to keep from being a number one hit, and probably would have broke us in America all by itself. We managed to demo it,[57] I've still got a copy.”[49]
  • John Lydon (2004): “I don't know what he's talking about [...] I don't know what he's quite on about.”[58]

"Steel Leg V. The Electric Dread":[59]

  • Jah Wobble (1988/2009): “I also released 'Steel Leg V. The Electric Dread', another 12 inch with Keith Levene on guitars and Vince, a mate from Hackney, on vocals. He thought he was going to be a millionaire but it was only like a session fee. I gave him a ton which weren't bad money in the late '70s.”[60] “Keith played drums on that. The extra money came in really handy. To be honest it was a pisstake record in the same way that 'Fodderstompf' was a pisstake track, you only have to listen to Vince's side to realise that.”[52]
  • Don Letts (guest vocalist, 2007): “Keith Levene and Jah Wobble needed some money, so they ended up making a single for Virgin Records called 'Steel Leg V. The Electric Dread'. They got me down to the studio to work on some vocals, even though I had never sung in my life. I remember sitting on the stairs with a microphone trying to write some words. Eventually I said to them 'Okay guys, I'll go home and work out some lyrics.' I never heard back from them, and the next thing I knew there was a record out. They had used my demo vocals and stuck them on the track! [...] It was a crap record, and I look back and laugh about all this stuff now.”[61] “I didn't even know they were recording me. I went into some basement toilet just to mumble some lyrics into a mic and hear what they sound like [...] Then I'm waiting to get a call to do the record, and the next thing I heard is they've played with my voice a bit, stuck a track under it and put the whole thing out as a finished record. I was a little bit pissed off to tell you the truth, because I thought we'd finish it properly.”[62]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

UK[edit]

  • “Public Image - First Issue” entered the UK Albums Chart, where it stayed for 11 weeks and reached #22 on 23 December 1978.[63]
  • The single “Public Image” entered the UK Top 75, where it stayed for 8 weeks and reached #9 on 21 October 1978.[63]

Other countries[edit]

  • In the US, the album and the single were not released.
  • In New Zealand, “Public Image - First Issue” entered the Top 50 Albums Chart, where it stayed for 2 weeks and reached #18 on 25 January 1979.[64]

Trivia[edit]

In 1979, the NME reported that a court in Malta had stopped the album being sold because the lyrics of “Religion” offended public morals and decency.[65]

"Public Image was very important record for me," said Mattie Safer of The Rapture, "because it showed you could be aggressive and weird and different without being anti-melodic, or have to play as fast as possible. It showed that you didn't have to compartmentalise music."[66]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lewis, Uncle Dave. "Public Image: First Issue - Public Image Ltd. : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". Allmusic. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ Berman, Stuart (June 24, 2013). "Public Image Ltd.: First Issue : Album Reviews : Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (February 8-21 1979): 25. 
  4. ^ Advision Studios (23 Gosfield Street, London W1)
  5. ^ Wessex Sound Studios (106A Highbury Park, London N5)
  6. ^ Robert Webb: “The Story Of The Song 'Public Image'” (The Independent, 12 December 2003)
  7. ^ Nick Hasted: “The Making Of 'Public Image' By PIL” (Uncut, October 2008)
  8. ^ “T-Zers Goes Camping” (New Musical Express, 22 July 1978, page 55)
  9. ^ “Rotten's Return” (Melody Maker, 29 July 1978, front page)
  10. ^ Townhouse Studios (150 Goldhawk Road, London W12)
  11. ^ The Manor Studio (Shipton Manor, Shipton-on-Cherwell OX5)
  12. ^ [1] Mick Glossop Discography 1970-1979 (Mick Glossop Music Production official website)
  13. ^ Gooseberry Sound Studios (19 Gerrard Street, London W1)
  14. ^ Phil Strongman: “Marking 25 Years Of Mark Angelo - The Mark Angelo Boss Has Seen It All: Punk, Reggae, Cockroaches” (Pro Sound News Europe website, 1 December 2004)
  15. ^ Andreas Hub: “Produzenten in Deutschland: Jon Caffery” (Fachblatt Musikmagazin, Germany, October 1990, pages 68-75)
  16. ^ Recorded in England Sept. '78 (album sleeve note)
  17. ^ a b c d Chris Brazier: “The Danceable Solution” (Melody Maker, 28 October 1978)
  18. ^ message from Mick Glossop (6 February 2011)
  19. ^ [2] Ebay auction details on Popsike website
  20. ^ Mikal Gilmore: “John Lydon Improves His Public Image” (Rolling Stone, 1 May 1980)
  21. ^ Scott Murphy: “David Humphrey Interview” (Fodderstompf.com website April 2004)
  22. ^ [3] Various Artists: “Troublemakers” (Warner Bros. Records, US, released 10 July 1980 / release date according to United States Copyright Office website)
  23. ^ [4] First Issue
  24. ^ Peter Clifton: “Film Producer's Commentary” (The Punk Rock Movie - Widescreen Special Edition DVD, EMI 2006)
  25. ^ Don Letts, David Nobakht: “Culture Clash - Dread Meets Punk Rockers” (SAF Publishing 2007, pages 119,178)
  26. ^ Charlotte Wylie: “But Everyone Knew Him As Rotten” (Trouser Press, May 1979)
  27. ^ Saturday Night People (London Weekend Television Saturday, 21 October 1978)
  28. ^ Top of the Pops (BBC1 Thursday, 26 October 1978)
  29. ^ [5] Public Image Ltd.: “Videos” VHS cassette (Virgin Music Video December 1986)
  30. ^ [6] John Lydon: “The Best Of British £1♫'s” DVD (EMI October 2005)
  31. ^ “Public Image Limited” (Muziekkrant OOR, January 1979)
  32. ^ a b c d Jason Gross: “Keith Levene Interview by Jason Gross, Part 2 of 4” (Perfect Sound Forever website, May 2001)
  33. ^ Bonnie Simmons: “Sid Vicious and John Lydon Radio Interview” (KSAN radio station, San Francisco, 14 January 1978)
  34. ^ Barry Cain: “Images of Public Image” (Record Mirror, 4 November 1978)
  35. ^ San Antonio (Randy's Rodeo) 8 January 1978
  36. ^ John Lydon: “Rotten - No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” (St. Martin's Press 1994, page 247)
  37. ^ [7] Bob Gruen and Joe Stevens took pictures of this at the Sex Pistols soundcheck in Dallas (Longhorn Ballroom), 10 January 1978
  38. ^ Jon Savage: “The England's Dreaming Tapes” (Faber and Faber 2009, page 229)
  39. ^ Jon Savage: “England's Dreaming” (Faber and Faber paperback 1992, page 451)
  40. ^ Joe Stevens: “Sex Pistols US Tour January 5–14, 1978” (Uncut, February 2011 / Stevens incorrectly states that his photo was taken in Baton Rouge, when in fact the band is shown in front of a Longhorn Ballroom backdrop)
  41. ^ Jon Savage: “The England's Dreaming Tapes” (Faber and Faber 2009, page 176)
  42. ^ a b John Robb: “Jah Wobble and Keith Levene Play Metal Box in Dub : The Interview” (Louderthanwar.com website, 4 February 2012)
  43. ^ Phil Strongman: “John Lydon’s Metal Box – The Story Of Public Image Ltd.” (Helter Skelter, 2007, page 78)
  44. ^ Jah Wobble: “Memoirs of a Geezer” (Serpent's Tail, 2009, page 85)
  45. ^ John Lydon linernotes (Public Image Ltd.: “Plastic Box” compilation, Virgin Records, 1999)
  46. ^ Phil Strongman: “John Lydon’s Metal Box – The Story Of Public Image Ltd.” (Helter Skelter, 2007, pages 84-85)
  47. ^ Simon Reynolds: “Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews” (Soft Skull Press, 2009, page 20)
  48. ^ Chris Salewicz: “Johnny's Immaculate Conception” (New Musical Express, 23 December 1978)
  49. ^ a b c Karsten Roekens: Jim Walker Interview” (Fodderstompf.com website, September 2001)
  50. ^ Tony Dale: “Long Hair? Suspicious? Moi?” (Fodderstompf.com website, site update 27 August 2004)
  51. ^ Simon Reynolds: “Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984” (Faber and Faber, 2005, page 13)
  52. ^ a b Jah Wobble: “Memoirs of a Geezer” (Serpent's Tail, 2009, page 88)
  53. ^ Robin Banks: “We Only Wanted to Be Loved” (ZigZag, December 1978)
  54. ^ Phil Strongman: “John Lydon’s Metal Box – The Story Of Public Image Ltd.” (Helter Skelter, 2007, page 74)
  55. ^ Scott Murphy: “Jah Wobble Interview” (The Filth and The Fury #9 fanzine, April 1999)
  56. ^ Phil Strongman: “John Lydon’s Metal Box – The Story Of Public Image Ltd.” (Helter Skelter, 2007, page 60)
  57. ^ Rollerball Rehearsal Studios (75-81 Tooley Street, London SE1), PIL's rehearsal studio had a 4-track on which they also recorded “Graveyard” for their follow-up album Metal Box
  58. ^ Scott Murphy: “John Lydon Interview” (Fodderstompf.com website, January 2004)
  59. ^ [8] Don Letts, Stratetime Keith, Steel Leg, Jah Wobble: “Steel Leg V. The Electric Dread” 12-inch single (Virgin Records, released December 1978)
  60. ^ Jim McCarthy: “Jah Invades This Space” (Deadline, October 1988)
  61. ^ Don Letts, David Nobakht: “Culture Clash - Dread Meets Punk Rockers” (SAF Publishing, 2007, pages 104-105)
  62. ^ Phil Strongman: “John Lydon’s Metal Box – The Story Of Public Image Ltd.” (Helter Skelter, 2007, page 77)
  63. ^ a b Theofficialcharts.com website
  64. ^ Charts.org.nz website
  65. ^ “T-Zers” column (New Musical Express, 1 September 1979)
  66. ^ Mojo, date unknown