Album (Public Image Ltd album)

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Album/Cassette/Compact Disc
Public image ltd album cover.jpg
Studio album by Public Image Ltd
Released 27 January 1986 (1986-01-27)[1]
Recorded 1985
Length 40:55
Public Image Ltd chronology
This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get
Cover of CD issue
Singles from Album
  1. "Rise"
    Released: 21 January 1986 (1986-01-21)
  2. "Home"
    Released: 21 April 1986 (1986-04-21)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau B+[3]
PopMatters 8/10 stars[4]
Trouser Press favourable[5]

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 27 January 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)",[6] "Fairweather Friend",[7] "Fishing (Pearls Before Swine"),[7] "Black Rubber Bag"[8] and "Things In Ease".[8] "Fairweather Friend" featured originally music written by Schulz and Bruni. An unrecorded Lydon/Schulz composition "Animal"[8] was registered too. Schulz and PIL tour bassist Bret Helm had previously registered a further (presumably non-PIL, therefore unused) composition called “Cat Rap”.[9]
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.”[10] “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.”[11] “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.”[12]
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.”[13]

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.

One possibility of the album cover's inspiration could be Lydon's contempt for the Alex Cox film Sid & Nancy. As a retaliation, the band may have stole the design from various products seen throughout Cox's earlier film, Repo Man, which are identical in their plain design.

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.”[13]

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. There is also a Public Image Ltd. tribute album whose cover is designed in homage to the album cover style, titled Tribute.[14]

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.[15]
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."[16]
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.”[17] “I went 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.”[18] “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.”[19]
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.”[20] “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!”[21]
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.”[22]
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.”[23]

Track listing[edit]

Listed on the album cover as "Ingredients"

No. Title Writer(s) Length
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


Additional personnel[edit]



  • “Album” entered the UK Album Charts, where it stayed for 6 weeks and reached #14 on 15 February 1986.[24]
  • The single “Rise” entered the UK Top 75, where it stayed for 8 weeks and reached #11 on 1 February 1986.[24]
  • The single “Home” briefly entered the UK Top 75, where it stayed for 1 week at #75 on 3 May 1986.[24]
  • 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.[24]


  • “Album” entered the Billboard 200 album charts, where it stayed for 16 weeks and reached #115 on 12 April 1986.[25]
  • 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.[26]
  • 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.[27]


  1. ^ (US release date according to United States Copyright Office website)
  2. ^ Album at AllMusic
  3. ^ Robert Christgau
  4. ^ Paul, John (January 18, 2017). "Public Image Ltd.: Metal Box / Album". PopMatters. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  5. ^ Trouser Press
  6. ^ United States Copyright Office website (song registered on 9 September 1985)
  7. ^ a b c United States Copyright Office website (song registered on 9 October 1985)
  8. ^ United States Copyright Office website (song registered on 30 July 1985)
  9. ^ Richard Skinner: “John Lydon Interview” (BBC Radio 1, 18 January 1986)
  10. ^ Howard Johnson: “Feature” (Kerrang!, 20 February 1986)
  11. ^ Paul Morley: “This Is What You Want” (New Musical Express, 8 February 1986)
  12. ^ a b John Garratt: “Do Or Die: An Interview with Bill Laswell” (PopMatters website, 20 February 2012)
  13. ^ " Various – Tribute: A Tribute To Public Image Limited"
  14. ^ Jim Bessman:“Sidebar” (Musician, June 1986)
  15. ^ John Lydon liner notes (Public Image Ltd.: “Plastic Box” compilation, Virgin Records, 1999)
  16. ^ [1] Steve Vai: “Notes: Public Image Limited” ( website, last update 18 January 2006)
  17. ^ Ben Myers: “John Lydon - The Sex Pistols, PIL & Anti-Celebrity” (Independent Music Press, 2004, pages 152,154)
  18. ^ Simon Sweetman: “The Steve Vai Interview” ( website, 15 March 2012)
  19. ^ “Ginger Baker - Auf Tuchfühlung mit einer Legende” (Drums & Percussion magazine, Reiner H. Nitschke Verlags-GmbH, Germany, May/June 2009)
  20. ^ Ginger Baker: “Hellraiser - The Autobiography Of The World's Greatest Drummer” (John Blake Publishing 2010, page 234)
  21. ^ Anil Prasad: “Bill Laswell - Extending Energy And Experimentation” (Innerviews website, April 1999)
  22. ^ Peter Wetherbee: “Axiom History, Part Two: Memory Serves” ( website, 1999)
  23. ^ a b c d website
  24. ^ entry
  25. ^ website
  26. ^ website