PUBLIC IMAGE, LTD.

PUBLIC IMAGE, LTD. – “COMMERCIAL ZONE” LP plus 2 live sets

After “The Flowers of Romance” in 81′ , tensions between John Lydon and PiL guitarist/co-founder Keith Levene unraveled what was left of the original band, and Lydon carried on under the PiL moniker with studio musicians. The studio material they were working on at the time was scrapped, and Lydon started over with the new musicians, eventually coming up with “This Is What You Want…This Is What You Get” (1984), one of their best efforts in my opinion, beyond the surface impression you might have of the album based solely upon its hit single “This Is Not A Love Song.”

Before Lydon and Co. could track “This Is What You Want,” Levene did a mix job on the material from the aborted earlier sessions. When done, Levene submitted the tracks as “the next PiL album”, while Lydon dismissed the idea of releasing it under the band’s name. “Commercial Zone,” as Levene’s collection was called, was abandoned by Virgin Records, forcing Levene to put it out briefly in the U.S. on a record label created just for this one-off release. It’s been commercially unavailable ever since.

“Commercial Zone” is a mixed affair, not as cohesive as “This Is What You Want,” even though about 2/3rds of its material ended up in some form on the later official album. The final few songs on the record are of the most interest here, as they follow in the same experimental fuck-all vein as “Flowers of Romance.”

Also included here are two live PiL sets, one of which is from the legendary 1981 NYC “show” where PiL’s “performance” caused a full-scale audience riot! Of the show, Wikipedia sez:

“The band’s musical core had by then been stripped down to Lydon and Levene (drummer Martin Atkins had recently departed), and PiL had begun to relocate to New York, partly because MI5 was conducting an harassment campaign — later admitted — against the band’s headquarters, the London flat that Lydon bought with his Sex Pistols royalties. (A similar campaign would chase Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV frontman Genesis P. Orridge out of Britain in the early ’90s.) Levene had also begun to rethink PiL’s formerly-ironic claims to be a ‘corporation’ and an ‘art collective’. While friends of the band including filmmaker Jeanette Lee had long been ‘full members’ of PiL (original drummer Jim Walker was only ‘voted off the board’ in 1980), no creative works besides the records had ever ensued. For the Ritz gig however, Levene decided that PiL would reorganize as an improvisational multimedia troupe — working, as usual, without planning or rehearsals.

PiL appeared at the Ritz playing from behind a projection screen. (Drummer Sam Ulano had been recruited for the gig from a bar — the 60-year-old jazz player had never heard the band before). While something reminiscent of, but clearly different from PiL, improvised behind the screen, PiL records were played simultaneously through the PA. Lydon taunted the audience, who expected to hear familiar material (or at least see the band), and a melée erupted in which the audience pelted the stage with bottles and pulled on a tarp spread under the band, toppling equipment. The promoters cleared the hall and cancelled the next night’s show, and a local media furor ignited in New York.”

PiL – “Commercial Zone” LP (ZIP file)
PiL – Live, The Russell Club, Manchester, UK, 06.18.79 (ZIP file)
PiL – Live, The Ritz, NYC, 05.15.81 (ZIP file)

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745 Responses to PUBLIC IMAGE, LTD.

  1. Monty says:

    Thanks for ‘Commercial Zone’…I’ve been curious about this for a long time. Cheers for all the other good stuff too. Please keep surprising and delighting us in 2008 and beyond. Happy New Year from Monty, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

  2. harveyw says:

    Gosh, I’ve been wanting to hear that Ritz show since I first read about it in Sounds 25+ years ago (and found of here was a bootleg). It’s frightening stuff…
    Thanks so much for posting

  3. harveyw says:

    Having said that, I would have reacted in exactly the same way as the audience. It’s a great idea (performing as a multi-media act behind a screen) and I don’t think it’s this that the audience are reacting against (this is a NYC art crowd, don’t forget). It’s the lazy way it’s been put into practice, the unbelievably poor quality “music” and the endless dreary taunting. John, you can’t be this provocative and then get scared when the audience start baying for blood.

  4. Thanks, thanks, thanks..

    Brilliant, Great, Nice, Perfect blog.

  5. Mars says:

    Ah, the Riot. Thanks!
    they were certainly ahead of the curve, weren’t they?

  6. jake says:

    I actually prefer Commercial Zone to This Is What You Want.

  7. derek payne says:

    ta very much again for another great post.early P.I.L shows aren’t easy to find so you are a legend in my hoose!listening to these 70s/80s gigs i realise how civillised/tame most gigs are these days!those were indeed the best and worst of times……

  8. Midwich youth says:

    Superb site, been waiting to hear the ‘riot’ show for a long, long time. Agree wlth Derek P as well. Cheers

  9. Silent 3 says:

    I saw PIL perform at the East Side Club in Philly. The audience was obnoxious and acted like PIL were the Sex Pistols. People threw things at John. Eventually, John just sat on the floor behind a large monitor on the stage, facing the band, and hidden from the audience. He did the rest of the show like that. Still it was a good show to listen to.

  10. Mr X says:

    I was at the factory gig so stick that in your windpipe.

  11. Grendel says:

    Thanks for these!

  12. Carolyn says:

    I was at this show. It was insane. No one told the audience what to expect. My boyfriend at the time and I were waiting for the band to appear b/c we were never told that it was supposed to be ‘performance art.” Lydon’s taunting of the audience was what made the whole thing explode. Because we were expecting the screen to eventually go up, and were never told of PIL’s intentions, we just figured they were just taking their damn time in revealing themselves to the audience. By the way, many bottles were thrown, and many people were hurt, not just the one who legend says was hanging out in the back with the band, with blood pouring from his head. It was ridiculous, and it made me realize what an ass John is. Too bad, because I loved the music.