Public Image

Album: Public Image (1978)
Charted: 9

Songfacts®:

  • Lead singer Johnny Lydon wrote this song while he was still with The Sex Pistols. He was extremely unhappy at the time and thought that he and his fellow Sex Pistols were abused and manipulated by band manager Malcolm McClaren. Public Image, Ltd. was his new group, and it was designed to be a business venture as well as a band (thus the name that sounds like a corporation).

    With The Sex Pistols, Lydon was known as "Johnny Rotten." He used his real name for this group. When Public Image Ltd. (also known as PiL) first started, everyone was looking for Sex Pistols version 2.0 and Lydon was not having it. He wanted a completely different image and sound for the new band. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    John - Levittown, NY
  • Danish popsters Alphabeat covered this on their 2008 self-titled debut album. Guitarist and chief songwriter Anders Bonlokke explained to Q magazine July 2008: "To me, that song is about being outsiders, and that's how we feel among all the Indie bands in London. I think John Lydon would probably hate it."
  • This song finds Lydon starting afresh and going deeper after the Pistols. He told Mojo magazine August 2012: "I think it was clear: 'I don't need to repeat where I stand politically, not ever again. Now let's deal with the personal politics, sort myself out, get rid of the wrong things in me.' You can change everything that's wrong with your enemy by changing yourself first."

Comments: 5

  • Ross from Leicester, United KingdomI think the name was meant to be partially ironic but also implying that they could be more than just a band and experiment with different media - not that much came of this. Heaven 17/British Electric Foundation dabbled with a similar idea. As for being anti-capitalist, Lydon has never seemed particulary concerned with this and is now a property developer in LA....!!!!
  • Tommy from London, United KingdomI thought the name of the band was ironic - as an anti-capitalist message - as opposed to being an actual 'business venture' as suggested here.
  • Ho Chi Nathan The Fi from Billinge!, AfricaPiL are amazing. They don't sound like anyone before of since. That I know of anyway.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe first of 12 big UK hits for PiL between 1978 and 1993... Others included "Death Disco", "Flowers of Romance", "This Is Not a Love Song", "Rise" and "Don't Ask Me"
  • Ralph from Newton, MaThis is a GREAT song and I believe, wrapped in and integral to all the anger about McLaren
    (correct spelling), is John's announcing the end of Jonny Rotten and introducing PiL. Killer opening bassline by Jah Wobble and John mumbling "Hello, Hello hello" in different tones. End in a defiant "Goodbye!"
see more comments

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