Music and British Identity: Public Image Limited


Primary members: John Lydon, Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Jim Walker
Band Biography
Albums of focus: Public Image: First Issue (1978), Metal Box (1979), Second Issue (1980)
Songs for study: "Theme," "Religion I," "Annalisa," "Public Image," "Poptones," "Careering," "Death Disco," "Religion II"

 

"Theme" - from First Issue (1978)
(scream)
Theme
Now I understand (ha, ha, ha)

Now I understand (ha, ha, ha)
Theme going on and on and on
It's not the same anymore
No, never, never no
Wish
Wish
Wish I could die

Now walk alone
Now walk in drain
Does not compute
Not a cliche
And I wish I could die (ha, ha, ha)

Random
There is only one reaction
You must never underestimate
And I wish I
And I wish I could die (ha, ha, ha)

Now understand

Now I understand
It doesn't matter no more
Another leap in the dark
I will survive
And I wish I could die
And I wish I could die
And I wish I
I wish I
I wish I could die (ha, ha, ha)

It's only excuses
Never mistaking
Rhyme or reason
No, never no never
And I wish I could die
And I wish I
And I wish I could die (ha, ha, ha)
I wish I could die

Understand
Theme's going on
On and on and on
I wish I could die

No, never no more
Does not compute
Walk alone out of the drain
It's not cliche
Wish I
Wish
Wish I could die
And I wish I could die (ha, ha, ha)
And I wish I could die

On and on and on and on
Will survive
I wish I could die
I will survive
I wish I could die

Understanding doesn't matter no more
Leap in the dark
I will survive
Wish I could die
Wish I could die
Wish I could die
Wish I could die

I just died

Terminal boredom

 

"Religion I" - from First Issue (1978)
Stained glass windows keep the cold outside
While the hypocrites hide inside
With the lies of statues in their minds
Where the Christian religion made them blind
Where they hide
And pray to the God of a bitch spelled backwards is dog
Not for one race, one creed, one world
But for money
Effective
Absurd

Do you pray to the Holy Ghost when you suck your host
Do you read who's dead in the Irish Post
Do you give away the cash you can't afford
On bended knees and pray to lord

Fat pig priest
Sanctimonious smiles
He takes the money
You take the lies
This is religion and Jesus Christ
This is religion cheaply priced
This is bibles full of libel
This is sin in eternal hymn
This is what they've done
This is your religion
The apostles were eleven
Now there's a sod in Heaven

This is religion
There's a liar on the altar
The sermon never falter
This is religion
Your religion

"Annalisa" - from First Issue (1978)

Note on the song: "[It's] about these silly fucking parents of this girl who believed she was possessed by the devil, so they starved her to death."

--John Lydon, Melody Maker, 28 October 1978

Think I'm proud to be your enemy
Take your hands off of me
You're worse than the thing that possessed me
They way they were
The way they should have been
Annalisa

Annalisa was 15 years
Stole her soul
But I hear no tears
Ever been alone
And heard the voice
Not your own
I've seen those fears
Annalisa

Somehow you used ignorance for sense
Melodrama in your eyes
All concern rests with the dead
Annalisa

Annalisa had no escape
Starved to death in a waiting room
Cheap concern and rosary beads
Did not solve screaming needs
Annalisa

Annalisa

Annalisa was 15 years
Stole her soul
But I hear no tears
Ever been alone
And heard the voice
Not your own
I've seen those fears
Annalisa
Annalisa

Think I'm proud to be your enemy
Take your hands off of me
You're worse than the thing that possessed me
They way they were
The way they should have been
Annalisa

Somehow you used ignorance for sense
Melodrama in your eyes
All concern rests with the dead

Annalisa
Annalisa
Annalisa

Crawl like rabid dog

Annalisa (repeat)

 

"Public Image" - from First Issue (1978)

Note on the song: "'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 [i.e., Sex Pistols]. 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.'"

--John Lydon, Melody Maker, 28 October 1978

Hello, hello, hello (ha, ha, ha)

You never listen to a word that I said
You only seen me
For the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been
The colour of my hair

The Public Image

What you wanted was never made clear
Behind the image was ignorance and fear
You hide behind this public machine
Still follow same old scheme

Public Image

Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
I will not be treated as property

Public Image

Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
It's not a game of monopoly

Public image

Public image
You got what you wanted
The public image belongs to me
It's my entrance
My own creation
My grand finale
My goodbye

Public image
Goodbye!

 

"Poptones" - Live, Old Grey Whistle Test (1980)

Note on the song: "This was another newspaper story which fascinated me. A girl bundled blindfolded into the back of a car by a couple of bad men and driven off into a forest, where they eventually dumped her. The men had a cassette machine with an unusual tune on the cassette, which they kept playing over and over. The girl remembered the song, and that, along with her recollection of the car and the men's voices, is how the police identified them. The police eventually stopped the car and found the cassette was still in the machine, with the same distinctive song on the tape."

--John Lydon, "Plastic Box" compilation, Virgin Records, 1999

Drive to the forest in a Japanese car
The smell of rubber on country tar
Hindsight does me no good
Standing naked in this back of the woods
The cassette played poptones

I can't forget the impression you made
You left a hole in the back of my head
I don't like hiding in this foliage and peat

It's wet and I'm losing my body heat
The cassette played poptones

This bleeding heart
Looking for bodies
Nearly injured my pride
Praise picnicking in the British countryside
Poptones

 

 

"Careering" - Live, Old Grey Whistle Test (1980)

Note on the song: "'Careering' is basically about Northern Ireland, a gunman who is careering as a professional businessman in London."

--Jah Wobble, bassist, Impulse (May 1980)

A face is raining
Across the border
The pride of history
The same as murder
Is this living
He's been careering
The steady hand as planned
Behind the reasoning
No claim for property
Both sides of the river
There is bacteria
Is this living
He's been careering
Trigger machinery
Mangle the military
No one should be there
Is this living
Blown into breeze
Scatter concrete
The jagged metal bad life
Manufactured
He's been careering
Is this living
A face is raining
Across the border
The pride of history
The same as murder
Is this living careering
There must be meaning
Behind the moaning
Spreading tales
Like coffin nails
Is this living
He's been careering
It's raining
I need to hide
Trigger machinery
I've been careering
Across the border
Is this living
Both sides of the river
There is bacteria
Armoured machinery mangled

 

"Death Disco" - Live, Top of the Pops (1979)

Note on the song: This song is about the death of John Lydon's mother, who was refused the Last Rites by the Catholic chuch as she died from cancer [she died in 1978]. "I watched her die. She was tough, my mum. She asked me to write a disco song for her funeral. This was hardly happy stuff."

--John Lydon, Select (May 1990)

Seeing in your eyes
Words can never say the way
Told me in your eyes
Final in a fade
Never no more hope away
Final in a fade
Seeing in your eyes
Seeing in your eyes
Never really know
Never realise
Silence in your eyes
Silence in your eyes
Never really know
Til its gone away
Never realise
The silence in your eyes
Seen it in your eyes
Seen it in your eyes
Never no more hope away
Final in a fade
Watch her slowly die
Saw it in her eyes
Choking on a bed
Flowers rotting dead
seen it in her eyes
Ending in a day
Silence was a way
Seeing in your eyes
Seeing in your eyes
Seeing in your eyes
I'm seeing through my eyes
Words cannot express
Words cannot express

 

"Religion II" - from First Issue (1978)
Stained glass windows keep the cold outside
While the hypocrites hide inside
With the lies of statues in their minds
Where the Christian religion made them blind
Where they hide
And pray to the God of a bitch spelled backwards is dog
Not for one race, one creed, one world
But for money
Effective
Absurd

This is religion
There's a liar on the altar
The sermon never falter
This is religion

Do you pray to the Holy Ghost when you suck your host
Do you read who's dead in the Irish Post
Do you give away the cash you can't afford
On bended knees and pray to lord
Fat pig priest
Sanctimonious smiles
He takes the money
You take the lies

This is religion
A liar on the altar
Sermon never falter
This is religion

This is religion and Jesus Christ
This is religion cheaply priced
This is bibles full of libel
This is sin in eternal hymn
This is what they've done
This is your religion
The apostles were eleven
Now there's a sod in Heaven

This is religion
Liar on the altar
The sermon never falter
This is religion

This is religion
This is religion
This is religion
This is religion

This is religion
A liar on the altar
A sermon never falter
This is religion

This is religion
Your religion
And it's all falling to bits gloriously
This is religion

 

GRAFFITI STUDY WALL: MUSIC & VIDEOS
SEX PISTOLS
KRAFTWERK
THE CLASH
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.
JOY DIVISION
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES
AU PAIRS
COCTEAU TWINS
ARTERY
HUMAN LEAGUE
HEAVEN 17
THE SPECIALS
CABARET VOLTAIRE
TEARS FOR FEARS
DEPECHE MODE
THE SOUND
THE GLOVE
THE CURE
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN
A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
GANG OF FOUR
NEW ORDER
U2
THE POLICE
CRASS
NEW MODEL ARMY
ELVIS COSTELLO
SPLIT ENZ
THE THE
XTC
THE EXPLOITED
DISCHARGE
THE SMITHS
THE HOUSEMARTINS
RADIOHEAD
PORTISHEAD
PET SHOP BOYS
M Y BLOODY VALENTINE
SLOWDIVE
CRASH MUSIC
MUSIC OF THE TROUBLES

VIDEOS:

SEX PISTOLS
SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES (LIVE)
THE CURE (LIVE)
COCTEAU TWINS (LIVE)
NEW ORDER (LIVE)
PORTISHEAD (LIVE)
JOY DIVISION MINI-DOCUMENTARY
NUCLEAR WAR PREPAREDNESS: PROTECT & SURVIVE MANUAL