But first, here's a pre-Sex Pistols photo booth shot of John Lydon in the mid-70s.
1978 John Lydon forms Public Image with Keith Levene (guitar), Jah Wobble (bass), and Jim Walker (drums). The band sign to Virgin Records and release their debut single 'Public Image' in October, followed by the album 'Public Image - First Issue' in December. Barely six months after forming. PiL (Public Image Limited) play their first UK shows on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
1979 Jim Walker leaves to be replaced by a succession of drummers, most notably Richard Dudanski then Martin Atkins. Release of the second single 'Death Disco'. Written by John Lydon to his dying mother. 'Metal Box' is released: 12 tracks on three separate 12" records – playing at 45 rpm – housed in a limited edition metal canister.
1980 PiL play their first US shows and also appear on 'American Bandstand'. John Lydon brings the audience on stage to dance and mime to 'Poptones' and 'Careering'. Jah Wobble leaves. Jeannette Lee – who had worked behind the scenes – takes a more prominent, but still non-musical, role. Release of live album 'Paris Au Printemps'. Recorded live in Paris, January 17th and 18th, 1980. 'Metal Box' is re-released as 'Second Edition' in a cardboard sleeve.
1981 Release of third studio album 'Flowers of Romance'. Preceded by the single. PiL play a special show at New York, The Ritz. They perform behind a huge video screen. The audience riots. PiL decide to relocate to New York from London due to logistics and Police harassment.
1982 Drummer Martin Atkins rejoins, followed by bassist Pete Jones. Recording begins in New York on what will be the 4th PiL studio album. US and Canadian live shows.
1983 Pete Jones leaves. Keith Levene leaves. PiL play a short Japanese tour. John Lydon is the only founder member still in the band. With the exception of Martin Atkins, the line-up is largely unknown local New Jersey musicians hired for the shows. A live album from the tour is released. Release of 'This Is Not A Love Song'. PiL's biggest UK hit single; peaking at Number 5. Followed by the first real UK and European tours.
1984 'This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get' album is released, preceded by 'Bad Life' single. The album contains re-recorded material from the 1982 NY sessions; including 'This Is Not A Love Song'. New live line-up is recruited for North American, Japanese and Australian tours. John Lydon – now the only PiL member – releases his first single outside the band. Time Zone: 'World Destruction' with Africa Bambaataa.
1986 Release of 'Album' album. Recorded with producer Bill Laswell and various session musicians; including Ginger Baker, Steve Vai, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. 'Rise' from the album peaks at Number 11 in the UK charts. A new PiL band is recruited: John McGeoch (guitar), Allan Dias (bass), Lu Edmonds (keyboards / guitar) and Bruce Smith (drums). UK, European and North American tours.
1987 The "new" PiL release their first album together 'Happy?'. Release of the single's 'Seattle' and 'The Body'. UK, European and North American Tours, plus first ever South American shows.
1988 PiL headline the first day of the 'Rock Summer Festival' in Tallinn, Estonia (USSR) playing to over 120,000 people. The biggest rock festival to be played behind the Iron Curtain. Lu Edmonds is forced to quit the band due to health problems.
1989 Release of '9'. The 7th PiL studio album. And the 9th album including the two live albums. PiL – along with New Order and The Sugarcubes (featuring Bjork) – tour North America.The three band package tour – known as 'Monsters of Alternative Rock' – is a forerunner to the now famous Lollapalooza tours of the early nineties. Australian Tour. And one-off UK show at London, Hammersmith.
1990 Bruce Smith leaves. 'The Greatest Hits So Far' compilation album is released; including several 12" mixes and remixes, plus the new track 'Don't Ask Me'. 'Don't Ask Me' becomes PiL's biggest UK hit single since 'Rise'.
1992 PiL – Lydon, McGeoch and Dias – release 'That What Is Not'. The last studio album to date. The band are complemented by sessions players. EMI Records take over Virgin Records. PiL leave the label. North American package tour with BAD, Live and Blind Melon. Followed by UK, European and South American Tours, plus more US shows. Allan Dias leaves during European shows.
1993 John Lydon announces he has put PiL on hiatus to concentrate on recording a solo album; and to complete his autobiography. He also releases the 'Open Up' collaboration single with Leftfield.
1997 John Lydon releases the solo album 'Psycho's Path'. His first album outside PiL since the band was formed.
1999 Release of limited edition 4 CD PiL box set 'Plastic Box'. 64 tracks in total. Including sleevenotes from John Lydon: "This collection represents a comma not a full stop, I fully intend to carry on with PiL,and there will be more in the future…"
2004 PiL guitarist John McGeoch dies aged just 48.
2005 Release of John Lydon compilation CD 'Best of British £1 Notes' covering his whole career from the Sex Pistols, through PiL, to solo records and collaborations. The DVD release features several PiL promo videos and also includes 3 previously unreleased extended audio mixes from 'Metal Box'.
2006 A vinyl replica of 'Metal Box' – 3x45rpm, housed in a metal can – is released in the USA by the 4 Men With Beards re-issue label. This is the first time the album had been released in its original form in the US.
2009 Public Image Limited return to play their first live shows in 17 years. John Lydon is joined by former PiL members Lu Edmonds (Guitar & Misc), Bruce Smith (Drums), and new recruit Scott Firth (Bass).
Sunday May, 16th 2010 at 8:30. Public Image Ltd. plays the Pearl Street Ballroom in Northampton. Tickets still available here.