The art of… Public Image Ltd

By , Apr 24 2012
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We’re trying very hard to ignore the imminent return of Public Image Limited.

It’s hard to imagine that the band’s new album, This is PiL, due out on May 28, will be anything other than at best a pale echo, at worst a monstrous parody, of the records they released in the late 70s and early 80s. At least those early records have lost none of their lustre: Lydon’s paranoid, inscrutable vocals still inspire and enervate, Jah Wobble’s bass still plumbs impossible depths, and Keith Levene’s guitar still cuts through it all like a knife.

It’s not just the music: the visual identity of PiL in their pomp also remains a thing of wonder. Between 1978 and 1988, they rolled out some of the most striking cover art and packaging design the music world had ever seen: from the tabloid front page pastiche of ‘Public Image’ to the infamous film canister-style housing of Metal Box. Hell, outside of Saville-assisted New Order, it’s hard to think of another band in pop history of comparable visual class. Over the following pages we pick out 10 of the finest examples (well, 11 if you include the above from 1992’s That What Is Not).

‘PUBLIC IMAGE’
(VIRGIN 7″, 1978)
Design: Zebulon

PUBLIC IMAGE – FIRST ISSUE
(VIRGIN LP, 1978)
Design: Zebulon, Dennis Morris [photography]

‘MEMORIES’
(VIRGIN 7″, 1979)
Design: Unknown

‘DEATH DISCO’
(VIRGIN 7″, 1979)
Design: John Lydon

METAL BOX
(VIRGIN 3×12″ BOX, 1979)
Design: Dennis Morris

SECOND EDITION
(VIRGIN LP, 1980)
Design: Tony McGee [photography]

IMAGE PUBLIQUE S.A. – PARIS AU PRINTEMPS
(VIRGIN LP, 1980)
Design: Image Publique S.A.

THE FLOWERS OF ROMANCE
(VIRGIN LP, 1981)
Design: Unknown

ALBUM
(VIRGIN LP, 1986)
Design: John Lydon [concept]

HAPPY?
(VIRGIN LP, 1987)
Design: John Lydon [concept], Richard Evans [cover painting]

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