1981 Chronology

Research by Karsten Roekens and Scott M, plus contributors…



The premiere of Paul Dougherty's 'PiL Tape' at the The Kitchen, New York. The 25 minute live video recorded at Great Gildersleeves, New York, 22nd April 1980


Brian Brain at Street Level studios to record a "new" version of PiL's 'Careering' for their live set. The band had previously recorded the track for their 'Culture' EP.


Paul Dougherty's 'PiL Tape' is shown a second time at the Peppermint Lounge, New York.


'Rolling Stone' publish a preview article on the work-in-progress third PiL studio album. "For 'Flowers Of Romance' the group hired one of its former drummers, Martin Atkins, to play on a few tracks. Levene drummed on others, as did Lydon – who bashed away on whatever was at hand on such cuts as 'Phenagen' and untuned the strings of a banjo while hitting them with a drumstick on the album's title tune."


Brian Brain's second US tour begins. The 21 date tour will include Boston, Washington, New Orleans, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Austin & Houston.


'NME' - Lydon & Levene interview. The band admit that their aspirations of making PiL a company have largely failed. Keith Levene: "It's a company that doesn't exist, because you need a massive cash injection to give it a boost... We need people to invest in us on a contract basis, which Virgin are doing in terms of music in Britain, as are Nippon Columbia in Japan and Warner's in America. We've suggested our ideas to all three companies and all the problems that amounted were the same: We can‚t do that. It won't sell."

John Lydon also states: "They have the finance but no ideas. We have the ideas but no finance. That's where the arguments begin and end."


'Melody Maker' - Lydon & Levene interview.


An early incarnation of the Human Condition called "Ker-rang" play Liverpool, Pluto's. Wobble later explained: "At that point I hadn't come up with the name The Human Condition. So that was the first name off the top of my head to give to the promoter when he booked us…" The band features Wobble on bass and Jim Walker on drums, along with guitarist Dave "Animal" Maltby.


The release of 'Flowers of Romance' on 7" & 12" (Virgin. VS 39712). Lydon explains that the song, “Is about ponces, people who pretend to be friends but all they really want is to leech on a good thing and spend your money. The original Flowers of Romance had about 40 fucking members, Keith was one of them and I gave them that name." Other members of the band had included Palmolive and Viv Albertine of the Slits, as well as a pre-Pistols Sid Vicious.

The single version of 'Flowers of Romance' is a slightly different mix than the album version, and is later included on 'Plastic Box'.


'NME' review 'Flowers of Romance' single.


Radio 1, Rock On - Lydon and Levene interview.


Hot Press - Lydon & Levene interview. Levene comments of PiL's future plans, "It's really weird, but recently loads of ideas I've had that I can now say were wrong, have been echoed by namely Jerry Dammers. He literally echoed something I said, and later on I found out that the idea I had was totally redundant. Nevertheless he used it to sound good."


'Flowers of Romance' enters the singles charts, peaking at number 24 and remaining in the charts for seven weeks.


'NME' publish an 'April fool' that Cream drummer Ginger Baker has joined PiL.


Martin Atkins gets beaten up in the toilets of the Rat club in Boston following a fracas at the end of tour party. Martin Atkins: "I threw GG Allen on the floor and threw microphones and a speaker at him. He did nothing. Two and a half hours later he broke my nose and jaw while I was pissing in a bathroom stall." Pete Jones later remembered, "He only went for a piss and came back with a broken nose and jaw!"


BBC1, 'Top of the Pops'. Lydon, Levene, and Lee appear miming to 'Flowers of Romance.'


The release of the 'Flowers of Romance' album (Virgin. V 2189). Virgin records had delayed the album's release, finding it to be too uncommercial. It peaks at number 11 in the album charts!


Smash Hits - Lydon, Lee & Levene interview. Levene misses the beginning of the interview. "Keith's a bit unreliable, you know, I don't think we ought to rely on him being back" comments Lee.


'Flowers of Romance' enters the album charts, peaking at number 11 and remaining in the charts for five weeks.


'Zigzag' magazine - Lydon, Lee & Levene interview, plus 'Flowers of Romance' review. This is the third Zigzag interview with Kris Needs and PiL. The interview later surfaces on the bootleg picture disc 'interview' in 1986 (see Interview Disc Discography for full info).


'Fast Forward' - John Lydon interview. Australian cassette magazine. Recorded in April, but not released until October (see Interview Disc Discography for full info).


A new 12" single by brother Jimmy Lydon's band 4"Be 2" 'All of the lads'. The two tracks on the B-side are allegedly produced by John Lydon (see Lydon discography for full info).


Keith Levene travels to New York on holiday, to consider it as a possible new 'base of operations' for PiL. While there he is interviewed by Lisa Yapp for the 'Dirt' cable TV show. Levene meets Ed Caraballo and decides to bring him into the PiL organisation.

The two arrange a concert at The Ritz. Caraballo later claims that he was a full band-member, responsible for videos and filming, which he had at the Ritz show. He also claims that he came up with the concept, and overlooked and organised the proceedings. Not long after the Ritz show Caraballo leaves PiL.

An extensive interview with Caraballo regarding his involvement with The Ritz/PiL can be found at www.furious.com.

MAY 12

The release of Positive Noise's debut album 'Heart Of Darkness'. Keith Levene makes a guest appearance on the track 'Darkness visible', most probably recorded with producer Nick Launay at Townhouse Studios, London in November 1980.

MAY 14

John and Jeannette arrive in New York. Levene recruits 64 year old jazz drummer Sam Ulano for the Ritz gig, who they stumble across playing drums in Alex's Music Store in New York.

MAY 14

Melody Maker - Lydon & Levene interview. Levene: "People don't leave Public Image they are asked to leave."

MAY 14

NME - Lydon & Levene interview.

MAY 15

'Record Mirror' - Lydon interview.

MAY 15

The Ritz, New York.
The infamous Ritz "Riot". At short notice PiL are brought in to replace Bow Wow Wow – and thanks to no rehearsal, and the fact the Ritz is equipped with a large video screen – the show is planned, not be a rock n roll gig, but to be a "video performance".

PiL play behind a large screen, on which pre-taped video footage is projected. However, the audience doesn't get the concept (or joke...) and smashes the venue apart after 25 minutes! As chaos rages throughout, Levene threatens the crowd, “If you destroy that screen, we will destroy you". Nice one Keith....

Parts of the Ritz show are later issued on a bootleg 7" single 'The Famous Riot Show!'

Kim 'Sonic Youth' Gordon used the Ritz riot show incident as the opening of her essay 'I'm Really Scared When I kill in My Dreams' which appeared in 'Artforum' magazine in 1983.

MAY 18

PiL hold a press conference at the Warner Bros conference room in New York regarding the Ritz show, where they show the attending media a video of the 'show.' PiL hail the show a "success". The press conference is filmed by Ed Caraballo.


Lydon and Levene decide to stay in New York; and relocate PiL to the States.


Ed Caraballo leaves the PiL organisation after a few months, due to conflicts with Keith Levene.

MAY 20

'Melody Maker' covers the NY Ritz show, and the press conference.

MAY 23

'Billboard' magazine - Levene interview. The article reveals that Levene has been working at ex-Utopia member Moogy Klingman's audio/video Hi-Five Studio in New York on a project for cable TV.

MAY 28

Mikal Gilmore's review of 'Paris Au Printemps' and 'Flowers of Romance' appears in 'Rolling Stone'.

MAY 30

'Sounds' review the New York, Ritz show.

MAY 28 - JUNE 13

The Clash play seven nights at Bond's International Casino in New York. Keith Levene attends three of the gigs. On one occasion he is accompanied by actor Robert de Niro! Levene is suitably unimpressed by the band...


'Flowers of Romance' peaks at US Number 114.


Brain Brain support the UK Subs at the Lyceum in London!


'Rolling Stone' review PiL's gig at New York, Ritz, 15th May 1981.


Wobble's first post-PiL release 'How Much Are They?' EP, together with Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, recorded the previous year before Wobble left PiL (see wobble discography for full info).

MID 1981?

Keith Levene approaches Bob Tulipan in order to help secure PiL US visa's. Tulipan is an established manager and concert producer who has worked with the likes of the Dead Boys, Talking Heads, Patti Smith & the Psychedelic Furs. Tulipan then begins to work with PiL on a more regular basis.


The release of the 'Laundrette' single by Vivien Goldman (see Lydon/Levene discography for full info). The single is "co-produced" by Goldman, Levene, and Lydon. Levene also providing guitar and bass while Lydon "provided cash and atmosphere."

A dub version of 'Private Armies' without Levene's bass had already been released on the first New Age Steppers album on February 17 (Bruce Smith, later of PiL, is also one of the drummers on the album). The track was also later featured on the US 12" release of the single.


ITV, 20th Century Box - John Lydon interview. This is one of the few 'early' Lydon interviews where he's in a 'good' mood and ready to joke along with interviewer Danny Baker. He also offers some practical advice on the recording studio: "Who best to know what your own song sounds like than yourself. Why get someone in to dictate way it should be. Do it yourself. I know it takes time to learn ins and outs of a studio, but it's nowhere near as complicated as people would like you to believe. It's same as controls on an amplifier…"


Brain Brain at Matrix studios to record 'Jive Jive'.


Keith Levene plays the encore with The Slits at New York, Irving Plaza, Club 57.


The Human Condition featuring Wobble on bass and Jim Walker on drums, along with guitarist Dave "Animal" Maltby, play their first gig at London, Screen on the Green Cinema.


Following their debut gig at the Screen on the Green, Human Condition play their second gig in Berlin.


SPEX magazine, Germany - Wobble interview. Wobble discusses The Human Condition.


Brain Brain begin their Dutch tour.


Flipside fanzine #25 - Lydon interview. Lydon is in LA to speak to Warner Brothers.The article makes mention of Stacey Green an ex-Warner Brothers employee now working with PiL. Lydon: "It's me, Keith, Jeannette and Stacey. Stacey is with us now, she used to work for Warner's but quit."


The Human Condition - Futurama Festival, Stafford, New Bingley Hall.


The Human Condition play London, North London Collegiate School. The gig is recorded for release as limited edition cassette (see wobble discography for full info).


The UK premiere of Paul Dougherty's 'PiL Tape' at the ICA, London.


The release of Creation Rebel's 'Psychotic Jonkanoo' LP. Lydon contributes a (very) small "vocal harmony" to the track 'Mother Don't Cry' (see Lydon discography for full info).


Flipside fanzine #27 - Levene interview. Originally conducted the previous year after the PiL LA, Olympic Auditorium show. Levene makes reference that the next Public Image album [Flowers] will only feature himself and Lydon. "It won't be a Public Image album, well, it will be, but it will be just me and John on it."


The Human Condition play some dates in Holland.


Brian Brain release the 7" single 'Jive Jive', featuring Atkins and Jones. A promo video for the single is shot in New York, which later turns up on the 'Target Video#1' compilation (see Brian Brain discography for full info).


The release of Singers And Players - 'War Of Words' LP. Levene plays guitar on the track 'Devious Woman' (see Levene discography for full info).


'Musikexpress' magazine (Germany) - Jah Wobble & Holger Czukay interview.


The Human Condition - Berlin, Metropol, Germany (German-English Dance Evening Festival).
Also on the bill are Rip, Rig & Panic featuring future PiL drummer Bruce Smith.


Brian Brain begin their 3rd US tour.


BBC Radio 1, John Peel's Festive 50. 'Public Image' is voted #26. This is the fourth year in a row the track has appeared. It is later voted as #20 in the 1982-Alltime Festive 50.



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