1988 Chronology

Research by Karsten Roekens and Scott M, plus contributors…



'International Musician and Recording World' magazine - PiL interview.


'Rolling Stone' belatedly review 'Happy?'.

MARCH 1 - 31

PiL play 22 stadium and arena dates in the USA supporting INXS on their 'Kick' world tour (see Gig List for full dates). They are offered the tour at the last minute. Several reports claim they blow INXS off stage at many of the gigs…

A newspaper review of the opening night at New York, Music Hall states: "John Lydon was fantastic. One of the most under-estimated British talents… And his band were brilliant, tight, punchy, INXS on the other hand, were disappointing."


Martin Atkins celebrates the founding of his new record label Invisible Records with a launch party at The Roxy, New Brunswick, New Jersey. The first release of the label will be a compilation album housed in a printed shopping-bag, titled 'What You Can't See Won't Hurt You."

Around this time Atkins is also running a construction company and – apart from appearing on the self-titled debut album by Lunar Bear Ensemble – remains inactive during most of the year: "I actually stopped playing my drums, I was fairly disillusioned with the whole thing." In 1989 Atkins and Invisible Records move to Chicago and reinvent themselves.


FM Tokyo, Japan, broadcast PiL's gig at the Shibuya Kokaido, Japan 10th December 1987.


Keith Levene releases the 12" EP 'Keith Levene's Violent Opposition' (see Levene discography for full info).

MAY 22

ITV, Night Network, 'Video View'. John Lydon is a guest reviewer. Photographer Dennis Morris is also on the panel.


Omnibus Press publish the book 'Johnny Rotten In His Own Words' by Dave Thomas. It consists of a variety of interview quotes of Lydon from 1976-86.


PiL fly to New York to record a new album with producer Bill Laswell. Three weeks of studio time are booked, but after one week proceedings come to a premature halt. Lydon: "Laswell said the band couldn't play and he hated all our songs, so I told him where to go... He said he'd written songs and I should sack the band and use his people, and come out with a U2 type product."

At least four songs are recorded with Laswell; 'Happy', 'Warrior','Worry' & 'Sweet Talk' (which might have been an early version of 'Like That'). Laswell later commented in 1989: "I thought he should make a strong rock album" and dismisses the final product as, "a bad disco album".

PiL take the Laswell tapes to Sanctuary Sound in New York and spend a few days with engineer Bruce Miller reworking the songs and adding different overdubs. Bruce Miller: "At one point I turned to John and asked him how he liked the bass. He looked me dead in the eyes and said 'It needed more green." I asked him 'Lime green or puke green?' and he smiled and said 'You're all right' (or something similar) and we went back to work."

PiL try to complete the album with New York producer Jason Corsaro. Just by chance they even end up doing a session with reggae producer Scientist, but in the end the recordings are abandoned, with Virgin insisting on a more "hip" producer... The band return to England $80,000 in debt! Lu Edmonds: "John was absolutely livid!


Rock Summer Festival - Tallinn, Lauluväljak, Estonia (USSR)
PiL headline the first day of the Rock Summer Festival in Tallinn, Estonia playing to over 120,000 people! This was no ordinary rock festival or venue by any means… Organised by Juri Makarov, 'Glasnost Rock 88' was the biggest ever rock festival played behind the Iron Curtain. The "Lauluväljak" venue is a massive coral, concrete 'Song Stage' where traditionally a choir of up to 15,000 would sing from!

At the time the "Soviet Socialist Republic of Estonia" was still part of the USSR, and Public Image Ltd records, along with the Sex Pistols, were officially blacklisted by the authorities. However, somewhat surprisingly, Kremlin chiefs largely turned a blind eye to the event. Partly due to the festival organisers policy of inviting bands from outside the USSR as late as possible.

PiL are under no illusion that they have pulled the wool over anyone's eyes, and just prior to the show they freely admitted they knew very little about Estonia. However, John Lydon is so overwhelmed by the day's events, the people they encountered, and the crowd's reaction, he comments that he considers it PiL's "Major achievement so far… " Fittingly, the band play 'Holidays in the Sun' in their set.

The show was broadcast live on FM radio by Finish Radio One; which was later released as a bootleg CD called 'Holidays in Estonia'.


BBC 2, DEF II, 'That was Then, This is Now'. Special 30 mins retrospective interview with John Lydon. This is one of the first British TV interviews where he talks openly about his personal life and the Pistols.


Rock Festival '88 - Athens, Pedion Tou Areos, Greece.
PiL are set to headline the first day of a free rock festival in an Athens park. However, crowd trouble – which appears to have been pre-organised – prior to their set forces the cancellation of the show. One of the opening acts, The Triffids, had their set cut short due to bottle throwing, and it wasn't long before things got completely out of control.

By the time PiL arrive there are people all over the stage and backstage area. Graham Lee of The Triffids remembers that PiL "took one look at the farcical security arrangements and would not play." The crowd eventually sets fire to the stage, and the riots go on through the night. Many people are injured. Police have to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd! The second day is also cancelled.


PiL stage a press conference at their hotel to explain their non-appearance at the Athens festival the previous day. The band categorically state they will not play to crowds throwing bottles; after John McGeoch has hit in the face in Vienna 1986 and received 40 stitches.


Keith Levene releases the 3" CD single 'If Six Was 9' by (see Levene discography for full info).


'Sounds' - PiL interview and Estonia feature. Reporter Mat snow comments: "After the gig, John is trying to find something to say to match the significance of the event we've all just gone through. The themes he's been harping on about ever since the Pistols collapsed and he started PiL a decade ago seem more pertinent than ever, but no better defined - freedom, individuality, anti-authoritarianism, personal choices, honesty…"

"The show is a blinder. Every single band member, including John Lydon, reckon it was their finest hour."


'Melody Maker' - PiL interview and Estonia feature. Part 1. The paper also includes details of the Athens riot.


'Melody Maker' - PiL interview and Estonia feature. Part 2.


Unfortunately, Lu Edmonds leaves PiL due to hearing problems. After the Estonia gig – which would be his last with PiL – Lu had suffered some tinnitus (ringing in the ears); which quickly developed into a serious problem. The tinnitus is so bad it forces him to quit the band and retire for several years.

The band are gutted that Lu has been forced to leave and the door is left open that if he manages to recover he can rejoin. Although he does not appear on the next PiL studio album Lu is fully credited as a co-writer.


Jah Wobble at Square Studios in Brussels, guesting on Niki Mono's 'Dauda And The Crow' EP.


It is reported in the music press that one of the biggest booking agencies in the USA has offered $12,000,000 for a Sex Pistols reunion tour.


With his band Brian Brain going nowhere, Martin Atkins joins Killing Joke, who have just released their 'Outside The Gate' album. Atkins: "They got my phone number through a mutual friend in London when they needed a drummer and called me up...The first thing that I said when I arrived in London and Jaz and Geordie asked me if I had listened to 'Outside The Gate' was, "No, I heard the first three songs and threw the CD out of the window. It's crap!" They were shocked." After making sure that the band return to a more aggressive style Atkins plays his first gig with Killing Joke on 17th December, touring with them for pretty much the rest of 1989.

(Family tree trivia: their bassist Dave Ball later teams up with PiL guitarist Ted Chau in Philipp Boa & The Voodoo Club)


'Deadline' magazine - Jah Wobble interview.


PiL begin to record their new studio album – without Lu Edmonds – at The Manor, Advision Studios, then Comforts Place, Lingfield, Surrey.


PanAM 103 flight from Heathrow to New York explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 killing nearly 300 people. Years after the tragedy John Lydon reveals that he and wife Nora were booked onto the flight and only missed it because they were running late...

The track 'USLS 1' which later appeared on PiL's '9' album was inspired by the events around Lockerbie...



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