Four decades ago this past January, the Sex Pistols broke up in a blaze of glory at the conclusion of their first U.S. tour. Before 1978 was over, frontman Johnny Rotten rebounded – using his birth name, John Lydon – and formed the pioneering post-punk group Public Image Ltd., which put out its first album in the U.K. that December. With the exception of a few breaks here and there, PiL have been Lydon’s main concern ever since.
The group’s history is the focus of a new film, The Public Image Is Rotten, that will be coming out via Abramorama this fall. It will begin its North American theatrical tour at New York City’s Metrograph theater on September 14th.
A trailer for the film, premiering here, features Lydon explaining how it “wasn’t much fun” being a Sex Pistol, because their manager only wanted to shock people, so he wanted to form a new band “that would approach it without that media mockery.” It also features commentary from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Moby, who talk about PiL’s cultural significance, and the group’s drummer, Jim Walker, discussing PiL’s aura of danger.
“The media wanted to bury me,” Lydon says in the trailer. “I had to really, really fight for my survival.”
The Public Image Is Rotten traces the band’s ups and downs, from the group’s hit single “Rise” to its many, many lineup changes. And the 103-minute doc, made by first-time director Tabbert Fiiller, features lots of live footage of Lydon & Co. performing their unique brand of discordant art rock. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017.