Public Image Ltd. bring anarchy to their ‘American Bandstand’ debut in 1980
‘American Bandstand’ is an institution of American television, bringing the popular music of the charts to those sitting at home. In 1980, John Lydon and his band Public Image Ltd. took to the commercial television stage to give, in host Dick Clark’s words the worst moment in Bandstand history.
While Lydon would profess that Clark actually told him it was one of the best performances on the show, there’s no doubt that the moment Public Image Ltd. took to the Bandstand stage would go down in television infamy.
Taking place on May 17th, 1980, PIL were on the show to promote their album Second Edition, Lydon’s move int the darker and dubbier sides of punk. They were set to perform two songs, ‘Poptones’ and ‘Careering’, a declaration of the new movement of post-punk would be delivered to the American people, whether they liked it or not.
Lydon would later suggest that the producers of the show would ask him to cut down the two song’s length from 13 minutes to 10 minutes so that they could fit into the strict segments on the show. “I don’t know where the vocals are going to drop. What are we supposed to do?” Lydon remarked.
What followed was not the polished and shiny performance Bandstand was known for. Instead, Lydon starts the song ‘Poptones’ by sitting at the front of the stage, scowling as only Lydon can. He soon stands up, grabs the mic and then makes absolutely no attempt to mime the lyrics.
It leaves the audience and Lydon in a kind of art-performance limbo where nobody is really sure how to act next. Lydon takes the bull by the horns and starts to encourage members of the audience to leave their seats and join the band on stage. the encouragement soon sticks and by the end of ‘Poptones’ the band are swamped by members of the audience.
Clark soon gathers his hosting abilities and introduces the next song, ‘Careering’ with an acknowledgment that this performance is unlike any other the show had seen before. Lydon and his band broke down the barriers of the show, of Dick Clark, of an American institution. All in the space of 10 minutes.
Watch below as John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. perform two songs on ‘American Bandstand’ and bring chaos to an American stalwart.