Public Image Viz-Efx ReMix Collage (1980)

When I used to do ‘video tours’ and regular screenings, the work of mine in most demand was the 1980 Public Image Ltd. performance that I called the “Pil Tape.” It was  also known as “Pil at Gildersleeves,” named after the NYC venue “Great Gildersleeves” where the band did an unadvertised ‘surprise’ gig on their first US tour.

I funded this video out of my own pocket, shooting it with the production help of friends on 48 hour notice from the band. The half hour video was never made commercially available …however after about 20 years, it leaked into the bootleg world.  I never had the band’s blessing to release it so, you’ll only find low quality bootleg versions on YouTube etc.

Pil performs at Gildersleeves 5/1980  (John Lydon & Keith Levene)

Pil performs at Gildersleeves 5/1980

Of the five songs I edited, just one – “Careering” relied on visual efx and heavy collaging with archival material from my collection. I had no money for clearances so nothing was cleared.  I use the word “collage” here because remix and mash-up don’t seem to fit.  Yes I’m exercising a lot of artistic license with vintage archival material but I’m  just trying to augment or enhance the song visually (like many a music video).   

Pseudo "film" projections made in video post-production

Pseudo “film” projections made in video post-production

More so than a commercial music-video, the best analog might be the work of Adam Curtis of the BBC.  Though his documentaries explore history and tell factual stories, he uses the vast BBC archive exercising great artistic license, not to merely illustrate a story or history but to make something that arrives at higher, impressionistic truth. Sometimes it’s humorous/absurd, surreal or (as they say in film school) mytho-poetic.  The Pil video of mine predates his work, but he remains a role model for me and the collage/mash-up form.

Galacia birthplace of Fidel Castro's Father.

Galacia birthplace of Fidel Castro’s Father.

Though the lyrics of “Careering” are beautifully and artistically vague, most people take them as being connected to the Troubles of Northern Ireland (circa 1980). I think that’s valid but the lyrics go beyond that particular struggle to something more timeless and universal. That timeless aspect inspired me most.  So in this sample we have, what looked to me, like an archaic Irish stone dwelling (actually from Celtic Galicia) and into the doorway I inserted a Englishman (middle panel) with a frilly cuff offering a toast at a royal banquet. A deliberate dislocation between the indigenous and the imperial.

Pil guitarist Keith Levene

Pil guitarist Keith Levene

Careering (some lyrics)

 Across the border, The pride of history, The same as murder, Is this living(?)

 He’s been careering

Beg, middle & end of transition from Lydon to 'cross' image.

Beg, middle & end of transition from Lydon to ‘cross’ image.

Molly Maguires

Molly Maguires

In addition to collecting videos, I had a long history of collecting magazine images. (Think of the dorm room in the 1968 movie “If…”) I used a 50/50 mix still images and documentary b/w footage to make pseudo “projections” behind the band in video post-production. I was able to do all this because I had access to a state of the art (1980) editing room ℅ where I worked.

Pil aerial 2x sm

Infrared map of NYC

On the theme of borders and rebellion, I used a good deal of footage from the 1953 East German rebellion.  Mixed in with that are bits of a NORAD monitoring station, that stands in as a ‘state’ command & control center. The crouching GI (up top) next to John Lydon is from a (post A-Bomb) Hiroshima film.

Pil film 3x sm

I’ll stop here as I don’t want to over-explain and remove all the evocative mystery from the work. Compared to the tools today, the ones I used were very primitive but I was very happy with the results, I just wish I was free to post a full fidelity version.


About avideolife

video editor & director
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One Response to Public Image Viz-Efx ReMix Collage (1980)

  1. Pingback: PIL & Suicide | When p**k was a work in progress.

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