May 1980. It was a Big Deal. PiL were going to be on American Bandstand. I'd already arranged to commandeer a TV from a neighbor in my dorm suite, after a little "but it's my birthday!" pleading.

The time arrived -- 12:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon. After having annoyed my neighbors the previous few weeks with my import copy of "Metal Box", the film canister of 12" 45s that comprised PiL's new "album", it had just been released in the US as a proper LP (Second Edition); the band came Stateside to support it.

We gathered in my room, assorted gawkers wanting to see "the Johnny Rotten guy" whose whine was annoying them so. I turned on the little black-and-white TV, and fiddled with the antenna to get the best reception I could. It was Good Enough.

We sat through a few minutes of whatever -- the Barry Manilow canned-swing of the AB theme, the obligatory pop hits, the dancers dancing... Dick Clark, after the commercial break, reads the cue cards to introduce, with mock enthusiasm, "from England... Public Image Limited!"

So they launch into "Poptones", and very quickly they abandon all pretense of lipsyncing. Lydon and Wobble take swats at the drum kit. Levene looks like he's soldiering through the last few furlongs of a pub crawl. Atkins, on the drums, tries briefly to act like nothing's wrong.

Lydon goes out into the audience, dances with assorted New Wave dollies. All the while, the tape is going, playing "Poptones" ("the radio played poptones...") By the time the song ends, some of the dancers are dancing onstage, none brave enough to take swats at the drum kit uninvited.

Song ends. Clark briefly interviews the band, then they "play" another tune, "Careering", with an even larger crowd of dancers on the stage, obscuring the now-pretty-much-abandoned amps and drums. Surely this was PiL's finest television hour. My acquaintances were throroughly unmoved.

Great semi-subversive TV, befitting the "unrock" ethos the band was hyping at the time. It didn't help sales. Next stop: The Tomorrow Show, where "Johnny Rotten" would be on display inside the glass teat, but PiL would not perform.

It didn't help sales.

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