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PRINT January 1983

I’M REALLY SCARED WHEN I KILL IN MY DREAMS” (FROM A LYRIC BY GLENN BRANCA)

In the spring of 1981 the rock group Public Image Ltd. (PiL) played at the Ritz in New York. That club’s movie-scale video screen, which functioned as a barrier and was used to create or motivate the crowd’s reaction, was the center of the performance. PiL’s three members were projected on the screen, both as shadows (they were lit from behind for the video cameras) and as a video picture. A giant image of John Lydon’s face, laughing, appeared, larger than the Wizard of Oz. He began singing, and then the live image was changed to a pre-recorded tape of a demented commercial rock video. Furious at the ghostlike, ritualistic silhouettes of the group behind the screen—instead of, as usual, directly in front of them—the crowd constantly interrupted the music. They barraged the screen with bottles, finally tearing it down. The group hadn’t intended to cause a riot; in their words,

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