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25


METAL BOX
Public Image Ltd.
Virgin, 1979
Concept: John Lydon
Art Director: Charles Dimont

 distinctive product deserves a distinctive design, so for its second album -- a wild mutation of postpunk chaos and reggae two-stepping -- Public Image Ltd. wanted an equally unconventional package. According to guitarist Keith Levene, the group considered sealing the discs in a sardine can that could be opened only with a key ("except we wouldn't give the key") or creating a "sandpaper-type record, which would fuck up all your other records when you put it in your collection." Instead, PiL encased a limited edition of Metal Box in a round, embossed tin can, like those used to protect film reels.

The music came on three 12-inch records, which were pressed at 45 rpm to bolster the impact of the bass and drums. The packaging was maddening: The discs were nearly impossible to remove, and there were no track listings anywhere. It was also a burden on PiL: "Just to make 60,000 of them cost the band 33,000 and cost Virgin 33,000," says Levene. "But it was worth it -- I mean, what a laugh." In the U.S., Metal Box was released as Second Edition, a standard double album; the British original sells for about seventy-five dollars in New York record stores. In 1990, Virgin Records U.K. created a limited-edition Metal Box CD in a miniature metal can. By that time, says Charles Dimont, art director of the original Metal Box, it had become a design cliché: "I can think of, oh, half a dozen times items that have come out in metal boxes since then."

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