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Jah Wobble (born John Joseph Wardle, on 11 August 1958 in Stepneymarker) is an Englishmarker bass guitarist, singer, poet and composer. He became known to a wider audience as the original bass player in Public Image Ltd (PiL) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but left the band after two years. Following his departure from PiL, he went on to a successful solo career, continuing to the present. His daughter is actress Hayley Angel Wardle, and he is married to the Chinese-born guzheng player and harpist Zi Lan Liao.

Early life

Wobble grew up in Whitechapelmarker's Clichy Estate in London’s East Endmarker, and is a long-time friend of John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) whom he had met in the 1970s along with John Simon Ritchie (later known as Sid Vicious) at London's Kingsway College (now Westminster Kingsway Collegemarker). Along with John Gray they were known as "The Four Johns". According to Rotten's autobiography, Wobble was once on the short list of replacements for original Pistols bassist Glen Matlock. There are several versions of the origin of his stage name, though it's unclear if these origins are more than apocryphal: One account places the origin on a drunken, mumbled version of Wardle's name by Sid Vicious; another states it was wordplay based on Wardle's name, and his fascination with the "wobbly" basslines of reggae and related genres, where praise to "Jah" — a near-homonym of "John" — is often offered.

Musical career

Public Image Ltd (PiL)

Wobble started his musical career with John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols group Public Image Ltd (PiL). His trademark bass playing drew heavily on dub, which has remained an important feature of his music. In his early life and career, by his own admission, Wardle was given to occasional bouts of aggression, brought on in part by a strict upbringing in London's East Endmarker and exacerbated by alcohol abuse. He has stated that the first Public Image Ltd. album was recorded so quickly due in part to the bassist's altercations with a sound engineer and men at a nearby pub. He has, however, dismissed claims accusing him of extreme malice, such as setting fire to the former drummer for The Fall, Karl Burns, while Burns was session drumming for PiL.

Wobble left his signature mark on PiL's seminal second album Metal Box which was released in 1979. However, he grew increasingly frustrated by the lacklustre creative atmosphere in the band, which he felt stifled his artistic ambitions and PiL's creative potential. Besides differences in artistic vision, further conflicts were brought on in part by heavy drug and alcohol abuse in the band. Wobble then went on to recording and releasing his debut album The Legend Lives on - Jah Wobble in Betrayal, and found himself accused by other PiL members of having made unauthorized use of material from Metal Box for the making of Betrayal . Wobble then left PiL in late 1980.

Early post-PiL years

Soon after leaving PiL, Wobble started his solo career by forming The Human Condition with guitarist Dave "Animal" Maltby and PiL's original drummer, Jim Walker. The Human Condition toured the UK, Europe, and USA in 1981, and made two cassette-only releases of their live shows (Live at the Collegiate Theatre and Live in Europe). The post-PiL years saw Wobble also collaborating with Can members Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit on Czukay's solo projects (notably On the Way to the Peak of Normal and Rome Remains Rome) and Full Circle (released in 1984).

In 1983, Wobble formed the Invaders of the Heart, a group with a fluid line-up that included many notable musicians, including acclaimed pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole and percussionist Neville Murray. Wardle also appeared on the LP Snake Charmer billed as a co-leader alongside guitarist The Edge of U2, Czukay, Liebezeit, and producer François Kevorkian.

However, his critical stance towards the commercialisation of the music industry, compounded by heavy drinking, led to his abandoning music for a short period in the mid-eighties. He then worked a variety of straight jobs, whilst continuing to perform and record his music in what spare time he had. These jobs included a long stretch with the London Underground. In an oft-quoted tale it is related that he once, at Tower Hill Underground Stationmarker via the public address system, humorously regaled commuters with the deadpan announcement, "I used to be somebody. I repeat, I used to be somebody."

By 1986, Wobble was clean and sober, and due to the repeated prompting of his friend and former bandmate, percussionist Neville Murray, Wobble returned to music professionally. Armed with a live recording of a concert he had made with a new line up of musicians during a European tour in 1988, Wobble travelled to New York City's New Music Seminar in 1989 to get back into the music business. After encountering some initial derogation hinting at the darker sides of his past, Wobble was able to secure an eleventh-hour record deal with a small European record label. The live album, "Without Judgement", recorded in Holland was released in late 1989 and successfully revived Wobble's career, once again earning him respect and following from audiences and peers.

Early 1990s to present

Following on from the success of several critical and popular landmark recordings, most notably "Without Judgement" and "Rising above Bedlam", in the late 80's and early 90s, respectively, Wobble has since collaborated with a wide variety of musicians. His explorations into World music predated much of the genre's popularity. Jah Wobble's 1994 album Take Me To God was influenced by world music genres and enriched by contributions from a variety of artists of diverse cultural backgrounds, including Baaba Maal, Dolores O'Riordan, and Chaka Demus, and its uplifting sounds made it both a critical and commercial success. His music has spanned a number of genres, including ambient music and dance music, and in 2003, reworkings of traditional English folk songs. Though he has released recordings since the early 1980s, Wobble has been quite prolific from the mid-1990s to the present. He now runs his own label, 30 Hertz Records, and tours regularly throughout England and Europe with his current band, Jah Wobble & The English Roots Band.

A collaboration with his wife, the Chinese-born guzheng player Zi Lan Liao, is entitled Chinese Dub. [65647] He also performed at the 2008 Rhythm Festival.

Besides his work as a musician and composer, Jah Wobble also writes occasional book reviews for the The Independent. [65648] His autobiography, entitled "Memoirs of a Geezer: Music, Life, Mayhem", was released in September 2009.

Jah Wobble and the Chinese Dub Orchestra won the 'Cross-Cultural Collaboration' category, for their album 'Chinese Dub', in the inaugural Songlines Music Awards (2009) - announced May 1, 2009 - the new 'world music' awards organised by the UK-based magazine, Songlines.

In September 2009, John Lydon announced PiL would reform for a series of concerts in late 2009, but Jah Wobble will not be featuring in the line-up.

List of collaborators


  1. Jah Wobble, Memoirs of a Geezer, p. 1.
  2. The Times Online, 24 March 2007, 'I’m still ye olde noble savage'
  3. see Wardle's notes for I Could Have Been A Contender
  4. The Herald (Glasgow) 4th October 1996, David Belcher 'Wobble of firm resolve breaks mould'



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