The Professionals were formed in 1979 by guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook, both formerly of the Sex Pistols. In the previous year, Johnny Rotten had left the Sex Pistols, and both Cook and Jones had sung lead for the late Sex Pistols recordings "Silly Thing" and "Lonely Boy". For these recordings, Lightning Raiders bassist Andy Allan was employed as a session musician. After the Sex Pistols officially split and broke ties with manager Malcolm McLaren, this line-up was resurrected as the Professionals, and signed to Virgin Records, the same label as the Sex Pistols.
In July 1980, the Professionals released their first single, "Just Another Dream", which also included a video promo. This was followed by a second single "1-2-3" in October, which reached No. 43 in the UK Singles Charts. Shortly after the second single's release, Cook and Jones had plans to debut a self-titled LP during that same year. But there were some legal problems, as Allan had no recording contract with Virgin. He sued the record company, claiming he had never been credited nor paid by them. Consequently, Virgin's compilation album Cash Cows, which featured the Professionals' track "Kick Down the Doors", was withdrawn and the album was shelved. After Allan left the band, he was replaced by ex-Subway Sect bassist Paul Myers, with Ray McVeigh also joining the band as a second guitarist. The new line-up of the Professionals later re-recorded previous material so that Allan would not be owed any further royalties.
The Professionals were first managed by Dave Hill, who had managed Johnny Thunders and was managing the Pretenders. They recorded radio sessions for John Peel's Radio 1, which aired on 10 November 1980, to promote the release of "Join the Professionals" that same month. Due to difficulties in finding a producer (Mick Glossop was eventually picked), the release of the single was repeatedly delayed up to June 1981. Hill left afterwards to focus on the Pretenders, and John Curd was chosen as a replacement. They then recorded further sessions with BBC, this time for The Evening Show with Mike Read on 15 December.
The group brought in producer Nigel Gray to help record their full-length album; the result was I Didn't See It Coming, released in November 1981. The album was supported by UK and U.S. tour dates, and the release of a single for the song "The Magnificent". But the band's American tour was cut short when Cook, Myers, and McVeigh were injured in a car accident. The Professionals returned to America in the spring of 1982 after a hiatus for recovery, but Jones' and Myers' drug problems further hampered the band's prospects.
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