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 End 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 unauthorised use of material from Metal Box for the making of Betrayal. Wobble then left PiL in late 1980.
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 Station 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.