Keith Levene was a progressive rock fan as a youth at 15 he was a roadie for Yes on their Close to the Edge tour. In 1976, he became a founding member of The Clash and The Flowers of Romance. Levene was responsible for helping to persuade Joe Strummer to leave the 101ers and join the Clash. Although he left The Clash before they began recording, he co-wrote "What's My Name", featured on their first album. Levene wrote the music at the Black Swan club when the Clash and Sex Pistols performed there in July 1976; on the same night, Levene suggested to Lydon that they consider a possible future collaboration.

  After the Sex Pistols disintegrated, Levene and Lydon co-founded Public Image Ltd (PiL). His guitar work was later imitated by others, including The Edge of U2. Levene was one of the first guitarists to use metallic guitars, such as the Travis Bean Wedge and Artist as well as the Veleno, the latter of which was nicknamed the "Leveno" in his. He was heavily involved in the writing, performing and producing of PiL's early albums: First Issue, Metal Box and Flowers of Romance.