John Lydon

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John in 2011
Time to put on some
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I'm not here for your amusement. You're here for mine.

John Lydon (formerly Rotten) is a British musician and song writer who is rarely short of words on just about any subject imaginable, from the British class system to the superiority of one butter brand over all others.

Lydon was born into serious 1950s poverty in north London. A troubled childhood included contracting meningitis aged 7 and subsequently losing his memory when he neither knew who he was nor recognised anyone or anything around him. Years of regulation teen angst followed until he found his way into the clutches of Sith Lord responsible for the music portfolio Malcolm McLaren.[1]

Thence Sex PistolsWikipedia, Lydon became Rotten, and John was the face of the first wave British punk movement. For two glorious years in the mid 1970s, the Pistols, and Rotten in particular, became public enemy number one in the British press. That a group of largely dysfunctional young blokes playing music the like of which few could comprehend should even exist, was deemed a serious threat to all that Britain held dear. John was memorably described by one tabloid as "the biggest threat to our youth since Hitler". Oh, and saying fuck on live children’s television just did not happen in 1976.[2]

Somehow the madness lasted until January 1978 when John effectively broke up the band after a disastrous tour of the US which included the suicide of band member and school hood friend Sid ViciousWikipedia. Rotten was well and truly gone, but Lydon promptly reappeared as front man of post-punk pioneers Public Image LtdWikipedia and thus it has remained, on and off, ever since. Lydon has become something of a talking head celebrity, and depending on your view is either an anti-authoritarian working class hero or an insufferable clot. The former usually seems to win out though, and Lydon cannot contain his ironic glee when periodically voted in various meaningless polls as one of the greatest Britons.[3]

Things he did and said[edit]

The British class system[edit]

Oh bollocks, up yours!

He has remained consistent in his criticism of the British class system. More interesting perhaps is his view of the working class, claiming that "We're lazy, good-for-nothing bastards, absolute cop-outs [who] never accept responsibility for our own lives and that's why we'll always be downtrodden."

In 1976 Lydon wrote and sang the snarling, seminal punk tune God Save the Queen. Banned by the Beeb, it was naturally a huge hit.[4] "And our figurehead… is not what she seems" (was David Icke listening?).

On the never-ending rumours that he will be offered honours by the Queen: "I've heard the rumors. Oh, they're trying to give me an O.B.E. or an M.B.E. or whatever that is. Nope, not interested… You wouldn't say that [I'm a national treasure] if you saw the state of my underpants. I tell you. Let's be honest.[5]


"I liked being on a panel with alleged politicians. Feeling them squirm next to me was delicious. Shows like that are important because it knocks them all down a tad, you know, where they have to answer to a public. I have to explain every single thing I do and that is only right for politicians who have the audacity to misrepresent us."[6]

"I've had great pleasure meeting the likes of Newt Gingrich and having a chat with the fellow on a staircase. I found him completely dishonest and totally likeable [sic], because he doesn't care! He knows what a politician is, and he's a perfect embodiment of one."[7]

Social justice[edit]

In his first autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, which came out in 1994, he states on page 309 that "All political groups and movements suppress individuality...The feminist movement became oppressive very quickly. Gay liberation is not about equal rights at all. It has to be accepted as this one great lump. If one (person) in that movement dares to stray away from the norm, they will victimize that person." This book also quotes his wife Nora as saying on page 221 that "Hippies wanted to be friends with everyone. Punk made you frank with everyone...The gays didn't come out of the closet in the '60s. They came out when punk came out. So did the women. Now it's an organized thing like joining the army," and on page 122 that "(Hippies) preach love and peace, then leave garbage behind and not mean a single word of it."

Universal health care[edit]

Lydon has (in)famously had very rotten teeth (hence the Rotten moniker) for much of his life. He also had very bad experiences with dentists, and shows willful ignorance about the National Health Service not fully covering dental work in England.[8]

History and education[edit]

Lydon has let his experiences in school, famously dealing with teachers who wouldn't allow questioning, to color his view of all education. He has let an encounter with the descendant of one of the incredibly few black Confederate soldiers thus influence his perception of the American Civil War and what it was fought over.[9] In addition, he dismisses the idea of Montessori schoolsWikipedia simply because his step-grandchildren were placed in one when they clearly weren't the type who should be in one, and that the fact they did absolutely nothing there thus makes him believe that the whole idea is a crock.

Live Aid and celebrity charity[edit]

Lydon made statements against Bob Geldof and the organizing of Live Aid, stating that the money and food did not go to anyone who actually needed it, but to weapons for warlords, and that the reason the Ethiopian people were starving was due to not knowing how to farm, rather than years of drought.[10] He claims vindication for this because an obnoxious reporter made this statement without any evidence 25 years after the concert, despite the fact that it was later acknowledged that these claims were likely baseless.[11]

In addition, Lydon states that all celebrity charity events are a sham, and that everyone involved simply does so to further their careers and visibility. To be fair to Mr Lydon, he is by no means the only one with that cynical view of celebrity charity work. [12]


Despite the tune, John has usually opposed anarchy:

"I don't believe in anarchy, because it will ultimately amount to the power of the bully, with weapons."[13]

His reaction to Russell Brand's idiotic advice to not vote in the 2015 British General Election was to describe him as a "bum hole". This probably made him a lot of new fans.[14]

Pistols or butter[edit]

Lydon famously appeared in a TV ad for a British butter brand. The screams of hypocrisy were inevitable, especially from people who'd forgotten the Pistols' slogan was "cash from chaos", but he justified this as "Well, the money for the butter ads wasn’t huge but it helped me put something up against my outstanding debts, and I could start crawling my way slowly and surely out of those constraints. I could then basically buy myself out of those restrictive contracts. When I worked with the butter people, they gave me a free hand. I enjoyed working with them very, very much, and there was a lot of mutual respect. But it wasn’t done for any scandalous reasons. It was quite anarchistic of them to want to connect themselves to Mr Rotten."[15]

Other musicians[edit]

Did not like The Ramones nor The Clash nor The Beatles nor Green Day nor, well, just about anybody else really, except The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Can, Hawkwind, Captain Beefheart and Van der Graaf Generator. The real irony of John wearing the famous "I Hate Pink Floyd t-shirt" is that he is actually a fan of them and even admitted that he was asked to perform with the surviving members when they briefly reunited... so much for that!


Raised as a Roman Catholic, he has never had much time for religion and it is his own Catholicism which has born the brunt of his anger. In 2010 he called the Pope a Nazi on stage in New York.[16]. His snarling tirades against the Catholic Church, Religion I and Religion II, appeared on the first PIL album in 1979. [17]

Jimmy Savile[edit]

In a 1978 radio interview Lydon alluded to "knowing things and hearing rumours" about paedophile Jimmy SavileWikipedia and the BBC edited out this section of the broadcast interview.[18] In 2014, Lydon accused the BBC of silencing him over this matter.[19]

Donald Trump[edit]

Lydon has recently defended Donald Trump by accusing his critics of wanting to "destroy the country".[20]

See also[edit]