John (Rotten) Lydon: Vocals
Born, 31 January 1956, London, England
It is a well-worn story that John was spotted wearing a “I Hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt and invited to audition as singer for a fledgling band that had been pestering Malcolm McLaren to manage them. If John hadn’t joined the Sex Pistols back in 1975 they would have been a very, very different band. Things just wouldn’t be the same at all…
When the Sex Pistols split in January 1978 John quickly moved onto Public Image Limited (PiL). McLaren legally prevented him using the name “Rotten” – but regardless – this was a new beginning. Lydon’s unique vocal delivery and perceptive lyrics remained, however, PiL were nothing like the Sex Pistols.
PiL went onto blend a variety of different musical styles; there were no rules. The change of direction would frustrate many Sex Pistols fans, but equally open up a variety of people to more eclectic tastes. PiL continued in one form or another through three decades, releasing numerous albums, and scoring some unlikely hits along the way. Always chameleons, bar Lydon, the line-up would constantly change; as would the style and content of the music.
Outside of PiL John has released several solo collaborations; most notably the groundbreaking rock/rap crossover ‘World Destruction’ with Africa Bambaataa in 1984, and the pioneering ‘Open Up’ with dance duo Leftfield in 1993. With PiL on temporary hiatus from 1992-2009 John continued to make his own records. “Solo” records in the real sense. He played, wrote and produced all tracks himself. The album ‘Psycho’s Path’ was released in 1997 – and in-between other commitments – he is sporadically working on new material for a follow up. ‘The Rabbit Song’ a brief taster for the project was released in 2005 as part of the ‘Best of British £1 Notes’ career encompassing compilation.
In more recent years John has brought quality TV to the masses. He launched his own ‘Rotten TV’ for VH1, and made a show-stealing apperance on the ITV reality show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. He also fronted the series ‘John Lydon’s Megabugs’ for Discovery Channel; and two nature specials for Channel 5: ‘John Lydon’s Shark Attack’ and ‘John Lydon Goes Ape’. Over the years he has made various travel, nature, music and documentary shows for networks in the UK, Europe and USA. He has also appeared in films such as ‘Order of Death’ with Harvey Keitel. And hosted his own radio series’ ‘Rotten Day’ and ‘Rotten Radio’.
After a drawn-out legal case against Malcolm McLaren, 1986 finally saw John reclaim the name “Rotten” and win a deal which gave control of the Sex Pistols assets back to the band themselves. He went on to publish his best-selling Sex Pistols autobiography ‘Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ in 1994. The book featured contributions from Paul Cook and Steve Jones; together with various friends, family and associates.
The autobiography would help prompt a change of heart. Since 1978 – despite countless offers – John always swore he would never reunite with the Sex Pistols. However, after meeting on their own terms in 1995 the original Sex Pistols – Lydon, Jones, Cook & Matlock – decided to return for the hugely successful ‘Filthy Lucre World Tour’ in 1996. John enjoyed playing with the Pistols so much he has been tempted to return several times since. And while he acknowledges the Pistols are a big part of his life it’s worth remembering that the majority of his career has been spent separate to the Sex Pistols.
John resurrected PiL in 2009 together with former members Lu Edmonds (Guitar & Misc) and Bruce Smith (Drums), plus 2009 recruit Scott Firth (Bass). They have embarked on several high-profile tours and released the studio album ‘This is PiL’ in 2012.
John lives in LA with Nora. Mrs Rotten for over 30 years.
Further information: www.johnlydon.com
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
John Lydon, LA, 2008 © Davis Factor / Sex Pistols Residuals