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 band that would later become 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 tried to legally prevent 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.
Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential bands of all time PiL’s music and vision earned them 5 UK Top 20 Singles and 5 UK Top 20 Albums. With a shifting line-up and unique sound John Lydon guided the band from their debut album ‘First Issue’ in 1978 through to 1992’s ‘That What Is Not’, before a 17 year hiatus.
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 his first solo album ‘Psycho’s Path’ in 1997.
John has also brought quality TV to the masses. He launched his own ‘Rotten TV’ for VH1, and made a show-stealing appearance on the ITV reality show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. He fronted the series ‘John Lydon’s Megabugs’ for Discovery Channel; and two nature specials for Channel 5 in the UK: ‘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 rightfully 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 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 said he would never reunite with the Sex Pistols. However, after meeting on their own terms in 1995 the original Sex Pistols – Lydon, Jones, Cook and Matlock – decided to return for the hugely successful ‘Filthy Lucre World Tour’ in 1996. John enjoyed playing with the Pistols so much he returned several times. 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. As he has commented, his body and mind is the Sex Pistols but his heart and soul is PiL.
John resurrected PiL in 2009 together with former members Lu Edmonds (Guitar & Misc) and Bruce Smith (Drums), plus new recruit Scott Firth (Bass). PiL have toured extensively and released two critically acclaimed albums ‘This is PiL’ in 2012 followed by ‘What The World Needs Now…’ in 2015. They are the longest stable line-up in the band’s history and continue to challenge and thrive. PiL documentary ‘The Public Image is Rotten’ was released in 2018 and is available to stream worldwide on various platforms.
‘Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored’ was published in 2014 and was John’s first complete autobiography covering his life from childhood through to the present day taking in Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd, along with his TV and media work.
PiL documentary ‘The Public Image is Rotten’ was released in 2018 and is available to stream worldwide on various platforms. In 2020 John also published ‘I Could be Wrong, I could be Right’, featuring John’s random thoughts about the way he sees life, along with anecdotes from his unique and extraordinary career.
John lives in LA with Nora. Mrs Rotten for nearly 30 years.
Further information: johnlydon.com
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
John Rotten, Queen Elizabeth River Boat, River Thames, London 7th June 1977 © Dave Wainright