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John Lydon - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 21 / 7 / 2016

John Lydon - Interview


Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited frontman John Lydon speaks to Nick Dent-Robinson about both groups and PiL's latest album, 'What The World Needs Now'

These days John (not Johnny, now) Lydon is widely acknowledged within the music business as one of the more charming, gracious and intelligent people in rock and roll. Long past are the snide, snarling, sneering and aggressive antics of his punk days. “Well, I think humour is important, along with a bit of gentle self-deprecation when that's called for,” John, aged 60, says. “And I don't take myself too seriously these days. I am not sure I ever really did, though. I think a lot of the way I was perceived forty years ago was dictated by my rather difficult and impoverished childhood. I suffered spinal meningitis which, after more than a year in hospital, left me weak with a curved spine and visual problems plus four years of memory loss. My so-called angry stare was just me not being able to see properly. And the name Rotten came from the fact all my teeth were bad....rotted away when I was a young teen, they did! No fluoride in the water back then! I'd also worked from a very young age. I was booted out of school at 15 and I'd been dispatching taxis to earn the family a bit of extra cash from the age of 12 or 13. Of course I can't deny we Sex Pistols were outrageous as a band....we worked very hard at it and enjoyed every moment.” John Lydon was about to play Oxford's O2 Academy venue with his band, Public Image Limited, when we spoke. As he recalled, he'd been in Oxford two years ago, addressing an audience in the historic Sheldonian Theatre as part of the book tour after the publication of his autobiography, 'Anger Is An Energy'. Now he is promoting his band's latest album, 'What the World Needs Now', which is in the UK Top Thirty and was recorded in Steve Winwood's Cotswolds studios. “I love Oxford,” John remarks. “We always get great audiences here. Not that it has the slightest thing to do with that awful institution, the university – which I regard as rather pointless and fatuous. But Oxford town does have a lot going for it, despite that! And the architecture is very nice.” John, conservatively clad in tweed sports jacket and smart trousers, laughs about the notoriety the Sex Pistols gained in their 1970s heyday. “Swearing on live TV at presenter Bill Grundy, releasing our version of 'God Save The Queen' for the 1977 Silver Jubilee and calling our album, 'Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols', does sound rather inoffensive and childishly innocent now, doesn't it?” John comments. “But of course, as our manager Malcolm McLaren knew very well, that was all commercially extremely valuable. It is quite funny, looking back.” John formed Public Image Limited (PiL) after the Sex Pistols broke up (or “disintegrated”, as he puts it). In 1993, after several hits - including 'This is Not a Love Song' - PiL split up and John worked as a radio and TV presenter and collaborated with several other musicians on a variety of projects. He promoted Country Life butter (clad in tweeds again) for a while to pay off PiL's debts, and then the band resumed once more. These days he lives mainly in Los Angeles. “It is for my health, really,” he explains. “You see I am vulnerable to bronchial infections in the British winter and the dry and warmer climate in Southern California is better for me. Though there is more crime there and water shortages, earthquakes, bush fires and terrible traffic, plus I miss the green lushness of England's countryside - so there's always a trade off. I like being back in England. Family and friends are very important to me, as is the British sense of irony and humour. That's a big part of who I am. And being in England always keeps me grounded and real, which is important to me. We'll be doing many more gigs over the coming months. We were in Germany, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine lately...I have a big following in Ukraine, you know! But I'm looking forward to playing smaller venues in Britain and I enjoy meeting many of our long-term fans when we do that.”

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John Lydon - Interview

John Lydon - Interview

John Lydon - Interview

John Lydon - Interview

John Lydon - Interview

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