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John Lydon (aka 'Johnny Rotten')
I met John Lydon when he came to Nottingham in October 2014 to sign copies of his autobiography Anger is an Energy. It was an extremely popular event, with an enormous queue stretching right round the block. John was surprisingly amenable compared with his 1970s image of anger and resentfulness. He happily posed for this picture with me.
John has signed my book
John Joseph Lydon was born in 1956 in Hackney, London, the eldest of four boys of Irish parents. As a child, he suffered a long bout of meningitis which put him in a coma, and hospitalised him for a year. This later affected his eyesight as well as his memory.
John Lydon aged 7
Lydon struggled in school, and his rebellious nature led to him being expelled from the Sir William of York Catholic School. He later enrolled
enrolled at the Hackney and Kingsway Princeton College, where he met, and befriended, John Simon Ritchie, later known as 'Sid Vicious' after Lydon's pet hamster
One of John Lydon’s favourite shops was Sex,afetish-themed
hamster, Sid, had bitten Ritchie, who said, "Sid is really vicious!" The two friends left Hackney and explored London's fashion shops and nightclubs.
Sex, a fetish-themed store owned by the fashion designer
Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood in 1976
designer Vivienne Westwood and her partner, Malcolm McLaren. McLaren, who had just left behind a difficult time as the manager of an American rock band New York Dolls, had a fascination for the newly developing 'punk' scene in England.
John Simon Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious)
After the Dolls split up in the early 1970s, McLaren returned to London, intent on creating a new band to manage. He met Lydon for the first time in 1975, and after auditioning him, made him the lead singer for his new band. Lydon, (renamed Johnny Rotten' because of his bad teeth), was joined by guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock and drummer Paul Cook. Named the 'Sex Pistols', the band would come to epitomize English punk. Their mixof
mix of anger and violence incited both hatred and deep reverence.
Johnny Rotten in 1976
The group released a string of punk anthems in November 1975, starting with Anarchy in the U.K. and then God Save the Queen, Pretty Vacant and Holidays in the Sun.
(l-r) Glen Matlock, John Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook
Artwork for God Save the Queen
Released in 1977, the Queen's Jubilee year, God Save the Queen proved to be especially offensive to many British people, as it rose to number two on the British charts. That same year, in late 1977, the group released its full-length album, Never Mind the Bollocks…Here's the Sex Pistols.
The Sex Pistols on stage
After the album's success, the Pistols, headed to America for a series of concert dates. Matlock had been replaced by Lydon's friend Sid Vicious, but the tour quickly collapsed, as did the group when, in January 1978, Lydon walked off the stage in the middle of a show in San Francisco, asking the audience, "Ever get the feeling you been cheated?"
(l-r) Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Sid Vicious, John Lydon
After the group disbanded, Lydon formed a new band Public Image Ltd (PIL), with Keith Levene, Jah Wobble and Jim Walker. The band only had limited success over a number of years, despite numerous changes of band members, although John Lydon remained throughout.
The original Public Image Limited band in 1979
The band reformed in 2009 after being disbanded for 17 years. Lydon financed it with money he had earned from making two TV commercials for Country Life butter.
Lydon's Country Life butter commercial
John Lydon in 2010
Lydon performs at Glastonbury in 2013
John Lydon's book Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs dates from 1993, and his Anger is an Energy appeared in 2014.
John Lydon's autobiography
Lydon is married to Nora Forster, a publishing heiress from Germany. They live in Los Angeles, but they also own a home in London.
John Lydon with his wife Nora
John Lydon talks about his autobiography on the BBC Breakfast programme
Public Image Ltd - Official Website