John Lydon

John Joseph Lydon (/ˈldən/; born 31 January 1956), also known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, is an English singer and songwriter. He is best known as the lead singer of the late-1970s British punk band the Sex Pistols, which lasted from 1975 until 1978, and again for various revivals during the 1990s and 2000s. He is also the lead singer of post-punk band Public Image Ltd (PiL), which he founded and fronted from 1978 until 1993, and again since 2009.

John Lydon
Lydon performing with Public Image Ltd in 2010
Lydon performing with Public Image Ltd in 2010
Background information
Birth nameJohn Joseph Lydon
Also known asJohnny Rotten
Born (1956-01-31) 31 January 1956 (age 65)
Holloway, London, England
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1975–present
Associated acts

Lydon's outspoken personality, rebellious image and fashion style led to his being asked to become the singer of the Sex Pistols by their manager, Malcolm McLaren. With the Sex Pistols, he penned singles including "Anarchy in the U.K.", "God Save the Queen", "Pretty Vacant" and "Holidays in the Sun", the content of which precipitated what one commentator described as the 'last and greatest outbreak of pop-based moral pandemonium' in Britain.[1] The band scandalised much of the media, and Lydon was seen as a figurehead of the burgeoning punk movement.[2] Because of their controversial lyrics and disrepute at the time, they are regarded as one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.[3][4]

After the Sex Pistols disbanded in 1978, Lydon founded his own band, Public Image Ltd, which was far more experimental in nature and described in a 2005 review by NME as 'arguably the first post-rock group'.[5] The band produced eight albums and a string of singles, including "Public Image", "Death Disco", and "Rise", before they went on hiatus in 1993, reforming in 2009. In subsequent years, Lydon has hosted television series in the UK, US, and Belgium, appeared on I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! in the UK, appeared in advertisements on UK television promoting Dairy Crest, a brand of British butter, written two autobiographies, and produced solo musical work, such as the album Psycho's Path (1997). In 2005, he released a compilation album, The Best of British £1 Notes.

In 2015, there was a revival of a 1980s movement to have Lydon knighted for his achievements with the Sex Pistols, even though he has declined efforts to award him an MBE for his services to music.[6] Q magazine remarked that 'somehow he's assumed the status of national treasure'.[7] In 2002, he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote.[8]

Early lifeEdit

I view myself as British first and foremost. When my parents came over from Ireland they became intrinsically working-class English. [I'm] proper London working-class.

—John Lydon (2013)[9]

John Joseph Lydon was born in London on 31 January 1956.[10] His parents, Eileen Lydia (née Barry) (died 1978)[11] and John Christopher Lydon, were working-class emigrants from Ireland who moved into a two-room Victorian flat in Benwell Road, in the Holloway area of north London.[12] The flat is adjacent to the Highbury Stadium, the former home of Premier League football club Arsenal F.C. of which Lydon has been an avid fan since the age of four.[12] At the time, the area was largely impoverished, with a high crime rate and a population consisting predominantly of working-class Irish and Jamaican people. Lydon spent summer holidays in his mother's native County Cork, where he suffered name-calling for having an English accent, a prejudice he claims he still receives today even though he travels under an Irish passport.[13]

Lydon, the eldest of four brothers, had to look after his siblings due to his mother's regular illnesses.[14] As a child, he lived on the edge of an industrial estate and would often play with friends in the factories when they were closed. He belonged to a local gang of neighbourhood children and would often end up in fights with other groups, something he would later look back on with fond memories: "Hilarious fiascoes, not at all like the knives and guns of today. The meanness wasn't there. It was more like yelling, shouting, throwing stones, and running away giggling. Maybe the reality was coloured by my youth."[15] Describing himself as a "very shy" and "very retiring" kid who was "nervous as hell", he hated going to school, where he would get caned as punishment and where he "had several embarrassing incidents ... I would shit my pants and be too scared to ask the teacher to leave the class. I'd sit there in a pants load of poo all day long."[16]

At the age of seven, Lydon contracted spinal meningitis and spent a year in St Ann's Hospital in Haringey, London. Throughout the entire experience, he suffered from hallucinations, nausea, headaches, periods of coma, and a severe memory loss that lasted for four years,[17] whilst the treatments administered by the nurses involved drawing fluid out of his spine with a surgical needle, leaving him with a permanent spinal curvature. The meningitis was responsible for giving him what he would later describe as the "Lydon stare"; this experience was "the first step that put me on the road to Rotten".[18]

The other squatters hated us ... because of the way we looked—short cropped hair and old suits. That's when Sid [Vicious] started to come around to my way of fashion. I gave him his first decent haircut, which was the punk style as it soon became. You'd literally cut chunks of hair out of your head. The idea was to not have any shape to your hairdo—just have it fucked up. This was the beginning of it all.

—John Lydon (1993)[19]

With his father often away, employed variously on building sites or oil rigs, Lydon got his first job aged ten as a minicab dispatcher, something he kept up for a year while the family was in financial difficulty.[20] He disliked his secondary school, the St. William of York Roman Catholic School in Islington, where initially, he was bullied, but at fourteen or fifteen he "broke out of the mould" and began to fight back at what he saw as the oppressive nature of the school teachers, who he felt instigated and encouraged the children to all be the same and be "anti-anyone-who-doesn't-quite-fit-the-mould."[21] Following the completion of his O-levels at school, he got into a row with his father, who disliked Lydon's long hair, and so, agreeing to get it cut, the teenager not only had it cut, but in an act of rebellion, he dyed it bright green.[22] As a teenager, he listened to rock bands like Hawkwind, Captain Beefheart, Alice Cooper, and the Stooges – bands his mother also used to like, which somewhat embarrassed him – as well as more mainstream acts such as T. Rex and Gary Glitter.[23]

Lydon was kicked out of school at age fifteen after a run-in with a teacher, and went on to attend Hackney College, where he befriended John Simon Ritchie, before attending Kingsway College. Lydon gave Ritchie the nickname "Sid Vicious", after his parents' pet hamster.[24] Lydon and Vicious began squatting in a house in the Hampstead area with a group of ageing hippies and stopped bothering to go to college, which was often far away from where they were living.[25] Meanwhile, he began working on building sites during the summer, assisted by his father. Friends recommended him for a job at a children's play centre in Finsbury Park, teaching woodwork to some of the older children, but he was sacked when parents complained that somebody "weird" with bright-green hair was teaching their children.[26] Lydon and his friends, including Vicious, John Gray, Jah Wobble, Dave Crowe and Tony Purcell, began going to many of the London clubs, such as the Lacy Lady in Seven Kings, and frequented both reggae and gay clubs, enjoying the latter because "you could be yourself, nobody bothered you" there.[27]

Lydon during this stage of his life was described as "the vilest geezer I ever met – all misshapen, no 'air, 'unchback, flat feet."[28][29]


1975–78: Sex Pistols and the punk movementEdit

Lydon performing with the Sex Pistols in 1977

In 1975, Lydon was among a group of youths who regularly hung around Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's fetish clothing shop SEX. McLaren had returned from a brief stint travelling with American protopunk band the New York Dolls, and he was working on promoting a new band formed by Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook called the Sex Pistols. McLaren was impressed with Lydon's ragged look and unique sense of style, particularly his orange hair and modified Pink Floyd T-shirt (with the band members' eyes scratched out and the words I Hate scrawled in felt-tip pen above the band's logo). After tunelessly singing Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" to the accompaniment of the shop's jukebox, Lydon was chosen as the band's frontman.[30] In 1977, the band released "God Save the Queen" during the week of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. At the time, August 1977, Lydon commented: "Turn the other cheek too often and you get a razor through it."[clarification needed][31]

Lydon was interested in dub music. McLaren was said to have been upset when Lydon revealed during a radio interview that his influences included progressive experimentalists like Magma, Can, Captain Beefheart and Van der Graaf Generator.[32] Tensions between Lydon and bassist Glen Matlock arose. The reasons for this are disputed, but Lydon claimed in his autobiography that he believed Matlock to be too white-collar and middle-class and that Matlock was "always going on about nice things like the Beatles". Matlock stated in his own autobiography that most of the tension in the band, and between himself and Lydon, was orchestrated by McLaren. Matlock quit and as a replacement, Lydon recommended his school friend John Simon Ritchie, who used the stage name Sid Vicious. Although Ritchie was an incompetent bassist, McLaren agreed that he had the look the band wanted: pale, emaciated, spike-haired, with ripped clothes and a perpetual sneer. In 1977, the Sex Pistols released their only and highly influential studio album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.

Vicious' chaotic relationship with girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and his worsening heroin addiction, caused a great deal of friction among the band members, particularly with Lydon, whose sarcastic remarks often exacerbated the situation. Lydon closed the final Sid Vicious-era Sex Pistols concert in San Francisco's Winterland in January 1978 with a rhetorical question to the audience: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Shortly thereafter, McLaren, Jones, and Cook went to Brazil to meet and record with former train robber Ronnie Biggs. Lydon declined to go, deriding the concept as a whole and feeling that they were attempting to make a hero out of a criminal who attacked a train driver and stole "working-class money".[33]

The Sex Pistols' disintegration was documented in Julian Temple's satirical pseudo-biographical film, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, in which Jones, Cook and Vicious each played a character. Matlock only appeared in previously recorded live footage and as an animation and did not participate personally. Lydon refused to have anything to do with it, feeling that McLaren had far too much control over the project. Although Lydon was highly critical of the film, many years later he agreed to let Temple direct the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury, a film that included new interviews with the band members' faces hidden in silhouette, and also featured an uncharacteristically emotional Lydon choking up as he discussed Vicious' decline and death. Lydon had previously denounced previous journalistic works regarding the Sex Pistols in the introduction to his autobiography, Rotten – No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, which he described as "as close to the truth as one can get".[34]

1978–93: Public Image Ltd (PiL)Edit

In 1978, Lydon formed the post-punk outfit Public Image Ltd (PiL). The first lineup of the band included bassist Jah Wobble and former Clash guitarist Keith Levene. They released the albums Public Image: First Issue (1978), Metal Box (1979) and the live album Paris au Printemps (1980). Wobble left and Lydon and Levene made The Flowers of Romance (1981). This was followed by This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get (1984) featuring Martin Atkins on drums (he had also appeared on Metal Box and The Flowers of Romance); it featured their biggest hit, "This Is Not a Love Song", which hit No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart in 1983.[35]

In 1983, Lydon co-starred with Harvey Keitel in the film Copkiller, also released as Corrupt and The Order of Death. He later had a small role in the 2000 film The Independent.

In 1984, Lydon worked with Time Zone on their single "World Destruction". A collaboration between Lydon, Afrika Bambaataa and producer/bassist Bill Laswell, this was an early example of "rap rock", along with Run-DMC. The song appears on Bambaataa's 1997 compilation album Zulu Groove, and was arranged by Laswell after Lydon and Bambaataa had acknowledged respect for each other's work, as described in an interview from 1984:

Afrika Bambaataa: I was talking to Bill Laswell saying I need somebody who's really crazy, man, and he thought of John Lydon. I knew he was perfect because I'd seen this movie that he'd made [Copkiller], I knew about all the Sex Pistols and Public Image stuff, so we got together and we did a smashing crazy version, and a version where he cussed the Queen something terrible, which was never released. John Lydon: We went in, put a drum beat down on the machine and did the whole thing in about four-and-a-half hours. It was very, very quick.[36]

The single featured Bernie Worrell, Nicky Skopelitis and Aïyb Dieng, all of whom would later play on PiL's Album; Laswell played bass and produced. In 1986, Public Image Ltd released Album (also known as Compact Disc and Cassette depending on the format). Most of the tracks on were written by Lydon and Bill Laswell, and the musicians were session musicians including bassist Jonas Hellborg, guitarist Steve Vai and Cream drummer Ginger Baker.[citation needed]

In 1987, a new line-up was formed consisting of Lydon, former Siouxsie and the Banshees guitarist John McGeoch, Allan Dias on bass guitar in addition to drummer Bruce Smith and Lu Edmunds. This line-up released Happy? and all except Lu Edmunds released the album 9 in 1989. In 1992, Lydon, Dias and McGeoch were joined by Curt Bisquera on drums and Gregg Arreguin on rhythm guitar for the album That What Is Not, which featured the Tower of Power horns on two songs and Jimmie Wood on harmonica. Lydon, McGeoch and Dias wrote the song "Criminal" for the film Point Break. After this album, in 1993, Lydon put PiL on indefinite hiatus.

1993–2006: Solo album, autobiography and celebrity statusEdit

In 1993, Lydon's first autobiography, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, was published. Aided by Keith and Kent Zimmerman, and featuring contributions from figures including Paul Cook, Chrissie Hynde, Billy Idol and Don Letts, the work covered his life up until the collapse of the Sex Pistols. Describing the book, he stated that it "is as close to the truth as one can get, looking back on events from the inside. All the people in this book were actually there, and this book is as much their point of view as it is mine. This means contradictions and insults have not been edited, and neither have the compliments, if any. I have no time for lies or fantasy, and neither should you. Enjoy or die."[37] In December 2005, Lydon told Q that he was working on a second autobiography to cover the PiL years.[7]

In the mid-1990s, Lydon hosted Rotten Day, a daily syndicated US radio feature written by George Gimarc. The format of the show was a look back at events in popular music and culture occurring on the particular broadcast calendar date about which Lydon would offer cynical commentary. The series was originally developed as a radio vehicle for Gimarc's book, Punk Diary 1970–79, but after bringing Lydon onboard, it was expanded to cover notable events from most of the second half of the 20th century.[citation needed]

In 1997, Lydon released a solo album on Virgin Records called Psycho's Path. He wrote all the songs and played all the instruments; for one song ("Sun"), he sang the vocals through a toilet roll.[38] The US version included a Chemical Brothers remix of the song "Open Up" by Leftfield with vocals by Lydon, which was a club hit in the US and a big hit in the UK. Lydon has recorded a second solo album but it has not been released, except for one song that appeared on The Best of British £1 Notes. In November 1997, Lydon appeared on Judge Judy fighting a suit filed by his former tour drummer Robert Williams for breach of contract, assault and battery.[39]

In January 2004, Lydon appeared on the British reality television programme I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, which took place in Australia. He proved he still had the capability to shock by calling the show's viewers "fucking cunts" during a live broadcast. The television regulator and ITV, the channel broadcasting the show, between them received only 91 complaints about Lydon's language.[40]

In a February 2004 interview with the Scottish Sunday Mirror, Lydon said that he and his wife "should be dead", since on 21 December 1988, thanks to delays caused by his wife's packing, they missed the Pan Am Flight 103 that was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland.[41]

After I'm a Celebrity ... , he presented a documentary about insects and spiders called John Lydon's Megabugs which was shown on the Discovery Channel.[42] Radio Times described him as "more an enthusiast than an expert". He went to present two further programmes: John Lydon Goes Ape, in which he searched for gorillas in Central Africa; and John Lydon's Shark Attack, in which he swam with sharks off South Africa.

In late 2008, Lydon appeared in an advertising campaign for 'Country Life' butter, on British television. Lydon defended the move by stating that the main reason he accepted the offer was to raise money to reform Public Image Ltd without a record deal. The advertising campaign proved to be highly successful, with sales of the brand raising 85% in the quarter following, which many in the media attributed to Lydon's presence in the advert.[43]

2006–09: Potential Sex Pistols revivalEdit

John Lydon in 2008

Although Lydon spent years denying that the Sex Pistols would ever perform together again, the band re-united (with Matlock returning on bass) in the 1990s, and continue to perform occasionally. In 2002, the year of Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee, the Sex Pistols reformed again to play the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London. In 2003, their 'Piss Off Tour' took them around North America for three weeks. Further performances took place in Europe from 2007–08.

In 2006, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Sex Pistols, but the band refused to attend the ceremony or acknowledge the induction, complaining that they had been asked for large sums of money to attend.[44]

2009-present: Public Image Limited reformationEdit

Lydon onstage with PiL at Guilfest 2011

In September 2009, it was announced that PiL would reform, including earlier members Bruce Smith and Lu Edmonds, for a number of Christmas concerts in the UK.[45] Lydon financed the reunion using money he earned doing a UK television commercial for Country Life butter. Lydon commented "The money that I earned from that has now gone completely — lock stock and barrel — into reforming PiL".[46]

In August 2010, Lydon played with Public Image Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel despite protests. Lydon was criticized[47][48][49] for giving a statement to The Independent newspaper, in which he said: "I really resent the presumption that I'm going there to play to right-wing Nazi Jews. If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."[50]

In October 2013, Lydon clarified in an interview.

I support no government anywhere, ever, never. No institution, no religion – these are things that all of us as human beings do not need. When I go to a place like Israel, it's not to support anti-Arab sentiment or pro-Israeli government, it's to play to the people.[51]

During an April 2013 tour of Australia, Lydon was involved in a television interview for The Project that resulted in a publicised controversy, as he was labelled "a flat out, sexist, misogynist pig" by one of the panellists on the Australian programme. The altercation occurred with host Carrie Bickmore, and the description was provided by panellist Andrew Rochford after the interview was prematurely terminated by Bickmore's colleague Dave Hughes.[52] Lydon conducted the interview from Brisbane while on PiL's first tour of Australia in twenty years — first announced in December 2012 — during which concerts were held in the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne.[53]

Lydon was cast to play the role of King Herod for the North American arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. He was to play the role starting 9 June through 17 August, and be joined by Ben Forster as Jesus, Brandon Boyd of rock band Incubus as Judas Iscariot, Destiny's Child singer Michelle Williams as Mary Magdalene, and former 'N Sync singer JC Chasez as Pontius Pilate.[54] On 31 May 2014, the producers announced that the tour of the production was cancelled, because of poor advance ticket sales.[55]

A compilation of Lydon's lyrics, Mr. Rotten's Songbook, was published in 2017. The limited-edition book includes the words to every song he wrote during his entire career, punctuated by his own original sketches and cartoons.[56]

Origin of stage nameEdit

Lydon explained the origin of his stage name, Johnny Rotten, in a Daily Telegraph feature interview in 2007: he was given the name in the mid-1970s, when his lack of oral hygiene led to his teeth turning green.[57] One version says the name came from the Sex Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones, who saw Lydon's teeth and exclaimed, "You're rotten, you are!"[58]

In 2008, Lydon had extensive dental work performed in Los Angeles, at a reported cost of US$22,000. He explained that it was not done out of vanity: "It was necessity ... all those rotten teeth were seriously beginning to corrupt my system".[59]

Personal lifeEdit

Lydon has been married to Nora Forster, a publishing heiress from Germany, since 1979.[n 1] He was the stepfather of Forster's daughter Ari Up, who had been the lead singer in the post-punk band The Slits until her death in 2010. In 2000, Lydon and Nora became legal guardians of Ari's twin teenaged boys; as Lydon explained "[Ari] let them run free. They couldn't read, write or form proper sentences. One day Ari said she couldn't cope with them any more. I suggested they came to us because I wasn't having them abandoned. They gave us hell, but I loved having kids around."[62] In 2010, they became guardians of Ari's third child, Wilton.[63]

Lydon and Forster primarily live in Venice, California where they have resided since the early 1980s, but keep a residence in London.[64]

In 2018, Lydon revealed that Forster was in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's Disease.[65] In June 2020, Lydon said that he had become full-time carer for his wife as her condition has been deteriorating. "Nora has Alzheimer's... I am her full-time carer and I won't let anyone mess up with her. For me, the real person is still there. That person I love is still there every minute of every day and that is my life. It's unfortunate that she forgets things, well, don't we all? I suppose her condition is one of like a permanent hangover for her. It gets worse and worse, bits of the brain store less and less memory and then suddenly some bits completely vanish.” Lydon said experts were impressed with how she remembers him saying "a bit of love goes a long way" and that he has no intentions to put her in a care home despite the strain her illness has on both their lives.[66]

Lydon has been a fan of Oscar Wilde since he studied his works at school, when he came to the conclusion that "his stuff was fucking brilliant. What an attitude to life!...he turned out to be the biggest poof on earth at a time when that was completely unacceptable. What a genius."[22]

Lydon is a visual artist. His drawings, paintings and other related works have featured prominently in the works of PiL and his solo career throughout the years, the most recent example being the cover to This is PiL.[67]

In 2014 he admitted to spending £10,000 on iPad games.[68]


Lydon became an American citizen in 2013, in addition to his British and Irish citizenships.[69] He later spoke of how he would never have considered becoming a US citizen during the "Bush years" because of the "horrible" way America presented itself abroad, but the Obama presidency had changed his mind, in particular because "America has the potential to be a nation that actually cares for its afflicted and wounded and ill and disenfranchised" as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").[70]

Religious viewsEdit

Lydon's parents raised their sons as Roman Catholics and Lydon calls himself a Catholic.[71] However, he is openly critical of the Catholic Church, particularly the sexual abuse cases, going so far as to call for legal action against the Pope.[72] He has stated that he "never had any godlike epiphanies or thought that God had anything to do with this dismal occurrence called life".[73] On the liner notes of Public Image Ltd's single, "Cruel", Lydon included, 'Where is God? I see no evidence of God. God is probably Barry Manilow.'[74][75]

Political and social criticismEdit

United Kingdom's class structureEdit

Since his rise to public attention, Lydon has remained an outspoken critic of much in British politics and society. He comes from an emigrant working class background and is opposed to the class system, describing how private schools "tend to turn out little snobs. They're taught a sense of superiority, which is the kiss of death ... They're absolutely screwed up for life."[76] He is critical of the upper class, stating that they "parasite off the population as their friends help them along" but he equally criticises 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."[77] He opposes all forms of segregation in schools, not only through the private and state school division but also with single-sex schools; "It doesn't make sense. It's a much better environment with girls in the class. You learn a lot more, as diversity makes things more interesting."[78]

The Troubles, 1969–94Edit

Lydon criticised the paramilitary organisations involved in The Troubles in Northern Ireland, remarking that the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Defence Association were "like two mafia gangs punching each other out ... They both run their extortion rackets and plague people to no end." He remarked that "The Northern Ireland problem is a terrible thing, and it's only the ignorance of the people living outside of it that keeps it going" but that ultimately the British government's exploitative attitude to the problem was in his opinion the main cause.[79]


Despite the fact that he wrote and sang "Anarchy in the U.K." with the Sex Pistols, Lydon said that he was not an anarchist, calling it "mind games for the middle-class".[80]

Banking and the 2008 global financial crisisEdit

Appearing on the BBC's Question Time on 5 July 2012, Lydon questioned the notion of a parliamentary inquiry into the banking industry, saying "How on earth is Parliament going to discuss this really when both sides, left and right, are connected to this? This doesn't just go back to Brown, this is part of the ongoing problem. Mr Diamond comes from Wall Street ... hello. Both parties love this idea. They are fiddling with rates. They are affecting the world and everything we used to count on as being dependable and accurate is being discussed by these argumentative chaps. If I nick a motor I'm going to be up before the judge, the rozzers. Hello, same thing."[81]

Institutions of the United KingdomEdit

On the same episode of Question Time, Lydon was critical of the announcement that the British Army was to be reduced in size, saying: "One of the most beautiful things about Britain, apart from the [National Health Service] and the free education, is the British Army."[82] He has been a supporter of the NHS since receiving treatment for meningitis aged 7, stating in 2014: "I want national health and education to always be of the highest agenda and I do not mind paying tax for that."[83]


Lydon describes himself as a "pacifist by nature" and expresses admiration for Mahatma Gandhi.[84]

Gay marriageEdit

Lydon expressed his view on gay couples raising children in a 10 February 2005 interview on the BBC's Sunday morning religious programme The Heaven and Earth Show. Lydon said, "I don't like the idea of one-parent families. It's very tough on the kids. They grow up missing something. I find the same with same-sex marriages; there is something missing. There is a point to male and female — and for a child to develop, it needs both those aspects."[85]

Jimmy Savile abuse scandalEdit

In a 1978 interview broadcast on BBC Radio 1, Lydon alluded to the sexual abuses committed by Jimmy Savile, as well as the suppression of negative information about Savile by mainstream social forces, many decades in advance of it becoming a public scandal. Lydon stated: "I'd like to kill Jimmy Savile; I think he's a hypocrite. I bet he's into all kinds of seediness that we all know about, but are not allowed to talk about. I know some rumours." He added: "I bet none of this will be allowed out."[86] After the interviewer suggested libel might be an issue, Lydon replied, "Nothing I've said is libel."[87]

The UK and the European UnionEdit

Lydon publicly supported the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union during the referendum on EU membership in June 2016, stating that being outside of the European Union would be "insane and suicidal" for the United Kingdom, "We're never going to go back to that romantic delusion of Victorian isolation, it isn't going to happen. There'll be no industry, there'll be no trade, there'll be nothing – a slow dismal, collapse. It's ludicrous."[88]

During an interview on Good Morning Britain in March 2017, Lydon stated that he had changed his mind and supported Brexit: "Well, here it goes, the working-class have spoke and I'm one of them and I'm with them."[89] Lydon described Brexit advocate Nigel Farage as "fantastic" and that he wanted to shake his hand after his altercation on the River Thames with anti-Brexit campaigner Bob Geldof.[89]

American politicsEdit

Lydon became a U.S. citizen in 2013 because he "believed in Barack Obama" and his health care reform, on which he states, "his healthcare thing didn't quite work out what we all want, but there is a great potential there. Now we're looking at dismantling and, you know, [a] crazy loony monster party."[90]

Before Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Lydon said, in response to questions about his prospects: "No, I can't see it happening, it's a minority that support him at best, and it's so hateful and ignorant."[88] In 2017, though, he said "I'm up for anyone shaking up the jaded world of politicians".[91] During a Good Morning Britain interview in March 2017, Lydon described Trump as a "complicated fellow" who "terrifies politicians". Lydon said that there were "many, many problems with (Trump) as a human being" but defended him against accusations of racism: "What I dislike is the left-wing media in America are trying to smear the bloke as a racist and that's completely not true."[89] He elaborated to NPR: "He's a total cat amongst the pigeons ... [He's] got everybody now involving themselves in a political way. And I've been struggling for years to get people to wake up and do that."[56]

In 2018, Lydon was photographed wearing a shirt that read Make America Great Again.[92] In October 2020, Lydon told the BBC's Newsday programme "Yes, of course, I'm voting for Trump," he said. "I don't want a politician running this world anymore."[93] A month later, during an interview on Good Morning Britain, Lydon confirmed he had voted for Trump in the then-upcoming Presidential Election, describing Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton as champagne socialists.[94]


  • Lydon, John (1993). Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 978-0859653411
  • With Andrew Bolton (2013). Punk: Chaos to Couture Yale University Press ISBN 978-0300191851
  • Lydon, John (2014). Anger Is an Energy: My Life Uncensored. Simon & Schuster ISBN 978-1471137198
  • Lyndon, John (2020) I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right. Self Published limited print run of 10,000 by mail order only.


All chart positions are UK.


Television roles
Year Title Role Notes
1983 Copkiller Leo Smith
2018 Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meat Sweats/Rupert Swaggart (voice) Recurring role


  1. ^ Sources are divided as to their marriage dates. While most sources give 1979,[60] at least one gives 1977,[61] and the 2018 documentary film The Public Image Is Rotten states Lydon and Forster were together for 10 years before formally marrying.


  1. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (2 May 2004). "Fifty Years of Pop". The Observer. London. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Sex Pistol singer John Lydon to reform Public Image". Reuters. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  3. ^ "Sex Pistols". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  4. ^ Sheldon, Camilla; Skinner, Tony (2006). Popular Music Theory: Grade 4. Registry Publications Ltd. pp. 29–30. ISBN 9781898466444. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Plastic Box album review". NME. UK. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2008.
  6. ^ "John Lydon: 'They're trying to give me a MBE or whatever it is. Nope, not interested.'" (3 May 2015). NME. 13 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b "The Q Interview: 'I want to take the Sex Pistols to Iraq!'". Q.
  8. ^ "BBC reveals 100 great British heroes"—BBC News article, dated Thursday, 22 August 2002
  9. ^ "John Lydon: The British Masters - Chapter 8". Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  10. ^ From
    • Civil Registration event: Birth
    • Name: LYDON, John J
    • Registration District: Islington
    • County: London
    • Year of Registration: 1956
    • Quarter of Registration: Jan–Feb–Mar
    • Mother's Maiden Name: Barry
    • Volume No: 5C
    • Page No: 1244
  11. ^ "Punk star's 'unknown half-sister'". 23 February 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Sex Pistols John Lydon admits being Arsenal mad". Tribal Football. 17 September 2015.
  13. ^ Boyd, Brian (31 August 2010). "The Making of a Rotten Public Image". The Irish Times. Retrieved 31 August 2010. And I've had this all my life. My father is from Galway, my mother is from Cork but I, the son, still get treated differently for being born and brought up in London. I didn't ask to move out of Ireland. I'm an Irish citizen. I travel on an Irish passport. Don't look down your fuckin' nose at me for having an English accent.
  14. ^ Lydon, pp. 9–15.
  15. ^ Lydon, pp. 9–10.
  16. ^ Lydon, pp. 11, 16.
  17. ^ "John Lydon on becoming Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten". London: BBC News Entertainment & Arts. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  18. ^ Lydon, pp. 17–18.
  19. ^ Lydon, p. 67.
  20. ^ Lydon, p. 26.
  21. ^ Lydon, p. 22.
  22. ^ a b Lydon, p. 63.
  23. ^ Lydon, pp. 26, 33, 60.
  24. ^ Lydon, p. 59.
  25. ^ Lydon, pp. 64–65.
  26. ^ Lydon, p. 66.
  27. ^ Lydon, pp. 68–69.
  28. ^ Young, Charles M. "A Report on the Sex Pistols: Rock is Sick and Living in London; October 20, 1977". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  29. ^ Shaw, Jonathan. "Punk'd History Vol. VII: Sick Tunes". Dusted. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  30. ^ Young, Charles M. (20 October 1977). "Rock Is Sick and Living in London". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 15 April 2010.
  31. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 303. CN 5585.
  32. ^ Simon Reynolds (2005). Rip it Up and Start Again – Postpunk 1978–1984. faber and faber. ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6.
  33. ^ Richard Luck (12 April 2013). "The Untold Story Behind The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle". Sabotage Times. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  34. ^ Lydon, John. Rotten – No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.
  35. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  36. ^ "Fodderstompf | PiL Chronology | 1984". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  37. ^ Lydon, p. ix.
  38. ^ "Psycho's Path".
  39. ^ "John Lydon Appears On Judge Judy". MTV. 24 October 1997. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  40. ^ Mark, Lawson (5 February 2004). "Has swearing lost its power to shock?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 September 2010.
  41. ^ Taylor, Matthew (23 February 2004). "Sex Pistol recounts Lockerbie near miss". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  42. ^ Perry, Andrew (8 November 2007). "The Sex Pistols: Johnny be good? Never!". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 9 November 2007. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
  43. ^ Teather, David (3 February 2009). "Country Life butter soars after Johnny Rotten's star turn". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  44. ^ "Sex Pistols snub US Hall of Fame". BBC News. 25 February 2006. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  45. ^ "Sex Pistol singer John Lydon to reform Public Image". Reuters. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  46. ^ "John Lydon: Public Image Limited". 10 April 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  47. ^ Cronin, David (21 July 2010). "John Lydon's Rotten Politics". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  48. ^ Billet, Alexander (20 February 2012). "Never Mind John Lydon: Real Punks Boycott Israel". Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  49. ^ McWilliam, Nick (30 July 2014). "When Musicians Lose Their Moral Compass". Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  50. ^ Adams, Guy (17 July 2010). "Don't call me a national treasure". The Independent. London. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  51. ^ Sutherland, Mark (15 October 2013). "John Lydon Feels 'Fantastic' About Icon Award". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  52. ^ Michael Idato (10 April 2013). "'Sexist, misogynist pig': Project interview takes Rotten turn". The Age. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  53. ^ Jody Macgregor (7 December 2012). "PiL Australian tour". FasterLouder. FasterLouder Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  54. ^ Coleman, Miriam (31 May 2014). "'Jesus Christ Superstar' Tour Starring Johnny Rotten Abruptly Canceled". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  55. ^ Waddell, Ray (6 June 2014). "'Jesus Christ Superstar' Tour Failed Due to 'Horrific' Ticket Sales, Says Promoter". Billboard. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  56. ^ a b Del Barco, Mandalit (31 March 2017). "John Lydon On Anarchy, Politics And 'Mr. Rotten's Songbook'". Morning Edition. NPR. Transcript.
  57. ^ Perry, Andrew (8 November 2007). "Daily Telegraph feature interview, 8 November 2007". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  58. ^ Strongman, Phil, Pretty Vacant: A History of UK Punk (Chicago Review Press, 2008), pg. 105
  59. ^ "Lydon has rotten teeth fixed for $22k". Archived from the original on 24 October 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  60. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (6 September 2009). "John Lydon: PiL lets me express proper emotions". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. He has lived in Los Angeles with Nora Forster, his wife of 30 years, since the early 1980s...
  61. ^ Walsh, John (3 November 2001). "John Lydon: The filth and the fury". The Independent. UK. Archived from the original on 16 July 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2020. Family: Married to Nora Forster, now 58, since 1977.
  62. ^ Wintle, Angela (31 October 2014). "John Lydon: My family values". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  63. ^ "Rotten's soft side". The Week. 2 November 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  64. ^ Hughes, Tim (6 June 2013). "John Lydon: Here's Johnny!". Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  65. ^ "Johnny Lydon Once Caused Bruce Springsteen to Storm Out of a Gig". YouTube. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  66. ^ Thompson, Danny (8 June 2020). "John Lydon is now a full-time carer for wife as she battles dementia". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 28 June 2020. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  67. ^ "ART". John Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  68. ^ "John Lydon: 'I've spent £10,000 on iPad apps'". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  69. ^ Zuel, Bernard (28 March 2017). "Johnny Rotten defends Donald Trump, calls him a 'possible friend'". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  70. ^ Hughes, J. (11 September 2015). "Anarchy in the U.S.: Johnny Rotten Is Now An American Citizen". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  71. ^ "John Lydon interview 1984 - Johnny sounds off on everything". YouTube. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  72. ^
  73. ^ Lydon, p. 20.
  74. ^ Warren Allen Smith (2002). "Lydon, John [Johnny Rotten]". Celebrities in Hell. chelCpress. p. 74. ISBN 9781569802144. On the liner notes of a 1992 single "Cruel" he said, "Where is God? I see no evidence of God. God is probably Barry Manilow."
  75. ^ "Features | A Quietus Interview | Thinking Outside The Box: PiL's John Lydon Interviewed". The Quietus. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  76. ^ Lydon, pp. 19–20.
  77. ^ Lydon, p. 51.
  78. ^ Lydon, p. 61.
  79. ^ Lydon, p. 21.
  80. ^ "John Lydon: 'An anarchist? I never was. Whoever told you that?' - Music". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  81. ^ Cockerell, Jennifer (6 July 2012). "Anarchy at the BBC as former Sex Pistol Johnny Lydon appears on Question Tim". Irish Independent. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  82. ^ "John Lydon keeps airwaves clean during Question Time performance". Independent. 10 September 2015.
  83. ^ "Former Sex Pistol John Lydon on The X Factor, Russell Brand and Justin Timberlake". Radio Times. 10 October 2015.
  84. ^ Degowski, Franz. "Unfortunately the punk manifesto was written without my consent". Lower Class Magazine. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  85. ^ "JOHNNY LYDON RARE INTERVIEW (BBC HEAVEN AND EARTH SHOW) 2/10/2005". Youtube. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  86. ^ Interview With John Lydon (BBC Radio 1, Rock On, 28 October 1978). Public Image: First Issue (2013 remaster). Light in the Attic Records. Disc 2, track 2.
  87. ^ "BBC bans Johnny Rotten in 1978 for outing Jimmy Saville". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  88. ^ a b "Exclusive: John Lydon talks PiL, Punk, and Donald Trump". Metro. London), 22 April 2016.
  89. ^ a b c "Sex Pistol singer John Lydon comes out in support of Trump, Brexit and Nigel Farage". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2017
  90. ^ "Watch John Lydon Talk to Conan About Becoming an American Citizen "Because I Believed in Obama"". Pitchfork. 10 March 2017.
  91. ^ "Ex–Sex Pistol John Lydon Is Surprisingly Upbeat About President Trump and Chinese Censors". 10 March 2017.
  92. ^ Childers, Chad. "Twitter Loses It Over Johnny Rotten Wearing 'MAGA' Shirt". Loudwire. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  93. ^ "John Lydon: Still angry as ever". BBC. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  94. ^ "'Let Me Finish!' Johnny Rotten Makes His Views on Donald Trump Heard | Good Morning Britain". The Global Herald. Retrieved 5 November 2020.

External linksEdit