03.27.2017 01:36 PM

John Lydon is an asshole

Many of you have sent me a story in which the Sex Pistols frontman expresses enthusiasm for Trump, Brexit and the racist UKIP.  To wit:

In an interview today with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Johnny Rotten said he supported Brexit and described Donald Trump as a “possible friend” while dismissing accusations that the president is racist. The Sex Pistols frontman told hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid that Trump was a “complicated fellow.” “One journalist once said to me, ‘Is he the political Sex Pistol?’ In a way,” he said.

“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,” he added. “There are many, many problems with him as a human being but he’s not that, and there just might be a chance something good will come out of this situation because it terrifies politicians. This is a joy to behold for me.”

When Morgan pointed out that Trump’s anti-establishment streak mirrored the Sex Pistols’ approach to music, Rotten replied: “Dare I say, [Trump could be] a possible friend.”

Rotten also described former UKIP leader Nigel Farage and his Brexit movement as “fantastic.”

“The working class have spoken and I’m one of them and I’m with them,” he said.

Does this shock me as much it has clearly shocked some of you? No, not me.

I’ve interviewed Rotten many times, and have long held the view that he is – truly – an asshole. And he’s always been pretty right-wing, too.

Read this, from my book Fury’s Hour:

It is twenty-five years since an emaciated, feral Johnny Rotten snarled that he was the anti-Christ on the Sex Pistols’ astonishing ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ …It seems almost impossible that Johnny Rotten and John Lydon are the same person.

To say that Johnny Rotten, former anti-Christ, has become John Lydon, utter hypocrite, would not go over well with his adoring audience this day.  But a hypocrite he is, without much doubt.  He sneers at the United States of America, calling it “the new Russia.”  But he lives there, and has for many years.  

He repeatedly pronounces that he is above politics, and insists that we need to “break down these barriers that we keep fucking putting between us” – and then he appears to mock black people, suggesting that their music comes from “the jungle.”  (On that single occasion, the audience goes silent.)  

And, later, at a Sex Pistols show in Toronto, as I looked on from the side of the stage:

I note that Rotten is looking down, squinting.  On the ground, between his microphone stand and a bank of monitors is a three-ring binder, filled with laminated pages – presumably to protect them from such phlegm assaults.  The binder contains Sex Pistols lyrics.

Binder or no binder, by the time the band gets around to ‘God Save the Queen,’ Johnny is forgetting the words a lot.  He looks intently at Matlock, perhaps for inspiration.  If Matlock notices, he gives no indication.  He keeps playing bass, bouncing back and forth to Rotten’s right.  A steaming geyser of human saliva is now cascading down on the stage and Johnny Rotten.  The place is slick with it.

Looking suddenly weary, Rotten carefully places his microphone stand near Cook’s drum kit.  Offstage, he is regarded with concern by his money manager Einbund, and Rambo, the bodyguard.  Rotten then addresses the crowd, some of whom are lunging at him to better place the next wad of gob.  Rotten is snarling:  “Canada, I hope you enjoy your fucking socialism because it is fucking you up the arse!”  He then stalks off the stage, shortly followed by Jones, Matlock and Cook.  Einbund scurries after him; so does Rambo, who scoops up the binder of lyrics along the way.  No one is quite sure what socialism has to do with anything, but one thing is clear: Johnny Rotten is livid.

Backstage (where I have been smuggled in by a friend), Rotten is handed a towel to wipe off the sweat and saliva.  His money manager and bodyguard flit around him, nodding sympathetically as he rails about the crowd.  The rest of the Sex Pistols regard him with unconcern, or not at all.

Sorry to go on at such length, but I wanted to document that Johnny Rotten has always been a crypto-racist (cf. his remark about blacks), and he has always been a conservative (cf. calling Canada “socialist”).

Bottom line: great band, great album. But Rotten was, is, and always will be an asshole.


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    Killer Marmot says:

    This was never a secret. All you had to do was ask Lydon back in 1976. He would have told you.

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      Dolaf Thirel says:

      What John Lydon stands for is completely inconsistent. In one interview he was vociferously against religion, in particular the Catholic culture he experienced in his boyhood. Then within a short space of time, he is on a BBC religious programme and praises how it provides a community.

      Those are not contradictory statements, but he does frame information to adapt to his mood, the format and the effect he wishes to have on the interviewer.

      Were you a better journalist then your view of his personae would have more dimensions regarding what he does. He has described humanity itself as animals.

      He is an agent provocateur.

      David Bowie played a ‘right wing’ character, as did Morrissey in his BNP phase.

      It is lucid in your article what really upsets you is Lydon stating a fact: there is not a shred of evidence suggesting that Donald Trump is or ever has been a racist, and claims that it is the left-wing media that is responsible for such smears (the latter is empirically true, though they do so for reasons that are beyond wings of politics) this triggers you.

      Please, work your journalistic muscle, go straight to the content rather than the voice tone. He is not saying he likes Donald Trump; you can find statements to the contrary, merely smears against the man’s moral character – yes, newsflash, calling someone racist when they aren’t is one of the most defacing things you can do.

      Another little tidbit that unveils your adolescent research abilities is that despite his inconsistency, he is very consistent in certain areas. He has always said he dislikes the so-called left and right wings and just takes parts that make sense (which everyone does).

      Find a good distance learning course in j0urnalism, and perhaps study the fundaments of logical reasoning and I’m certain you will improve.

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        jim mueller says:

        As they say, “it takes one to know one”. You couldn’t hold one of Mr. Lydon’s nuts do to your beta-male frailty. I generally despise having to listen when unintelligent musicians prattle on revealing their “incredibly” brave liberal stances on whatever the leftist Hollywood elites demand they regurgitate in order to stay in their good graces but JL is far from unintelligent and farther from being the boring, Hollywood lemmings as most of these actual, bonafide leftist assholes actually are. The only real punk rocker still alive shoots them the reverse “V” and tells them to “piss off”. Even if he actually dislikes Trump he still plays the best contrarian I have ever been blessed to watch. He called out Jimmy Savile in 1978 for crimes he committed with aplomb for the next 40 years and he is the arsehole? Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

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          T A says:

          He didn’t call out Savile, He called Savile a hypocrite and said he would like to kill him. Then he said nothing else about him for 30 years! ‘If’ he knew (which I doubt) then please give me one reason he kept it to himself for another 30 years? How many live shows in that 30 years? How many interviews? Not a single word about it. The ‘Punk’ thing to do would have been to write a song called ‘Jimmy The BBC Paedo’ and make some/any kind of effort to smash the system and out Savile, But he didn’t, He’s as bad as the rest of them for keeping his mouth shut, He was by his own words another person who could have been a driving force in stopping Savile and he didn’t do a single thing, I imagine about now you’ll be thinking of saying something stupid like ‘But he was banned from the BBC’ He was banned from BBC radio, he still did TV shows for them and was happy to take their money, Look at the media storm when Savile was outted, There isn’t a paper in the world that wouldn’t have run with ‘Banned from the BBC for calling out a paedophile’ but again he did nothing. As for ‘The only real punk rocker still alive’ he did an advert for butter. Let tht sink in ‘The only real punk rocker still alive’ did an advert for butter. Methinks you don’t really know what you’re on about! Seriously, Give me one reason he kept it to himself for another 30 years?

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        Xtian says:

        What are you talking about?! Morrisey is well documented as a White Wing nutter, so bad that his formet bandmates refuse to play with him again.

        And, you obviously don’t live in the USA as I do. Trump is a well documented bigot ahole prejudiced white supremacist. Gimme break. Get a clue and stop shredding the author of a rather spot on piece.

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          Squak says:

          More buzz words please, parrot. Surface level insults are just about all haters on the Left know to do and they think it makes an “Argument”. Trump was just playing your game back to you, the same one you’ve played before, during and since his presidency.

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    Tim White says:

    I disagree.

    He loves America (California in particular) from what I can tell from reading his autobiography. I’ve been known to make a few ill advised rants about America myself and always hope I won’t be judged by that.

    He came from nothing and made something of himself and he’s proud of that.
    Doesn’t like government prescribed solutions particularly because he realizes that it is always up to the individual at the end of the day.
    I know lots of people who’ve come from less than me who see things the exact same way. They are all conservative and right wing.
    I like to argue with them. My experience is that it is a respectful and lively discussion.

    John Lydon was persecuted by the people he rails against now. I don’t blame him at all for his support of Nigel Farrange and Donald Trump, although I’m certain he will be disappointed.

    His bravery freed the hearts and minds of people all over the world and he paid a heavy price.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say he is a crypto-racist. His love and knowledge of reggae music is well documented.

    By all accounts he is a devoted and loving family man.

    A prickly and complicated sort, I will agree, but I think the world needs more, not less people like him.

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    Michael Clifton says:

    Meh. He doesn’t really matter. He clearly thinks too much of himself and his place in history. Watching this I really, really, really… really, really, really was wishing Joe Strummer was still around to show the fawners what real punk is about: substantial humanity, not superficial sycophancy.

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      David Bruce says:

      I assume you are referring to Kinsella, not the guy that fronted two of the most important bands ever. As for Strummer. Get serious. He covered Redemption Song.

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    Massimo Savino says:

    Too right.

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    Scott in Montreal says:

    Joe Strummer, RIP, was always the voice of punk sanity and vision.

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    John says:

    He’s gone from being a somewhat funny asshole that made you chuckle to just a regular old asshole you what to punch in the face.

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    Tiger says:

    Yea for Brexit, booo for Trump, and Johnny Rotten seems to be a bit of a jerk.

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      Tiger says:

      Actually — quotes from Wikipedia — this is fascinating. He’s a follower. Lydon flipped on both issues:

      The UK and the European Union[edit]
      Lydon publicly supported the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union in the Referendum on the issue in June 2016, stating that being outside of the European Union would be “insane and suicidal” for the United Kingdom, “they’ll be no industry, they’ll be no trade, nothing–merely a slow dismal collapse, it’s ludicrous. We’re never going back to that romantic delusion of Victorian isolation, it isn’t going to happen”.[89] After a Referendum result in favour of withdrawal was declared (Brexit), Lydon said that it was “a nice idea to take back our country” but stated that withdrawing would not be “beneficial initially” and expressed ambivalence about leaving overall.[90]
      During an interview on Good Morning Britain in March 2017, Lydon stated he supported Brexit: “Well, here it goes, the working class have spoke and I’m one of them and I’m with them.”[91] Lydon also 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.[91]
      President Donald Trump[edit]
      Before his election Lydon publicly stated to the media in response to questions about the electoral prospect of Donald Trump’s candidacy for the office of the Presidency of the United States: “No, I can’t see it happening, it’s a minority that support him at best, and it’s so hateful and ignorant.”[89]
      However, during the Good Morning Britain interview in March 2017, Lydon defended Trump: “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.”[91]

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    Eric Weiss says:

    Steve Jones doesnt have a lot of good things to say about the guy in his book Lonely Boy. If Lydon ever did stand for anything, all he seems to care about now is being a contrarian prick. Those type of people get pretty boring very quickly. But I must say I loved PiL’s last album.

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    John Lydon says:

    He’s just having a laugh, people need to read less into things and do more, get off their mouse trails. The working poor are not going away anytime soon

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    X says:

    Thank you. I love this article, I love the Sex Pistols because the lyrics were so aggressive and against conformity and it seems like all of my old favorite rockstars have become assholes when it comes down to being anti-establishment. I guess becoming sour just comes with age. So to me, Johnny Rotten and John Lydon are two different people.

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    Thunder Thighs says:

    Johnny was never left wing nor did his music have a strong political focus. The ethos of the sex pistols was more nihilistic than progressive. In middle age he has become positively reactionary and now supports Trump. Johnny is quite rich these days on account of having married into money , and also because of his Rock star career, so I not surprised he politics are now firmly right wing.

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    Johnny Boy says:

    Always an egocentric, self serving arsehole. We would never have heard of the talentless, tax-dodging cunt if McLaren hadn’t recruited him to his boy band.

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