John Lydon — a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. — has written a brief and to-the-point editorial for the U.K.’s Times that ranges from his thoughts on the royal family to his wife’s struggle with Alzheimers, from Danny Boyle’s new biopic “Pistol” (which he fought legally) and his early struggles with fame.
While the London-born Lydon, who has lived in Los Angeles for decades, courted controversy in recent years with statements in support of former President Trump, the editorial finds him as direct and unsentimental as ever.
Yet the most striking statements are him effectively contradicting the world-shattering statements he made in the Sex Pistols’ first two singles, which laid the template for much of punk rock’s ethos: In it, he says “anarchy is a terrible idea” (defying the group’s first single, “Anarchy in the U.K.”) and “God bless the Queen,” which reverts the withering sarcasm of the group’s second single, “God Save the Queen” (“and the fascist regime”) as Britain observes Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.
“God bless the Queen. She’s put up with a lot,” he writes. “I’ve got no animosity against any one of the royal family. Never did. It’s the institution of it that bothers me and the assumption that I’m to pay for that. There’s where I draw the line. It’s like, ‘No, you’re not getting ski holidays on my tax.’”
He counters the concept of anarchy in stronger terms. “Anarchy is a terrible idea. Let’s get that clear. I’m not an anarchist,” he continues. “And I’m amazed that there are websites out there – .org anarchist sites – funded fully by the corporate hand and yet ranting on about being outside the shitstorm. It’s preposterous.”
He also apparently references a legal situation that will not allow him to tell his side of the Sex Pistols’ story, although he did so in his 1994 autobiography “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” (titled “Rotten” in the U.S.) and a second one in 2014, “Anger Is an Energy: My Life Uncensored.”
“The new Danny Boyle series about the Sex Pistols is like that David Cassidy show,” he writes, presumably referring to lily-white 1970s U.S. television show, “The Partridge Family.” “That’s about as much effort they put into it. They’ve gone for fluff. And that’s a shame. It’s such a great story. And one that I won’t be allowed to tell.”
He even alludes to a belief in God, saying of his wife’s Alzheimers (in an unusually un-self-pitying way), “This is just the next thing that God has put as a challenge to me,” he writes. “Maybe I was getting a bit too arrogant there for a few years and it’s like, ‘’allo, have a bang of this number, baby.’”
Finally, he concludes, “I’m not angry at all. This is me. Happy-go-lucky. I make no judgment on people. Sometimes in interviews, they judge me. And that’s when the beast comes out.”