High Times Greats: A Rotten Interview With Johnny Lydon

in Culture

John Lydon turns 64 on January 31. To pay tribute, we’re republishing Ann Bardach’s interview with the punk legend from the November, 1980 edition of High Times.

Johnny Lydon almost single-handedly defined the “punk ” in punk rock. Not the textbook version coined by Marsh and Bangs in Creem over a decade ago to describe a certain late-’60s recording sound that has once again become fashionable, but the nightmare visions of brain-damaged apocalypse kids bent on demolishing everything and everyone in their path. He was the vile and repulsive Johnny Rotten, lead vocalist of England’s most cursed and celebrated Sex Pistols. Rotten was too good a name for the astounding character he created in this guise, as he built one of the most sensational images in rock history. His antistardom, right down to the green teeth he cherished as a symbol of his foulness, became his calling card as he cursed out every rock band, TV commentator, record-company employee and virtually every reporter he ever met.

The Sex Pistols disintegrated in one awesome, vulgar swoop after their brief, aborted 1978 U.S. tour when bassist Sid Vicious died of an overdose. Rotten reverted to his given name, John Lydon, and formed Public Image Ltd. His character hasn’t changed much in exchanges with the press, as witnessed by his recent battle with Tom Snyder on the “Tomorrow” show. It took Ann Bardach, whose coverage of the Vicious murder case gave her an international reputation, to get Lydon talking. The results are pretty interesting…

High Times: Can you describe the transition you went through, from being the ultimate media-contrived hype product, to being an artist, performer—a musician who calls the shots himself.

Lydon: I’m not an artist or musician. And I definitely don’t perform.

High Times: We go from …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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