John Lydon, AKA Johnny Rotten, is one of the most significant figures in rock music. Despite what you feel about some of his views, you cannot doubt that his work is legendary and that without it, music and culture today would look very different.
As the combative frontman of the Sex Pistols, Lydon became the mouthpiece of a generation, a point that often gets overlooked because of his periodically problematic personality.
After the release of their debut album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, in October 1977, Lydon became the hero of the disillusioned youth overnight, setting the scene for the advent of Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder just over a decade later. Showing just how far Rotten’s influence spreads, it is clear that there would be no Chester Bennington nor Billie Eilish without him.
As well as being the champion of the original punks, Lydon also became public enemy number one for the establishment. After the band’s notorious appearance on Today with Bill Grundy in December 1976, Lydon and his bandmates affirmed themselves as the most polarising outfit that the country had seen since the heydey of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones ten years prior.
After the Sex Pistols imploded in 1978, Rotten found creative refinement in the equally as influential outfit, Public Image Ltd, who became one of the staples of the post-punk movement. Over the next two decades, they remained one of the most stimulating groups on the planet, and Lydon built on the creative vision that he had laid out in his previous band. He triumphantly displayed that he wasn’t just a one-trick pony and that he is one of the most complex characters in all of music.
The consistently surprising nature of Lydon has kept us on our toes for years, and back in 2015, he shocked us all when he revealed his favourite hobby during an interview with Esquire. It transpires that the punk hero is an avid lover of video games and has a particular penchant for those that involve racing fast cars in first person.
Lydon revealed: “I don’t drive! So the thrill of getting behind the wheel on my iPad is intensely rewarding. I love Real Racing 3, especially. I know it’s only a game, but it’s great fun. I love the graphics. It’s very sharp and realistic. I used to have a PlayStation years ago, with an actual steering wheel.”
He continued: “I tried to build a kind of fake car with a chair and a few pieces of wood for my iPad, but I found that too bloody restricting. Now, I can just balance an iPad on my knee and use that as a steering wheel. But it’s a good thing it isn’t a real driving experience, because I’d be injured. I do a lot of skidding off the road.”
It’s a strange image, thinking of John Lydon attempting to build a fake car for his iPad game, but this is why we love him. He’s a real character, and his idiosyncrasies are what endears him to so many.