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John Lydon's favourite Neil Young album

@josephtaysom

Neil Young and John Lydon’s careers have an implausible amount of overlap. In fact, ‘Shakey’ even wrote a song that referenced the former Sex Pistols leader, which, for Rotten, who calls himself a fan of his contemporary, arrived as a major honour.

The track in question is ‘My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)’, a number that glues Rust Never Sleeps together, and it is an alternate acoustic version of the song that opens the record. Before the release of the LP, Young felt as though his relativity was starting to wain due to the birth of punk music and artists like Lydon, who had made him feel like yesterday’s news. Fascinatingly, little did the Canadian singer know at the time that he was an artist that the Sex Pistols singer was listening to at home on the other side of the Atlantic.

“It relates to my career; the longer I keep on going the more I have to fight this corrosion,” Young later commented about the song. “And now that’s gotten to be like the World Series for me. The competition’s there, whether I will corrode and eventually not be able to move anymore and just repeat myself until further notice or whether I will be able to expand and keep the corrosion down a little.”

He references Lydon when he sings, “The king is gone, but he’s not forgotten,” before the backing vocals quietly chant, “Johnny Rotten, Johnny Rotten”. The following line finds him asking, “Is this the story of Johnny Rotten?” before he delivers the eternal lyric, “It’s better to burn out ’cause rust never sleeps”.

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In 2015, Rolling Stone brought up the song, and Lydon seemingly took the mention as a badge of honour. “Well, I’ve always loved Neil Young’s music so you know, like, wow,” he commented. “One of my all-time favourite albums was [1975’s] Zuma. It’s so close to collapsing [laughs]. I really loved the mood and tones he puts into songs and, uh, so there that comes along.”

The interviewer then circled the conversation back to the song, which mentions Rotten and brings up the lyric. Remarkably, the Sex Pistols singer never did the maths and realised that he inspired ‘My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)’ despite the countless times he’d heard the track.

“Oh, hilarious! I wanted to know what it was about,” he said. “The king is gone but not forgotten? King? [Laughs] Gone? [Laughs] Well, it helped lurch him back into a career there somewhat.”

Although Neil Young shot to fame in a time that vastly pre-dated punk, he does have that gilded edge to his work which not only made Rotten infatuated with the singer but an attribute that also helped him become ‘The Godfather of Grunge’. A scene that picked up the baton from where punk left off and ushered in a DIY ethos into a whole new era.

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