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Music

How John Lydon's comments about Jimmy Savile got him banned from the BBC

In 2015, while the Operation Yewtree investigation into abuse allegations from within the British media was in full swing, John Lydon of The Sex Pistols announced something quite startling. After participating in an interview in which he made comments about the rumours surrounding the BBC TV and Radio presenter Jimmy Savile, Lydon was banned from the BBC. Decades later, he announced that he believed his exclusion from the broadcasting service was the result of someone from high up in the BBC wanting to silence the allegations against Savile. Allegations which, unfortunately, proved to be true.

The interview in question took place in 1978. After releasing their anarchist anthem ‘God Save The Queen’ in 1977, a track that itself was subsequently banned from the airwaves. Lydon and The Sex Pistols, it was clear, were already in the BBC’s bad books. By 1978, the broadcaster had had just about enough of Lydon’s iconoclastic tendencies, banning him from BBC radio. Indeed, the BBC even refused to air the 1978 interview, in which Lydon is asked if he has any ambitions to step into the world of cinema. “Would you like to make a film?” Lydon is asked. “Yes, in it I’d like to kill a lot of people,” comes his shadowy reply.

Clearly taken aback but keeping her cool, the interviewer asks Lydon to list some of the people he’d like to kill: “Well, they’d all be famous names; I’d like to kill Mick Jagger on film, but I bet he’d never do it because his ego would be deflated or something absurd. It’s easier to list the people I don’t want to kill – all five of them,” Lydon continued. At this point, he is asked how he intends to go about this mass killing, to which he responds: “I don’t know, I just want to make a film of it. I want to kill Jimmy Savile – he’s a hypocrite. I bet he’s into all kinds of seediness that we all know about but aren’t allowed to talk about. I know some rumours,” he added.

Before he even finished the interview, Lydon seemed to recognise he was casting himself adrift from the BBC. “I bet none of this will be allowed out,” he concludes. Lydon understood better than anyone that the media establishment would do anything to hide the skeletons in its closet, even if that meant keeping information from the public. Lydon, like a lot of people involved with the BBC at that time, knew that Savile was a paedophile. But, despite the fact that this information was common knowledge, it was widely accepted and, as Lydon pointed out, actively hidden from public discourse. According to Lydon, the BBC’s decision to ban him from the airwaves for several years was partly to do with the fact that he knew too much.

When the news of Savile’s posthumous guilt came out, there was a sense that justice had been served. Of course, it hadn’t. The allegations against Savile only came out after his death, meaning that he lived an entire life without paying for the horrific abuse he was responsible for. “I’m very, very bitter that the likes of Savile and the rest of them were allowed to continue,” Lydon later told ITV. “I did my bit, I said what I had to. But they didn’t air that”.