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The punk rock icon that turned Paul McCartney into a desperate fanboy

Life is full of surprises. It is the haphazard nature of life that keeps society on its toes, even if sometimes fate seems to be conspiring against you. Naturally, some surprises are good, and some are bad; that is the inherent dual nature of a surprise. Like with a lucky dip, you never know what you’re going to get. 

One distinct realm of life that is characterised by surprises is the arts, and namely, music. The surprise can come in any format, a new band, new album, change in creative direction; you get the point. Music’s inherent connection to going against the grain and surprising is what has helped to keep the industry afloat for so many years.

Another type of surprise that is involved in music is that of strong opinions. You might be shocked at something heinous or outright dumb one of your favourite musicians has said, with David Bowie’s comments on race and Eric Clapton’s on Covid-19 instantly springing to mind. Then, on the other hand, you might be less surprised with an artist speaking their opinion, as it is one that fits right in with the media image they have cultivated for themselves.

One of these less surprising opinions is that former Sex Pistols frontman, Johnny Rotten, is not a fan of The Beatles. If he were, that would make him a hypocrite, as notoriously, listening to The Beatles was one of the driving factors that led to Glen Matlock firing from the iconic punk band. 

When appearing on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, Rotten explained: “It’s a privilege to be called Rotten still today. That doesn’t bother me at all. I did nothing wrong. Steve Jones first called me Rotten. I never liked the Beatles that much cos mum and dad played them way too much.”

However, Rotten did reveal a somewhat golden nugget of information, and one that came as a surprise. Although we know John Lennon was a fan of punk, it turns out Paul McCartney was also a fan too, and seemingly, a big supporter of the Sex Pistols.

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Rotten recalled: “I was with my wife and we were going to visit my brother. We were driving through London, and two people come running across the street, and it’s Paul and Linda McCartney. They were banging on the car window. I put the lockdown and just turned. I could not cope with it. My shyness took over.”

This strange event occurred in the late ’70s when the Sex Pistols were at their zenith. It was when Lydon and his now-wife, Nora Forster, were being driven in a taxi through the affluent area of Knightsbridge. Just as they were passing the glamorous department store Harrods, the McCartney’s came out of the entrance. 

A moment that Lydon omitted from his Piers Morgan account was that the former Beatle totally fanboyed Lydon, and chased the cab down the road. The sight of the blithering, chubby-cheeked McCartney running after anyone would be a sight for sore eyes, so there’s no surprise Lydon was startled and locked the door. 

In a 2013 interview with the Yorkshire Post, Lydon reflected, “He was being friendly and I was being silly”. Offering up a very candid and un-punk account of himself, Lydon explained, “I couldn’t cope with it at the time. The Beatles running across the street, yelling at me, it was a bit much. I’m a shy bunny on my days off. I couldn’t handle that.”

Not wasting any time and reverting back to his old self, the punk icon said: “I like him – he’s a really friendly bloke… I just can’t stand his music.”

He appended: “That’s a good thing. You can separate the person from the work. My work is a little more personal, it’s not crafting songs in a pretty format. Mine need to be the real deal – and that’s hard to get along with.”

It’s absurd to think that John Lydon and Paul McCartney would be friends, but this is life. McCartney has always been an affable chap, and comes across as a lover of things musical and progressive, regardless of his unoffensive nature. Furthermore, in many ways The Beatles were punk; just don’t tell John Lydon that. 

Listen to Paul McCartney talk about punk below.