Ben Jones caught up with 'Johnny Rotten' for an insightful backstage chat after the Sex Pistols' spectacular headline performance on the main stage.
Ben Jones: Right this is Ben Jones.
John Lydon: [Loud Burp!] Hello Ben.
And this is John Lydon, how are you?
Yeah alright. Just come off stage so I’m a little winded but thoroughly enjoyable gig. It’s nice to see the English amusing themselves as per usual – Sex Pistols stylie!
Does it feel like work for you?
It shouldn’t. If you believe in what you’re doing it’s not work at all and these songs are songs I may have wrote thirty years ago and I’ve updated little bits and pieces here and there but it’s still true to form. Absolutely every single word is honest and heartfelt and that, I think, is missing in a lot of like young bands these days. They go for the clothes and the hairdos and whatever’s but they don’t go for content and you have to relate to your people.
Why the comedy reggae version of ‘Pretty Vacant’ at the start of the show?
Good fun, just good fun. Why? You know, we’re here. We know what we write our songs about. The words are still the same. We like messing with format. I break down all laws.
Makes sense to me!
Alright, it makes no sense that we have musical barriers in this world, none at all. We never liked the moniker ‘punk’ right from the start. That’s something like the press gave to us or attached to us. I’ve always, myself personally bitterly rejected it. I don’t like the term. It means American, you know, Mr Big’s Bum boy in prison. I really don’t think any big fat Yank fancies my bottom!
[Laughs] And the thing about a festival is you get …
Well actually… I know, after seeing the way the US behave in Iraq I think they like bottoms an awful lot [laughs]!
The thing about a festival is you get a lot of people come here and particularly the Isle of Wight Festival.
Yeah. The variety is the kick-off. That’s like the fun of it isn’t it? You get all sorts but then again if you come to what you would traditionally call a staunch total Sex Pistols audience I think you’d find it’d be just as varied.
What do you think that the kids who have come here to see different bands, different artists but are intrigued about the Sex Pistols, had heard about the Sex Pistols, seen those albums in their parents' collection… what do you think they’ve gone away thinking about your band tonight or do you not even care?
You’re being both clever with your question and then cynical with your end retort! That proves to me that you are not qualified for this job. You should understand fully that what I’ve just done is do my utmost best, honest to God true self. If that entertains that’s fine. If it annoys that’s also fine. Either way it gets people thinking which is what music sadly, for the majority of bands out there do not do. It lulls people into false senses of security which is why you are now living in a Britain that’s a ‘Fuck up’ and it ain’t our fault and we’re back here to let you know some difference that we do love our Britain and we’re not a joke. The working class are not something to be laughed at, as saucy postcards, although we love that humour too.
I do love saucy postcards.
Very much right. We’re a true culture and this Euro-market stuff is eroding us all into… eventually we’re all going to end up Belgian. Is this … is this …. You know! Is this really acceptable? It is not, you know, so here I go when I put out like John Lydon’s best I call it ‘Best of British One Pound Notes’ now the Bank of England has never done me any great favours but a Euro Dollar is doing me even less.
Why play the Isle of Wight Festival? You get asked to do so many things and I’ve seen the tour. You’ve got a lot of shows this year. You didn’t have to do this did you?
We don’t have to do anything. We now do… we’re in a position which we always have been right from the start by the way, we do what we like. Right, no-one pulls our strings. No-one! You know, do not give me any order because to peope like me there is no order. What we have is a sense of values and community and this is understood by our crowd and hopefully, a lot of young nippers in there will pick up on that and you will have a future otherwise no future for you, alright! You can end up, you know, wallowing in old asses Beatle rip-offs all your life. It’s getting you nowhere is it?
I think what you’ve proved tonight is that your music is as relevant in 2008 as it was in 1977 but what would you say to those…
Just like a good Ealing comedy, you know. These are things that are absolutely crucial to us as human beings. They’re not jokes from the past or wonderful wafty, farty intellectual statements to the future, they’re reality. If you deal with people on a realistic one to one basis, you are timeless.
Have you ever entertained the idea of doing some new stuff? It’s hard for the band because half of you are in this country and half of you are in America.
It gets even more complicated because we all run many different bands also at the same time. I mean, I’ve got my Public Image, I’ve got my solo stuff, I’ve got this, I’ve got that, I love fiddling about on TV. I love doing nature documentaries the proper way, where you don't frighten young people off what is nature with stupid ridiculous Italian, well not Italian actually, what would you call that? That lost language that doesn't make no sense to people like you’s and me’s alright? It's a grasshopper, not some Latin 26 lettered fucking piece of confusion, it's a grasshopper, tell me so! My language, my culture, don't steal it off me! Don't make me live in a Latin non-reality! That's what Johnny does!
What are your thoughts on sharing a bill with The Police?
Well the biggest amusement is that coming to the gig today I had a Police escort! That's the first time it hasn't been taking me to prison! I've got to be telling you, some things in my head were going quite crooked at that very moment! B
And what's your take on Amy Winehouse?
Oh… why would I care about that? I'm sorry but I heard that kind of music, you know in the 60s, done much better without the drug riddled Camden Town coffee house nonsense attached to it. It just strikes me as being too damn fashionable for its own good and absolutely looking for scandal where there really is no content.
Do you know the frightening thing about you is you actually speak so much more sense then I think some people give you credit for. Have you ever thought about maybe…
Well this is what makes Mr. Rotten so damn rotten! He just tells it like it is, it's not, not a lost start. But it's becoming one, if we allow this to continue. I am not a solo, absolute, never heard the likes of me ever before. I come from a true class value system that is slowly but surely being taken off all of us. Where our Mum's and Dad's actually tell us something that matters! Parents are useful, they are figure heads that you should pay attention to! I can't understand how this free liberal socialism has turned us all into dissipated idiots.
Tony Blair's Britain! All right! An upper class twat teaching me working class values! Look what he's done? He took Britain to war! He took us to war right? He became George Bush's lapdog, and by association we're what? We're Yankee poodle pus? You know, we're like lap fodder for that? It's insane! And the only troops that did any good anyway over there was the Brits, as per usual, you know with our crappy outfits, and boots that don't fit, and water bottles that leak. You know! We're in Basra, in hardcore gaffs, and they sod off to you know, the centre of the city to open up a disco!
It's fascinating and yet intimidating talking to you, and I could spend hours doing so. Thank you very much!
Yeah but let me explain I'm not anti-American, I live in America and the soldiers that are sent out there, they're coming back so distraught and so disillusioned by their government. Don't hate Americans, hate, like most decent Americans, hate that government. Not the people, hate that government. All right?
Run, run for office my friend. You've got my vote.
I run from no one, I run for no one. I'll take a gentle stroll, and the idea of office doesn't interest me at all. Orifice? I might be intrigued (Breaks out laughing).
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