Entertainment

John Lydon says Sex Pistols was ‘hell on earth’: ‘My bandmates did the dirty on

John claims his ex-bandmates ‘did the dirty on [him]’ when it came to using their music in Danny Boyle’s new miniseries (Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/Rexjohn lydon /Shutterstock)

Punk legend John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, 65, on fighting the Sex Pistols, his wife’s Alzheimer’s and why awkward people like him are a gift from god.

Hello. Are you there? Can you see?

[Fiddling with Zoom] Oh, I can see you. You’re horrible! Go away!

So how are you coping with a 54-gig book-reading tour?

What have I taken on? I like that sink-or-swim feeling but it’s not that bad. The audiences are different every night and everyone seems to leave happy… as indeed they arrive happy.

Sometimes the banter can be so wonderful it’s like stand-up comedy and at other times it can roll in pathos and sadness because there are memories there that hurt deeply.

But can you even remember the glory days of the Sex Pistols?

I don’t know that there was much glory. It was mostly hell on earth. There was constant pressure but I got to write the songs I wanted to write, got those lyrics out to Joe Public and Joe Public was very nice and appreciated it.

But then I had a media and a police force who did not appreciate it. I was discussed in the Houses of Parliament under the treason act.

And you go ‘Ooh, ha ha’, but that carried a death penalty! For words! A few soppy little pop songs like Anarchy In The UK [laughs] and you can be dead. Off with his head!

John aka Johnny Rotten was discussed under the treason act (Picture: Getty/ Redferns)

You recently lost a lawsuit against your ex-bandmates regarding music use in Danny Boyle’s new mini-series, Pistol…

They did the dirty on me. For three years his project was going to exclude me. I only found out in January and they took me to court a month and a bit later under the guise that I denied them access to the songs.

I denied nothing. All I did was ask what was going on and to this day I’ve received no information at all.

Not bad work, Danny Boyle, if you want to be doing a series on the Sex Pistols and you exclude the main image, the songwriter, the lead singer, the man who stood up and took it on the chin.

[A spokesman for the series has stated: ‘John Lydon sold his rights to control the use of these songs in the 1990s in return for money. The majority rule agreement existed as a result — so no outside party could dictate the use of the band’s music. And to have a mechanism in place if one member was unfairly blocking the decision-making process — which is what happened in this instance.’]

I just went and matched them, bullet for bullet. That’s put me in a bit of a financial hole right now. It won’t kill me — people like me are resilient.

John took his ex-bandmates to court over music use (Picture: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

How’s this going to work with your care duties?

Well, I spent most of last year trying to pick the best carers I could find. All girls and they all love Nora and she loves them. I found I was being selfish by being the only care-giver.

I was denying her female company. Silly little things that absolutely mattered to her that I was oblivious to, like nail varnish and ladies’ banter and lipstick. I was being ridiculously overprotective.

Every night after a show, I’m straight home as quick as I can and we’re on FaceTime. There’s little acknowledgements then the last three minutes are gone from her life completely but she’ll remember things from 20 or 40 years ago absolutely vividly.

It’s an amazing thing to watch, a human brain deteriorate and yet escalate in clarity in certain things.

Has music helped?

She loves music but the biggest joy and bond between us is comedy. British comedy. We’re talking Steptoe And Son, Norman Wisdom.

When I was young I had meningitis and lost my memory, which is how I could connect with Nora’s situation. I used British comedies to get me back to being a human being and I think that’s keeping Nora somewhat stable.

Unlike my memory loss, I had hopes of recovery — it took four years — but I’m afraid my poor babby won’t, it’ll just get worse for her.

But she won’t go down without fighting and she won’t go down without laughing. And she certainly, certainly will be loved every step of the way.

Iconic 60s comedy Steptoe And Son is a favourite of John’s wife Nora, who suffers from Alzheimer’s (Picture: Alamy)

You’re maybe the last person people would expect to have had a loving 40-odd-year marriage…

Well, they wouldn’t expect me to be kind, considerate and caring for other human beings but you’ve got to look at my long and complex history.

I was taking care of problem children when I was 15. That was before the Sex Pistols so I was well prepared for them.

Your opinions are still divisive: pro-Brexit, pro-Trump…

That doesn’t mean I like Trump. I met him once and I absolutely hated him but I thought American politics definitely needed a blast up the rear and the end result is Joe Biden getting voted in.

And I mean this most sincerely, my wife is in better condition mentally than him. But you need to bear in mind that I voted for Obama. I became an American citizen because Obama got in!

Do you ever say things just to get a reaction?

I cannot help but be contentious. I’m a free thinker and, yes, you can rub people up the wrong way but we’re God’s gift to the universe, us awkward ones, because it challenges you and it wakes you up.

Does it surprise you that you’re still so current?

No. [Laughing] It shows I’m right.

Lydon is touring until November 22. His book I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right is out now. johnlydon.com


MORE : John Lydon refuses to ‘abandon’ wife Nora as she battles Alzheimer’s: ‘Her memory can be lethal’


MORE : ‘Dumbfounded’ John Lydon slams High Court ruling in bitter Sex Pistols legal battle



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