John Lydon turns 55 today, and the former (current? sometime?) Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd. frontman is as pugnacious as when we first met him in 1975 as Pistols mouthpiece Johnny Rotten, creating the modern archetype of the punk-rock loudmouth. With PiL, he fused punk with droning dub to make eerie landscapes with bassist Jah Wobble and former Clash man Keith Levene.
There a punk scholars who will tell you that the most innovating things that Lydon touched are as follows, in order of importance: Public Image, the Pistols, and his work with Afrika Bambaataa's Time Zone project. Some people even will say that PiL was infinitely more interesting than the Sex Pistols ever were, which to us is an odd thing to gleam from both groups' drastically different blueprints.
The Pistols only played Houston once, at the International Ballroom on their first reunion tour in August 1996 with Gravity Kills. Yes, that Gravity Kills.
While PiL held on for a handful of albums that are still inspiring today, while the Pistols weren't meant to last six months, and yet are most assuredly are still serving their purpose to shock and convert kids to punk. The opening notes of "Anarchy In The U.K." are themselves shorthand for punk-rock madness.
Your best place to start with PiL is the album Metal Box, or "Second Edition" as it is commonly called. It's made up of 12 dancey death dirges that are funky as hell. 1981's The Flowers of Romance is pretty rad too. You all know what Pistols album you need, but get The Great Rock & Roll Swindle to hear some really cool covers.
Today, Lydon is a happily transplanted Southern Californian and British icon known for his rebellious media interaction, or put another way, he's a lovable asshole. For all his slagging of pop culture, he's found a way to still be very much a part of it despite his past. He and Pistols guitarist Steve Jones are very much the keepers of their former band's flame, even touring sporadically. You may remember the Pistols' answer to their Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction...
The best look at the punk world of the younger Lydon is probably his 1993 memoir, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, which traces his life up until the disastrous end of the Pistols. We hope one day he writes another book to fill in the spaces with PiL.
Enjoy Rocks Off's selections for Lydon's best licks. The Pistols songs we figure you already know. God, we hope so.
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