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Driving Mr. Rotten: John Lydon cruises L.A., slams Green Day, takes credit for Lady Gaga

Johnny Rotten has lived in Los Angeles for the last two decades, and for a time considered his post-Sex Pistols project Public Image Ltd to be an L.A. band, he told The Times recently when he loaded into the passenger side of an old Volvo to get ferried to a video interview downtown. If any of that information is news to you, the video above will perhaps serve you well. In it, Lydon, whose work with the aforementioned two bands transformed rock music in myriad ways over the course of the 1970s and '80s, is his typically acerbic self.

The punk archetype, who turns 55 on Monday, pulled no punches over the course of two hours in the car and at The Times building, especially when the subject of the current breed of punk bands came up. Specifically, Green Day, whose music Rotten apparently dislikes.

Said Lydon when asked about his inheritors: "Many of the punk bands are cop-outs and imitators and have made it easy for the likes of Green Peace -- Green Day, who I hate. I really ... I can’t stand them. To me, they’re like coat hangers, and haven’t earned the right, they haven’t earned the wings, to be wearing the mantle of punk. They haven’t had to go through the violence, and the hate, and the animosity that us chaps way back when had to put up with. We had to fight for every single footstep."

And Green Day's "American Idiot" on Broadway? Don't get him started: 

"I don’t think I’ve done anything good if it ends up with Green Day on Broadway. But I have done something good that Lady Gaga is so quite as mentally insane as she is. There’s someone out there -- yeah, ultimately just shock, but the lyrics are so good. They really are. And so every now and again, as corrupt as the music industry is, there is one in there that can manipulate it properly. She’s one. So applause to her."

Read the full feature about John Lydon's Los Angeles here.

-- Randall Roberts

Comments () | Archives (13)


Good on ya , Johnny!

I loved the Sex Pistols but never liked Green Day either.

The Sex Pistols were brilliant, clever, funny, and exciting.

Mr. Lydon is always an entertaining commentator even if you don't agree with everything he says.

The Sex Pistols were The Monkees of punk. John Lydon is a clown, not even a court jester. And as for PIL being influential? Who did they influence? All the people they copied? Puhlease.... Stop giving this old tosser the column inches that others deserve.

So he doesn't like Green Day... Eh, consider the source. In the end, Green Day is still a very good, very well-respected band, despite what he thinks about their not having "gone through the hate." (Oh please, listen to yourself, Johnny Goofball.)

wow...haven’t had to go through the violence, and the hate??..how bout " Billie's father died of cancer when he was 10", "getting kick out of the Gilman Street and being hated by everyone there?" "Almost breaks up with their families" and...hated by their idols...and people brand them "Sell Outs"? isn't that enough for violence and hate??? Im sorry Mr. Rotten...but know your facts first before hating on someone........shame on you...Green Day Respects you so much and then you'll say this insults on them?

While I understand the notion of Green Day as being Punk caricatures somewhat, they still write a catchy tune. Not sure why they continue to be the subject of John's vitriol (he's dissed them many a time).

As for "Edith Grove" your comment is ridiculous, the Pistols were great and the first 3 PiL studio albums were all landmarks, the early PiL copied no one.

Wait, Green Day are phonies but Lady Gaga is the real deal? I'm not the biggest fan of Green Day, but I find Johnny's reason for disliking them to be incredibly childish and closed-minded. I did not know that in order to be considered punk, you have to fit into the stereotype of a punk like being the social outcast, growing up in a broken home, experiencing poverty, doing drugs, etc. I always thought that the true meaning of being punk was to do things exactly to your liking and not give a toss about others' opinions, which is what Green Day has always done.

And what "hate, violence and animosity" has Lady Gaga gone through that the members of Green Day didn't? She grew up in an upper middle-class family, was sent to expensive private schools, got afforded a top-notch musical education and even attended NYU only to drop out after a year to pursue her musical career. Her shtick comprises of wearing outlandish costumes and doing outlandish things to garner attention and seem interesting. She is just shock for shock's sake. There isn't any real point to what she does. She may be more talented than most of her pop contemporaries, but her music lacks any real substance. At least Green Day's music has some meaning. But I figure that Lady Gaga would be right up Johnny Rotten's alley, I mean he was shock for shock's sake too. The Sex Pistols are the most overrated band ever. If you want REAL punk, look for The Clash, at least those guys actually stood for something. The Sex Pistols were just an image marketed to confused teenagers who needed music to unleash their inner angst and at the same time feel special for liking "rebellious" music.

Also, any guy who agrees to star in a commercial for butter has no room to talk about what constitutes as punk.

Haha, it seems John Lydon is still trying to grasp onto the small amount of fame he still apparently possesses by bashing Green Day. Really? They're not punk? Why, because they don't sell butter? Whatever, his opinion doesn't matter. He's probably just spiteful because Green Day is still well received by the public and he's not. Sexx Pistols were never any good, they were just noise. The Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, and The Clash are the real punks. I'm done ranting now.

Are you kidding? Public Image Ltd was very influential on everyone from big groups to a slew of post-punk bands. Lydon could have EASILY made an album post-pistols that would have appealed to his fanbase, and play it safe. But instead he went in another direction, an artistic one. He alienated many people doing that.

Yeah he made a butter commercial, but that was to fund the PIL tour that no record company wanted to sponsor. He never compromised the music.

Green Day is safe mall music. period. Name me one musician of any note who has cited green day as an influence? Crickets.....

It's funny because there is a article in Alternative Press from 1996 where Lydon praises Green Day. He says they are a band that understands punk, they get it. He then goes onto attack Rancid saying they are phony, bought their clothes at the mall.

Of course Lydon is a major hypocrite and for him to attack anyone after the way he sold out and his band sold out is funny. Last time I checked, Rancid didn't have a manager calling the shots. Through Operation Ivy and eventually Rancid, Tim Armstrong payed his dues and built a loyal following. Green Day have their roots in that same scene reguardless if you like them. Lars from Rancid even played with the legendary UK Subs.

And I agree with the person who said the Pistols were the Monkees of Punk though I like The Monkees and they actually stood up against the people calling the shots and eventually broke free and made some great music on their own terms. The Pistols made one album and spent the remainder of their career charging $50-$70 to see them.

oh and the fact that he praises Lady GaGa...who is a complete Madonna ripoff further proves that Mr. Lydon is a moron.

If one was to be exceedingly generous, you could say it's been 19 years since John Lydon was culturally relevant. That would be if you considered PiL's That What Is Not to be culturally relevant - a major stretch by any measure.

More likely, one would have to go back 25 years to Album to find something Lydon has done which is worthy of the time capsules. Pardon me if we disagree about the worth of his interim appearances on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, Judge Judy, and a butter commercial in the UK.

So who seriously cares what this middle aged oldies singer has to say?


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