John Lydon

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How're words offensive? And why should I have to tolerate YOUR interpretation? I'm the one using the word. ASK me how I'm using it, don't TELL me. And if you don't like the way I'm using it, so what? It's my right. It's my freedom of expression. Without that, we're nothing but slaves.
Johnny Rotten (1977)

John Joseph Lydon (born 31 January 1956) is an English rock musician also known as Johnny Rotten, the name he used when lead singer of seminal punk group the Sex Pistols. He was also lead vocalist for Public Image Ltd.


  • Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Good night!
    • At the end of the last Sex Pistols concert, Winterland Theater, San Francisco, California (14 January 1978)[specific citation needed]
  • If the Royal Family was going to assassinate someone, they would have gotten rid of me a long time ago.
    • On the 2003 panel TV show The Belzer Connection, when asked if there was a conspiracy in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.[specific citation needed]
  • Punk is like looking at a mirror. I already have a mirror so I don't need the Offspring to remind me how gorgeous I am.
    • The Jimmy Kimmel Show (4 September 2003)
  • Joe Strummer, God bless him, he's gone and he shall be missed. But how dare he preach class war with an organisation like that [the late '80s Rock Against The Rich movement]. Living in a huge house in Holland Park. Every photo opportunity to be seen on a bus in his leather jacket, and then he went back to a palace. You're not getting it quite right there! That's where his image mattered more to him than the reality. He was trying to con us. In a nice way and for the right reasons but once you start lying it carries on and on and on.
  • England's a violent place. Too violent for me. That's why I prefer it here (the USA). For a gun-toting nation, Americans are surprisingly passive. This place suits me and the wife.
    • Interview: Seven Magazine in The Telegraph (London, 6 January 2008)
  • [On the lyrics of his songs] They meant a lot to my generation. And it's nice to know you've written songs that mean something to someone rather than some trivial pop dirge. I'm not thriving off a career slagging off the Queen. I think I have something valid to say. My words are my bullets. I like to brag that somehow I got it right.
    • Interview: Seven Magazine in The Telegraph (London, 6 January 2008)
  • I've never told anyone this, but I suffer from terrible stage fright. True. You can't tell though, can you? Unbelievable, the panic. I nearly die of fear before I go on stage. Something wicked. I can't eat a thing the day before a gig. It'd make me vomit. Once I come off? I could eat a scampied elephant between two buttered mattresses. But I'm kinda glad about the stage fright. I've read Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud about their terror. And I reckon it's what gets the adrenalin going.
    • Interview: Seven Magazine in The Telegraph (London, 6 January 2008)
  • [Replying to the question of the presenter: "where did the name "Sex Pistols" come from, who thought this name up?"] Some animal. I can't remember. It doesn't matter. It's history.
  • It's no more of that 12 bar ditty wavy hair in the breeze platform boots flap your flare nonsense. It's not a packaged image of third-rate idiots. It's not a pose. We just do our stuff. Hate it as it usually is, you know I was very shocked by the reviews of the last album. I believe none of them. They liked us for the wrong reasons, trendy reasons.
  • How can you ban language, words? How're words offensive? And why should I have to tolerate YOUR interpretation? I'm the one using the word. ASK me how I'm using it, don't TELL me. And if you don't like the way I'm using it, so what? It's my right. It's my freedom of expression. Without that, we're nothing but slaves. My language, now fuck off!!!
    • In response to the infamous court case against Richard Branson and the owner of a Nottingham Virgin Records shop who was arrested for publicly displaying the word "bollocks" in his window while promoting the album "Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols." Classic Albums: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (© Isis/Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2002)
  • Turn the other cheek too often and you get a razor through it.
    • In: Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 303. CN 5585. 

The Filth and the Fury (2000)

Quotes from the Julien Temple documentary The Filth and the Fury (2000)
  • You don't write "God Save The Queen" because you hate the English race, you write a song like that because you love them; and you're fed up with them being mistreated.
  • [On Sid Vicious] Yes I can take on England, but I couldn't take on one heroin addict.

The Kate Bush Story (2014)

Quotes from the BBC documentary The Kate Bush Story (2014)
  • When I first heard it, I thought that's extremely challenging, the vocal — it was almost hysterical, and it was so up there, the register, but it was absolutely fascinating. And I know at the time a lot of my friends couldn't bear it, they thought it was just "too much" — but that's exactly what drew me in.
  • My favourite album by her is The Dreaming, and I think she produced that one herself. That got a lot of criticism — but I loved it. It was overloaded with textures, and tones and all manner of things. It’s a record that I still can play to this day, and still hear new things.

Interview with Los Angeles Times (2015)

John Lydon, family man with a punk attitude, burnishes his Public Image (September 8, 2015) by Steve Appleford, Los Angeles Times
  • Are you really going to hand over the White House to a real estate agent? [...] I want a wig just like that one.
  • The only things I’ve ever confronted are institutions, religion, politics, but never my fellow human beings, and yet my fellow human beings find the need to defend those very things that are restricting their freedoms. God, that sounds like a speech. Should I run for president?
  • I’ve not done any of this for superstardom, quite the opposite. I threw away the rock star mantle. And for that, there’s resentment too: ‘How dare he, how dare he.’
  • I wanted them to see the gloriousness of the California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah desert. So every chance we got, we stopped the bus and just absorbed that dead heat beauty and that terrain.
  • Almost killed me, nothing to be laughed at. But oddly enough it’s something that made me. Without that, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, so thank God I almost died. The pain I had to endure of losing my memory and forgetting who I was — that’s always still in me. I never explained it until the book, and the songs — what agony that was for me. My greatest sense of achievement was conquering that.
    • About suffering spinal meningitis.
  • The class system is there to remind you that you’re just a dirty oik because you came from that side of the tracks.
  • Would the king of punks be a cliché? Oh, no, vicar.
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