John Lydon’s Public Image


Aidin Vaziri | He was the king of Britain’s punk scene, a loudmouth thorn in the side of the establishment who confounded even his own fans when he became a reality TV star butter pitchman. Now John Lydon, known as Johnny Rotten when he fronted the Sex Pistols, is feeling self-reflective. On “What the World Needs Now …,” the new album by his band Public Image Ltd, he sings about domestic and political upheaval. Meanwhile, in his 500-page memoir, “Anger Is an Energy: My Life Uncensored,” he looks back on his troubled upbringing, marked by a near-fatal bout of meningitis. Lydon, 59, spoke to us from his home in Los Angeles.

Q: Do you feel like you have reached a point where you no longer need to prove yourself?

A: That would never change. I’m a great self-doubter. I constantly need to prove myself to myself. I’ve never run to heroin or alcohol to hide that. I always have to deal with it. Stage fright is always going to be there. I have nightmares about bad gigs.

Q: What’s a bad gig, by your standards?

A: When I haven’t achieved the attention and drama I’m seeking.

Q: When you look around, do you feel like you’re the last of a breed?

A: It’s quite amazing how many of them have passed away, and a little bit frightening. I’ve overdone it in every way possible. It seems like the more I punish myself, the better it’s been. What it is, I’m relentless and I never give up. I never take the easy way out. I’ve never done this to collect large amounts of money or stroke my ego. It just goes to show that a healthy mind can live in an unhealthy body.

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