He has since become a television personality, appearing on television shows in both the UK and elsewhere.
The origin of the stage name Johnny Rotten has had varying explanations. One, given in a Daily Telegraph feature interview with Lydon in 2007, was that "he was given the name in the mid '70s, when his neglect of oral hygiene saw his teeth turning green". Another story says the name was allegedly given to him by Steve Jones, after Jones saw his teeth and exclaimed "You're rotten, you are!"
In 1977, the band released "God Save the Queen" during the week of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. The song was a hit, but caused so much controversy that Lydon was attacked in the streets by an angry mob. They stabbed him in his left hand, his leg, and nearly gouged out his eye with a beer bottle. Since then, he has not been able to properly make a fist with his left hand.
Lydon's interest in dub music and his post-Sex Pistols work with Public Image Ltd. (also known as PiL) and artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and Leftfield showed him to be more musically sophisticated than his work with the Sex Pistols had suggested. McLaren was said to have been upset when Lydon revealed during a radio interview that his influences included progressive experimentalists like Can, Captain Beefheart and Van der Graaf Generator.
Tensions between Lydon and bassist Glen Matlock arose. The reasons for this are disputed and uncertain, however Lydon claimed in his autobiography that he believed Matlock to be too white-collar and middle-class and that Matlock was "always going on about nice things like the Beatles". Matlock stated in his own autobiography that most of the tension in the band, and between himself and Lydon, was orchestrated by McLaren. Matlock quit and as a replacement, Lydon recommended his school friend John Simon Ritchie. Although Ritchie was an incompetent musician, McLaren agreed that he had the look the band wanted: pale, emaciated, spike-haired, with ripped clothes and a perpetual sneer. Rotten dubbed him "Sid Vicious" as a joke, taking the name from his pet hamster, a finger-biting creature named Sid the Vicious.
Vicious' chaotic relationship with girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and his worsening heroin addiction, caused a great deal of friction among the band members, particularly with Lydon, whose sarcastic remarks often exacerbated the situation. Lydon closed the final Sid Vicious-era Sex Pistols concert in San Francisco's Winterland in January 1978 with a rhetorical question to the audience: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Shortly thereafter, McLaren, Jones, and Cook went to Brazil to meet and record with former train robber Ronnie Biggs. Lydon declined to go, deriding the concept as a whole and feeling that they were attempting to make a hero out of a criminal who attacked a train driver and stole "working-class money". Lydon was abandoned in San Francisco virtually penniless.
The Sex Pistols' disintegration was documented in Julian Temple's satirical pseudo-biopic, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, in which Jones, Cook and Vicious each played a character. Matlock only appeared in previously-recorded live footage and as an animation and did not participate personally. Lydon refused to have anything to do with The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, feeling that McLaren had far too much control over the project. Although Lydon was highly critical of the film, many years later he agreed to let Temple direct the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury. That film included new interviews with band members hidden in shadow, as if they were in a witness protection program. It featured an uncharacteristically vulnerable Lydon choking up and becoming tearful as he discussed Vicious' decline and death. Lydon denounced previous journalistic works regarding the Sex Pistols in the introduction to his autobiography, Rotten - No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, which he described as "as close to the truth as one can get".
Although Lydon spent years furiously denying that the Sex Pistols would ever perform together again, the band re-united (with Glen Matlock returning on bass) in the 1990s, and continues to perform occasionally. In 2004, Lydon publicly refused to allow the Rhino record label to include any Sex Pistols songs on its box set No Thanks!: The 70s Punk Rebellion. In 2006, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Sex Pistols, but the band refused to attend the ceremony or acknowledge the induction, complaining that they had been asked for large sums of money to attend and stating that it went against everything the band stood for.
In June 2007, Lydon, Jones and Cook re-recorded "Pretty Vacant" in a Los Angeles studio for the video game Skate and, in a radio interview in the same month, Lydon announced that the Sex Pistols may perform again over the Christmas period. They also re-recorded "Anarchy in the UK" for the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. In September 2007, Lydon announced that the Sex Pistols would play a concert for the 30th anniversary of Never Mind the Bollocks at the Brixton Academy on 8 November 2007. Due to popular demand, four additional concerts were added, as well as further shows in Manchester and Glasgow.
The Sex Pistols will be appearing at the Isle Of Wight Festival 2008 as the headlining act on the Saturday night. They are also due to appear at the Peace and Love Festival in Sweden, Electric Picnic in Ireland, the Live at Loch Lomond Festival in Scotland, Heineken Open'er Festival in Gdynia (Poland), Paredes de Coura Festival in Portugal, Traffic Free Festival in Turin (Italy) and EXIT festival in Serbia the same summer.
The band's surreal performance on the dance/concert TV show American Bandstand has become the stuff of legend, with Lydon giving up on lip synching not long into the performance and dancing with audience members instead. The group did quite well in the UK charts, but were regularly outsold by Sex Pistols reissues. Despite his tenure with PiL, Lydon is still most well-known as Johnny Rotten.
The first lineup of the band included bassist Jah Wobble and former Clash guitarist Keith Levene. They released the albums Public Image (also known as First Edition), Metal Box and Paris in the Spring. Wobble then left and Lydon and Levene concocted the The Flowers of Romance. Then came This Is What You Want...This Is What You Get featuring Martin Atkins on drums (he had also appeared on Metal Box and The Flowers of Romance) as well as session artists. Lydon said of this album in 1992 that "This is What You Want is just me giving orders and them receiving them. There was no feedback. If I had a crap idea, the crap idea would go onto vinyl almost immediately". However, despite the dip in quality as compared to their first three albums, it featured their biggest hit, the sarcastic "This Is Not A Love Song", which hit #5 in 1983.
Then in 1986 Public Image Limited released Album (also known as Compact Disc and Cassette). Most of the tracks on this album were written by Lydon and Bill Laswell. The musicians were session musicians including bassist Jonas Hellborg, guitarist Steve Vai and Cream drummer Ginger Baker. It continued the band's foray into accessible dance-pop as opposed to their earlier incarnation as a challenging art-rock ensemble. Like the previous album, this also featured a massive hit, the anti-apartheid anthem "Rise".
In 1987 a new lineup was formed consisting of Lydon, former Magazine, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Armoury Show guitarist John McGeoch, Alan Dias on bass guitar in addition to drummer Bruce Smith and Lu Edmunds. This lineup released Happy? and all except Lu Edmunds released the album 9 in 1989. In 1992 Lydon, Dias and McGeoch were joined by Curt Bisquera on drums and Gregg Arreguin on rhythm guitar for the album That What Is Not. This album also features the Tower Of Power on two songs and Jimmie Wood on harmonica. Lydon, McGeoch and Dias also wrote the song "Criminal" for the movie Point Break. After this album, in 1993, Lydon put PiL on indefinite hiatus, in which state they remain today.
In December 2005, Lydon told Q that he is working on a second autobiography to cover the PiL years.
He also was the host of the skateboard film, Sorry, by The Flip Skate Team
In an interview previous to the show's first episode, he had described it as "moronic", and throughout the show's run he had displayed an indifferent attitude to staying and threatened to walk out on numerous occasions. 30 hours following ex-football star Neil Ruddock's departure, Lydon left the show for unclear reasons, although he had been very visibly angry both to and about fellow star Jordan.
British newspapers claimed that Lydon had won a £100 bet with Ruddock over who would stay in the longest. Lydon, however, stated on air that he felt he would win outright and that it would be unfair to the other celebrities for him to win.
After the show had been broadcast on Flemish television, Lydon claimed in an interview with the popular Belgian magazine HUMO that he was very unhappy with the way they handled post-production and was very angry with the way they depicted him in this particular show. He claimed that the creators mainly showed his humorous, sometimes clownish antics, instead of focusing on his personal opinions and sometimes philosophical conversations he had with Marc Reynebeau. Lydon was also infuriated that the production company used songs from the Sex Pistols' catalogue, without consulting all the remaining members of the band, including him.
Lydon broadcast a short pod on Current TV in which he critiqued The Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek's previously broadcast pod. Manzarek's advice to young people had been to "fuck your brains out." He emphasized this especially for 25-year- old women, saying that "it won't last." Lydon had several choice words for Manzarek and told young people that the best thing they could do was get an education because knowledge is free. Lydon also suggested that at one point Manzarek had asked him to work on a project together and that he did not do it because it would negatively affect his career.
Lydon is currently one of the judges in the Bodog Music Battle of The Bands competition.
However in statement to NME, John Lydon has denied the allegations of his involvement in this assault. Since the report, Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys has come forward in support of Okereke's claim, saying "the statements Kele has said are absolutely true, it did happen."
A British tabloid accused Lydon of racism due to the incident. Lydon strongly denied these claims on The One Show, claiming that they were "atrocious" and "hurtful". he went on to say that:
He went on to say, when asked if he was racist, that:
Compilations and live albums
Compilations and live albums