Six Pack: John Lydon
“Remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence.” – John Lydon
Today, we celebrate the birthday of John Lydon, who – even though he doesn’t use his former sobriquet professionally anymore – is still just as rotten as he ever was. Between his days with the Sex Pistols and his still-ongoing stint as the man behind Public Image Ltd., Lydon has rarely taken time off from his music career, but he’s managed to pop up on TV and film in a few other capacities over the years, and we’ve culled together a six-pack of them for your viewing enjoyment.
1. Corrupt (1983): Depending on your country of residence, you may also know this Harvey Keitel film as Order of Death – which, yes, is also the title of a Public Image Ltd. song – or the far more in-your-face Copkiller. You can even find it under Corrupt Lieutenant, an unabashed attempt to grab the attention of fans of Keitel’s classic film The Bad Lieutenant. Lydon plays Leo Smith, a guy who tells Keitel’s character that he’s the serial cop killer who’s been targeting corrupt NYPD officers, but there’s some uncertainty as to whether Leo’s just talking shit. If you want a nutshell review of the film, it’s one of Keitel’s best performances, but Lydon’s really just doing Johnny Rotten. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re a Pistols fan, but we just wanted to warn you.
2. I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (2004): At the time, reality TV was all the rage, so when Lydon was presented with the chance to participate in one of the most popular series on UK TV, it’s no wonder that he took advantage of it. In advance of his debut, he explained himself to the Public Image Ltd. fan site Fodderstompf. “Listen, this is gonna be a hoot, a good fucking hoot,” he assured them. “It could go wrong in so many ways that I’m just too tempted! You know every damn arsehole punk is gonna go, ‘Ooh, that’s not what punk is about!’ Yes, it is! This is true anarchy! Setting myself up on rubbish like this? By doing a thing like this wrong, that’s so fucking dangerous. I could so easily fall on my face. With all this so-called ‘celebrity’ nonsense, there is a danger you can take yourself too seriously. And that’s the whole point. I’m not a celebrity, I’m just a human being. I’m up for a laugh, and if anyone else isn’t, that’s their problem. What’s two weeks in a bush? Fuck off. It’s a holiday!”
3. John Lydon’s Megabugs (2005): Why would a punk legend host a nature show about bugs? Hey, when you’re handed the opportunity to do something cool and get paid for it at the same time, why wouldn’t you do it?
4. Country Life Butter (2008): It was only inevitable that Lydon would be accused of “selling out” when he decided to do a series of commercials for Country Life British Butter, just as it was inevitable that Lydon wouldn’t really give a toss about what anyone had to say about him doing the commercials. He did, however, make a point of saying that the biggest reason he’d done them was to raise money to make a new Public Image Ltd. album, since the band was without a label. To that end, it’s less that he was “selling out” than it was that he was just trying to make ends meet.
5. Sons of Norway (2011): This Norwegian film is set in 1978 and focuses on a 14-year-old boy named Nikolas who, after his life is upended by the sudden and senseless death of his mother, finds solace in the music of the Sex Pistols. Lydon makes a cameo as himself, and although he obviously looks different now than he did then, it hardly matters in the long run. Although Lydon enjoyed the opportunity to smirk to the press that he “did it for the money,” he clarified in an interview with Spinner that it was an “excellent film” and added, “I’m really proud and glad and pleased that the other people involved appreciated my participation as much as I appreciated theirs.”
6. Song to Song (2017): If you pause the trailer for this Terence Malick film at just the right moment – and that moment would be at 0:45 – you can see a glimpse of Lydon’s appearance, but you should know going in that there’s not really a whole lot more than that to see. He’s one of several musicians who made cameos in the film, but while it’s amusing to see him, it’s not like you should go into the proceedings solely to bask in his presence, because it’ll be a reeeeeeeally short bit of basking.
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