God Save The Queen! Former Sex Pistols singer on Hatfield concert
PUBLISHED: 16:17 03 June 2012 | UPDATED: 17:00 09 June 2012
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FORMER Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon talks to the Welwyn Hatfield Times about Public Image Limited’s forthcoming Hatfield concert, God Save The Queen and the Diamond Jubilee, and the 2012 London Olympics.
IT could be a big year for John Lydon.
As the reluctant poster boy for the anarchic 1970s punk movement, the man better known as former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten has come to define Britain’s rebellious streak.
That’s why the Sex Pistols’ label Universal is re-releasing God Save The Queen, the band’s 1977 anti-monarchy anthem, in time for the Diamond Jubilee.
Almost inevitably, a Facebook campaign has been launched to get the record to number one.
Not to be outdone, LOCOG, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has approached Lydon about performing at the Games’ opening ceremony on July 27.
So, it could be a very big year for John Lydon. Except John Lydon wants absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
Instead, he’s reformed Public Image Ltd (PiL), the seminal post-punk group he founded in 1978 following the Pistols’ break-up.
A new EP, One Drop, was released earlier this year. And new album This is PiL – the band’s first full-length record in 20 years – came out last month.
PiL play the Forum Hertfordshire in Hatfield on Sunday, August 12.
“I like to do smaller theatres and clubs and pubs,” says Lydon. “You get to see all the faces – we like to play with human beings.
“A PiL crowd is a warm crowd – there’s no animosity or violence. It’s got a buzz and a dance vibe.”
Lydon apparently turned down LOCOG’s offer because it involved performing a censored version of Pretty Vacant. I ask him if that’s true.
“Damn right,” he says. “They were going to have me parading on the back of a lorry – I found the whole thing just revolting.
“If you want to represent Britain’s culture you have to be honest, and that may include a few naughty words, I’m afraid.
“I don’t believe in the language of subterfuge.”
Nor does he believe in re-releasing God Save The Queen.
Like several others who have dismissed the move as little more than a publicity stunt, Lydon accused Universal of trying to steal PiL’s thunder.
“It’s great to have the records re-released on vinyl,” he says.
“It’s unfortunate they’re following on the back of PiL. They’re even putting the records out on the same day.
“Without the Pistols I wouldn’t be where I am, and I’m very glad of that.
“But I don’t like these third parties coming in and causing friction. I don’t like media manipulation.
“I find myself in the peculiar position of being in direct competition with myself – I’m there to put out a new product, and my past is weighing me down like a pair of old lead boots.”
PiL’s comeback would not have been possible, by the way, were it not for Lydon’s now notorious Country Life butter adverts.
When he first appeared in the ads – dressed in a tweed suit, waving a Union Jack flag at a Royal procession – many accused the one-time anarchist of selling out.
On the contrary.
“The whole idea struck me in the first place as the most anarchistic thing I’d ever heard of,” says Lydon.
“I’m not a communist – I understand how things work. How else am I going to make money? The record companies? Journalists? Not one of them has ever helped my career.
“It’s an expensive thing to restart a band and at the same time recoup on my outstanding debts left by record companies.
“I’ve got to be very grateful – they [Country Life] have given me the money to put PiL back together.
“It seemed like it would cause such a lot of trouble – and I like butter.”