Opinions may be like that other thing everyone has, but nobody’s got opinions like John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Limited. The punk tastemaker never holds back, and that’s why he’s so much fun in interviews. Take the clip above, from an appearance on the UK’s Absolute Radio. Lydon offers his take on a few artists, some contemporary, some aging pop stars. With no evidence of irony, he calls Lady Gaga “fantastic… witty, clever,” and says her songwriting is “bang up there.” Each to his own, I guess. Of Paul McCartney (who Lydon calls “McCarthy”), he says the former Beatle recently sang "like an old donkey.” He opines that “Blondie” (does he mean Debbie Harry? Or are we back to Gaga?) “really is a dobbin,” and Madonna is “kind of humorless.”
It’s all off-the-cuff good fun, nothing formal, unlike the review above, where Lydon employs his considerable critical acumen in a serious review of a very serious film: Katy Perry’s Part of Me. Although “not generally a film critic,” Lydon lets his gift for sarcastic understatement loose on a few clips from the movie. His review mostly focuses on Perry’s image, which seems appropriate. He’s pleased she shaves her armpits, but not with her various dye jobs. He reaches out to Perry in a very heartfelt way after seeing her father, who is, he says, a “nutter.” And oh, there’s so much more, but you should watch it for yourself.
Public commentary is not something Lydon has only taken up in his old age, though he has made a second career of it lately. Last year, Dangerous Minds dug up a recording of a 20-year-old Johnny Rotten spinning his records for Capital Radio in 1977 (below). He plays some Bowie (but he’s not a fan), Can, Captain Beefheart, John Cale, and plenty of dub reggae, introducing each track with his characteristic wit. Apparently, Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren didn’t want him to do it and hated the interview and record selections, but Johnny Rotten has never been one to do what he’s told. Good for him—it’s an excellent listen. You can find a full transcript and tracklist of the session here.
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness