In the clip above, ex-Sex Pistols leader John Lydon (aka “Johnny Rotten”) goes before TV’s Judge Judy in a 1997 episode of the daytime show. How and why this came about I cannot begin to imagine. The case is straightforward enough. Robert Williams, former drummer of Lydon’s post-Pistols band Public Image Limited, brought suit against the punk icon for breach of contract and assault and battery. Judy obviously doesn’t care much for Williams and calls him a “nudnik.” She seems to like Lydon, though, despite having to shush his snide outbursts numerous times. It’s also clear she has absolutely no idea who he is. “I don’t know from this band,” she says, “This last band I heard was Lawrence Welk… Jimmy Dorsey… Tommy Dorsey… I don’t know. Those are bands!”
Judy ultimately calls out Williams for expecting so much order amidst the chaos of the music business, and she dismisses his suit. And as for Johnny Rotten’s odd fifteen minutes on daytime television? “Perhaps this was the moment Lydon’s ambition as a TV presenter was born,” muses Dangerous Minds. Who knows? It’s a long way from the famous Bill Grundy interview, yet perhaps not so far from his televised confrontations of the following few decades. But consider as evidence a much earlier Lydon appearance on a 1979 TV court show, “Juke Box Jury” (above), where Lydon and a panel of celebrities pass verdicts on the current pop hits: “It ain’t the Donna Summers I know. I hate it. It was awful!”
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
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