John Lydon: “Not an Old Codger Yet”

After a hiatus of nearly two decades, John Lydon is back on the road with his long-running arty post-punk meets stadium rock outfit Public Image Ltd. (PiL). Lydon of course first came to prominence as the spiky-haired, foul-mouthed singer of the SexPistols.


It’s been nearly 40 years since Lydon, then known primarily by his stage name of Johnny Rotten, along with guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Sid Vicious lit the fuse that ignited the punk rock explosion in the UK. But by the time American audiences began to tune into the punk phenom, the Pistols were done and dusted.


Lydon formed PiL in 1978 and, according to an interview the singer gave to Reuters,  the band has since gone through 49 different band members. They’ve also had nine albums in the UK top 40, although their latest release This is PiL is their first album since the early 1990s.


The new album contains all the hallmarks of a PiL album: death disco drum beats, angular post-punk guitar riffs, thundering dub basslines, and Lydon’s signature discordant vocals. It’s been fairly well-received with the Guardian UK giving it four out of five stars.


Lydon has toured several times in the past 10 years with a reunited SexPistols that also featured Jones, Cook and original bassist Glen Matlock. But the current PiL tour is band’s first in two decades. The group will be playing dates in the U.S. and Canada from now through the end of the year.


Despite the fact that the new album was recorded in the British countryside, the singer traded the dismal greys of his native London for the Southern California sunshine more than 20 years ago.


“It’s 70 all year round on the beach, and the salt air cleans me up,” he told Reuters. “I got used to the vibe of being healthy. I kind of like it.”


The California sunshine seems to have even softened the notorious anti-monarchy stance once taken by the man who infamously penned the incendiary punk anthem “God Save the Queen” during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.


He referred to Prince William and his wife Kate as, “the least offensive in an awful long time,” before adding “I still want my money back.”


Even though his stance on the royals is a bit less harsh and his flaming orange spiked hair is a calmer shade of yellow these days, Lydon can still deliver with his deranged stage presence and provocative lyrics. “I’m not an old codger yet,” he said speaking to Reuters after a recent show in Williamsburg, New York.


For a complete list of PiL tour dates, check out the band’s official website.

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