A friend of mine from Canada sent me a text, “Are you going to the PiL Official Johnny Lydon talk on Zoom?” So I signed up for Lydon’s “Quarantine Party Only For The Headstrong,” which was being held to celebrate the digital release of “The Public Image is Rotten,” a feature documentary from 2017. My party time was scheduled from 2am till 5 am. on Sunday morning, June 7th.
This wouldn’t be my first PiL event. I had virtually attended Martin Atkins’ celebration of PiL on American Bandstand, their show in San Francisco, and the one I attended at the Olympic Auditorium. I had met John Lydon (nee Rotten) and the boys at a press conference at La Dome three days before the Olympic Auditorium show.
That was 40 years ago. May 4, 1980, was a special night for LA punk, with PiL finally manifesting our first glance at His Rotteness. People spit all over him. He was the Gob King and were his army. He could have said anything to the audience; people would have been under his spell. The years passed and members changed. Then Pil became “John Lydon and various blokes” for decades, and then John became an author–writing about what he knew best–himself. The Public Image is Rotten is a look inside the world according to John. His life, his wife Nora, and his legacy, which like the man himself, is an enigma.
The Zoom talk was questions and more questions. For three and a half hours, John sat in his living room in Malibu with executive producer and PiL manager, Rambo Stevens, and the film’s director Tabbert Fiiller answering all of the fans’ inquiries about Lydon’s different incarnations and the nature of those changes. John and Rambo got drunk on Coronas and chain smoked while the director tried to keep them on topic. Every once in a while Lydon spit into a plastic bag
Lydon also spoke candidly about his present situation, caring for a wife who has Alzheimer’s, and having his speaking tour cancelled because of the pandemic. He combed over his past and his memories, and mused about his political leanings. His politics are not to my taste, but, as ever, the Public Image is Rotten
“The Public Image Is Rotten” is available in English and with Spanish subtitles on Vimeo On Demand.