Born out of the ashes of Sex Pistols and the Clash, John Lydon underwent a profound transformation from earthshaking punk supernova, to actual musician, to ultimately becoming one of Britain’s genuine elder statesmen in the worlds of music and culture. The man is fiercely smart, both artistically and visually. When the Pistols burnt out (e.g., when he recognized it was time to go), Lydon formed the group, PiL, a driving undercurrent in the shift from punk to alternative. Put simply, there’d be no Smiths, Primal Scream or Nirvana without PiL’s long-enduring legacy. The lineage to punk is still obvious due to Lydon’s frequently explosive presence but this underrated band proved that Lydon could do much more than just flail around or be profane. He was (and is) willing to experiment, especially in recent years by delving into complex electronica. While always imbuing his music with a sense of irony (often stepping right up to the brink of acidic sarcasm), he may outwardly resemble a grouchy curmudgeon but, in reality, is an embodiment of curiosity and exuberance. As a result, not only has Lydon stayed relevant far beyond his initially stunning contributions to punk, he has become one of the most fascinating and important faces in the pantheon of British alt-rockers.
My Top Picks (especially for the uninitiated)
“The Order of Death”
“This is Not a Love Song”
“Open Up (Leftfield, feat. John Lydon)”