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John Lydon’s Film in Review: The Public Image is Rotten

You either admire and respect John Lydon for all he has done, or you don’t. Personally, I admire him and always have.

My first exposure to John Lydon was seeing the Bill Grundy TV interview with the Sex Pistols. That programme and imagery changed my life, permanently. Even though that was over 40 years ago, I still see the relevance in his work today.

John Lydon is an artist, a creator of imagery in all media, visual, verbal, theatrical, lyrical and musical. The Sex Pistols were his launchpad, but not of his making, he was the de-facto captain of an otherwise rudderless ship, careening full speed into an iceberg of Rock’n’Roll damnation. When they came for the survivors, it was Lydon that held the inquest. Public Image Limited was John’s creation, his ‘Grand finale’, his ‘Goodbye’.


Not remembering, or knowing, all the changes of the characters in the lifetime of PiL, meant that I could watch ‘The Public Image is Rotten’ and see all that I’d missed and overlooked.

The film is very informative, a documentary about the formation, existence and self-implosion again and again of a band struggling to not conform to the norms of the industry. Narrated in his own inimitable style, Lydon is shown for the survivor and creative artist he is.

From the spit-soaked stage to buttery scenes of commercial opportunity, Lydon does what he does best, he takes what is offered and puts on a bloody good show. From start to finish, the various incarnations of the band, the choices made and why, are all revealed, maybe not for the first time, but for those that never read his books, John Lydon is open, honest and blunt, even forgiving.

Love him or hate him, John Lydon is an enigma, a genius and maverick. PiL is the product of that genius. If you doubt it, watch this film while you can. If you think anything he did was a sell-out, watch this film, after all, maybe it was you who lost faith, not him.

Personally, I would happily watch it again and hope that one day I might spend an evening drinking beer with him, for no other reason than it would be a bloody good night. P.S. Watch out for the picture behind Don Letts’ left shoulder, The Blue Lady, she was my first love….. Oh, look at the time already, I must be off


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