Most readers will know him as Johnny Rotten, lead singer and lyricist for the first English punk band, The Sex Pistols. Judging by Lydon’s outstanding history of those years, No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, currently available to be ordered online and at your nearest local bookseller (even some of the used ones!), his character is far broader than the snarling nonconformist presented in 1977, though that remains a core aspect. After leaving the Sex Pistols, Lydon formed another organization called Public Image Limited (PiL) which preferred to be considered as a company, the Pistols having effectively destroyed rock and roll, in Lydon’s opinion. The son of Irish immigrants in an age when anti-Irish racism was at its height in the UK (as evidenced by the book’s title, a rule commonly posted at the entry of rooming houses of the author’s childhood), Rotten grew up feeling fundamentally discounted by society, thus developing the powerfully indignant spirit for which he’s famous. Another distinction is that Lydone contracted spinal meningitis as a very young child, necessitating hospitalization for over a year, which caused him to lose his memory completely, beginning the cycle of reinvention early.
This veteran self-styled saboteur of convention recently invented the first shark repellent wetsuit by daring to question why divers keep going into shark infested waters disguised as seals, instead designing his own wetsuit differently before taking that risk himself as part of a TV show called Shark Attack where this is commonly done as a televised gamble. "Everybody bobs in the ocean in black . . . and they all look like shark bait,” says Lydon (nee Rotten). “Dumb move, I would think. I want to look completely inedible. I've chosen black and yellow stripes, right, so I look like a killer bee, and it kinda reminds me of sea snakes, and nothing likes to eat them because they are poisonous. I want to look bright, there, with it, trendy, the full load. But inedible." This is one of the best examples of process by inquiry I can think of, and makes me wonder just how many more obvious mistakes are passing for good sense all around us all the time, never having been questioned. Shortly after Lydon premiered his invention on that shark show, an Australian firm "invented" the same thing. When this got back to him, their announcement appeared on Lydon’s website with a comparison photo of Lydon and his teammate wearing the original versions on that shark show, captioned by him, “Look familiar?” John Lydon is another one of my heroes, zetetic by nature. In the words of seminal New York City punk Richard Hell, who supplied the bulk of Johnny Rotten’s image (as related to Lydon by mutual associate Malcolm MacLaren upon his return to London from New York City), in his recently published autobiography, “Johnny Rotten made everything new by saying things like his band wanted to destroy rock and roll, or that the sacred sixties bands were ‘old farts.’”
No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, an oral history as told to Keith Zimmerman and Kent Zimmerman, features not only Lydon's perspective on the controversial Pistols years, but also those of several close associates of the time. John Lydon is a master of the trying spirit. Everyone can learn from him. At any rate, he clearly has the jump on those Aussies in the case of shark repellent wetsuit invention, and his appearance as a spokesman for Country Life Butter in a commercial of theirs two years ago was admittedly done to raise money to finance his musical efforts in an age where art don’t pay. Maybe he’ll take them to court.