erasing clouds

Book Review: Ben Myers' John Lydon: The Sex Pistols, PiL & Anti-Celebrity

by anna battista

I know what you're thinking, 'no, not the umpteenth book about the Sex Pistols/Johnny Rotten'. Well, I'm afraid to disappoint you, but this is a special book. John Lydon: The Sex Pistols, PiL & Anti-Celebrity (Independent Music Press), by journalist (and Lydon fan - apparently, his earliest memory is seeing Rotten and Sid Vicious on TV when he was two years old and getting hooked from then on) Ben Myers, is not a biography, but an 'unauthorised & unofficial' biography of John Lydon. 'So what?' you might now be wondering. The point is that Myers doesn't tell us in this volume what many other books about the same topic have already told us, but simply starts narrating Lydon's life, from (more or less) where Lydon's autobiography's Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs stopped.

At the very beginning of this book, there is a short digression on Lydon's origins, on his career with the Sex Pistols and on punk in general, but at the end of chapter one, Myers leaves the punk scene and the Sex Pistols splitting up behind, to write about Lydon's new adventure in music, Public Image Limited. From then on throughout the twelve chapters in which John Lydon…is divided, Myers explores the vicissitudes that brought PiL together and that eventually destroyed them, analyses the band's discography, digresses on a few punk/post punk bands (on The Slits in particular), writes about the Sex Pistols' reunion and about Lydon taking part in British reality show I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! and interviews one of PiL's members, Keith Levene.

The portrait of Lydon that comes out of Myers' biography is the portrait of somebody universally considered a lunatic, though he is actually a very talented and intelligent man and, possibly, one of the best agitators of our century. You still wondering why you should read John Lydon: The Sex Pistols, PiL & Anti-Celebrity? Well, let's put it in these terms: where Lydon's autobiography told the truth, Myers' book is the labour of love of a true fan and for this reason is not to be dismissed.


Issue 27, October 2004

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