Lydon hopes to show Sweden he’s not Rotten to the core

As John Lydon, better known as former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, prepares to take the stage in Gothenburg with his new band, The Local's Geoff Mortimore learns about the rock legend's attempts to reinvent himself.

The word “legend” may be grossly over utilised in the music business, but one of the all too few deserving of such a title is John Lydon.

Lydon, better known as former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten, can (and does) count himself as one of a very exclusive group of musicians who genuinely did change the world.

His appearance in Gothenburg this week promises to be another fascinating chapter in the story of an artist who, thankfully, refuses to go away.

When the Sex Pistols inevitably and messily imploded, Johnny Rotten was faced with the choice of becoming an almost cabaret punk rock act or, looking forward and trying something new.

After hanging out with Richard Branson on the latter’s island in the Caribbean scouting reggae acts, he dropped the “Rotten” moniker and started the process of putting together Public Image Limited (PiL), dabbling in a completely different music and creative arena.

Always much more experimental and less commercial, PiL was more of a collective with a rotating set of musicians around the core of the ever present Lydon.

To many in and outside the business, PiL never really got the commercial and artistic credit they deserved.

Their second album, “Metal Box” was voted one of the most underrated albums ever by Rolling stone magazine, and perhaps it is this, above all else, that keeps Lydon going.

Over a 14 year period, the band ended up recording nine albums before eventually calling a hiatus in 1993.

That break was to end in 2009 when Lydon announced that the band would play five reformation gigs.

“I always said it was never over, that we would do something again one day,” he tells The Local.

“What we are are doing now is great. It’s going really well, and its lovely working with these guys again. The fun is back, it’s all beautiful.”

Underlining his claims that “PiL is closer to his heart than the Pistols were”, Lydon actually financed the current reunion tour himself, on the back of a hugely successful TV ad campaign for “Country Life” butter.

He also (briefly) appeared on the British reality TV show “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”, before leaving the set live on air, directing a stream of obscenities at the audience for not voting him out!

There are many sides to John Lydon.

Always happy to play to the gallery, the loud-mouthed smart-arsed oaf is the one that probably gets most media attention, but there’s more to him than that, and the lengths he has gone to to get this tour in particular on the road says a lot about his dedication to the cause.

His unpredictability is what makes him stand out.

He can wax lyrical for example on his admiration for the likes of Kate Bush, Roxy Music, and even, most amusingly, given the infamy he earned off the back of “God Save The Queen,” Prince William and the Royal Family.

Rotten the royalist, who’d have thought it?

Meanwhile His 1995 autobiography, Rotten – No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, is a great insight into a complex, humorous and never dull character. A more recent limited-edition personal scrapbook also depicts a more private side of a man all too happy to play the pantomime villain in public.

There is of course a certain irony that the famous punk rocker in history is still on the road at all, given that the whole ethos behind punk was putting an end to the giant bands that had selfishly and arrogantly hogged the limelight seemingly prepared to go on forever.

Thirty-odd years after punk rock threatened to shake British society to its knees, here he is up on stage, and one still doesn't have to travel too far to take the opportunity of seeing The Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Iggy and The Stooges, Rancid, the list goes on.

But PiL today is not a punk rock tribute act and not surprisingly Lydon is keen to be judged on the merits of his band now, and not the past.

Indeed, when asked to compare life on the road with the PiL in companrison with the infamous tours in the heyday of the Sex Pistols, Lydon abruptly terminated the interview.

Well aware that there will always be a public interest in “Johnny Rotten”, he makes it clear that those turning up to see a punk rock show will be disappointed.

For the more open minded who have never seen this particular legend in action, catch him while you can.

Public Image Ltd play Trädgår'n in Gothenburg on Wednesday, June 22nd.


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What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.