Pig Paper Fanzine #9 (Canada), August, 1978
Transcribed by Karsten Roekens
© 1978 Pig Paper / Gary Gold
ROTTEN IN TORONTO
by Gary Pig. From Canadian fanzine 'Pig Paper', 1978.
I was walking down Queen Street East in Toronto on the afternoon of Saturday, April 15 en route to New Rose Punk Shoppe (where The Viletones were hopefully paying me the cash they owned me), when I was seized by a vicious attack of the munchies (happens every time I’m owned cash). I immediately sought refuge in my favourite restaurant, the chronically empty Blue Sea Eatery on 90 Queen East. I always eat here when in Toronto cos it’s always empty save for some ruby sleeping in his soup at the rear.
But besides the rubby and I on this particular afternoon, however, was a young man with tossled dirt-red hair and a slick Eaton’s looking jacket. He looked vaguely familiar. Is it …? Could it be …? After all he was supposed to be in Toronto …
I was scared to go up and strike a conversation with him (he’s supposed to be real mean), so I decided to grab a nearby table and advertise the fact that I was a journalist to see what happened. Shunning the menu (after all I was broke), I littered the tabletop with contact sheets, rulers, layout pads.
It worked. After repeatedly eyeing me from behind his large 7-Up he finally mumbled in a crazed London accent: “You a writer?”
“Yeah,” I replied, scarcely glancing up from my Mickey ‘n’ Blondie prints.
“What?” the 7-Up asked.
“I said yeah, I’m a writer,” I repeated.
“No, I mean what do you write?” he said.
“Oh, umm, lots of things - here,” and I handed him a copy of PIG PAPER 8. He grabbed it and stuffed it into an old briefcase which lay at the foot of his seat.
JOHN LYDON: “Thanks. I got another one of your papers yesterday and thought it was pretty funny.”
GARY GOLD: “Er, thank you. Most people say that about my magazine.”
JOHN LYDON: “Then why do you keep doing it?”
GARY GOLD: “It’s a good way to lose money.” (feeling I’d broken the ice with that last statement I’m sure he and most of us can readily identify with, I bravely told him) “But I bet I’d make a fortune if the next PIG PAPER had a Johnny Rotten interview in it!”
Rotten didn’t tell me to fuck off. He said why not, he has nowhere to go till 7 when he was to reunite with his Mom whom he was visiting Toronto with. He even let me record his words with my trusty Panasonic mini-tapey, but warned me that I’d get sued blind if I bootlegged the interview onto vinyl (coming soon: ‘Rotten Talks’ on Time Warp Records – not a one lawsuit has stuck to me yet).
Some personal impressions of Rotten before we begin: he’s got nothing like the diseased oatmeal complexion he reputed to have. After all he’s been busy vacationing in the tropics. But the infamous J.R. eyes are as icy and stare-insistent as legend proclaims. Makes Nazi Dog an Osmond by comparison. No, I couldn’t spot any Johnson & Johnson baby powder sprinkled in his hair. He literally spits out words like “Malcolm” and “Pistols” with a vengeance, yet the rest of his speech is slurred and lifeless. Oh, and of course he wants to be known as John Lydon these days.
The cast of characters then: JOHNNY ROTTEN/LYDON (ex-Pistol), STEVE JONES, PAUL COOK, SID VICIOUS (Sex Pistols), MALCOLM MCLAREN (Sex Pistols’ manager), DUCKS DELUXE (belatedly acclaimed British rock band).
GARY GOLD: “Here comes the obvious question, I know it must make you feel like an ex-Beatle or something, but are the Sex Pistols ever going to reform?”
JOHN LYDON: “They can go right ahead without me if they want, but I have a feeling they won’t. They are too messed up individually.”
GARY GOLD: “Specifically?”
JOHN LYDON: “Without getting too specific, Jones and Cook are schemers. Sid is a follower. Malcolm is a manipulator.”
GARY GOLD: “Did that cause the breakup?”
JOHN LYDON: “In effect yeah. The main problem was Malcolm, and still is by the way, because he’s threatened to sue me if I ever go back on stage with anything but the Sex Pistols.”
GARY GOLD: “How can he do that?”
JOHN LYDON: “I dunno, he’s got good lawyers.”
GARY GOLD: “Do you ever want to go back on stage?”
JOHN LYDON: “Yeah, but not until this whole thing dies down, which shouldn’t take too long.”
GARY GOLD: “You’re supposed to be starting a reggae band?”
JOHN LYDON: “Am I?”
GARY GOLD: “You just got back from Jamaica, didn’t you?”
JOHN LYDON: “Yeah, but what does that mean? I was there on holiday till one of Malcolm’s boys discovered me with his camera.”
GARY GOLD: “What’s Malcolm up to?”
JOHN LYDON: “I dunno, most likely something stupid.”
GARY GOLD: “Would the Sex Pistols have stayed together if they hadn’t toured America?”
JOHN LYDON: “No, it was coming apart before then. America just speeded up that process. The Pistols were finished in ’76 when we cut our first record, as far as I’m concerned. Since then it’s just been a job – ‘Write another song!’ – ‘Sign this!’”
GARY GOLD: “That’s what you all wanted, wasn’t it? Records out, success …”
JOHN LYDON: “Yes, but we wanted it to be handled right, and it wasn’t.”
GARY GOLD: “How so?”
JOHN LYDON: “We were treated as a circus act for a year. That was the fault of the press of course, but nobody did anything to stop it.”
GARY GOLD: “Perhaps they encouraged it?”
JOHN LYDON: “Perhaps. I’ll never know half of what went on.”
GARY GOLD: “An English friend of mine told me the Pistols and British punk in general reached its peak in mid-’76 with the 100 Club Punk Festival and all that.”
JOHN LYDON: “Musically and socially it was at its peak then, but that’s for historians. I don’t want to waste time dwelling on the past, no more Sex Pistols questions!”
GARY GOLD: “Okay, let’s talk about Britain.”
JOHN LYDON: “That’s not much of an improvement!”
GARY GOLD: “Were you brought up as a working-class kid?”
JOHN LYDON: “If you had to call it something it’d be that, but I went out of my way to avoid working.”
GARY GOLD: “What did you do in school?”
JOHN LYDON: “Wasted time, met a few people.”
GARY GOLD: “Sid and you were classmates?”
JOHN LYDON: “Our paths crossed occasionally then, yes.”
GARY GOLD: “What did you two think of each other?”
JOHN LYDON: “I think we hated each other.”
GARY GOLD: “Were you a rock fan back then?”
JOHN LYDON: “No, you don’t have to be a fan to hear it, it just comes in your ears through windows and out of doors.”
GARY GOLD: “Did you hear anything you liked particularly?”
JOHN LYDON: “I can’t remember … Ducks Deluxe, but don’t quote me on it! I heard lots of things but I didn’t start getting records till later. I used to steal them at parties.”
GARY GOLD: “What records did you steal?”
JOHN LYDON: “Whatever I could get me hands on. I couldn’t read the labels till I got them home. Some were great nicks.”
GARY GOLD: “Did you ever imagine you’d be in a band some day?”
JOHN LYDON: “Never. I never imagined anything.”
GARY GOLD: “Is it true you got in the Pistols by lip-syncing ‘I’m Eighteen’ from Malcolm’s jukebox?”
JOHN LYDON: “I can’t remember … no more Pistols, please!”
GARY GOLD: “Okay, back to Britain. What do you like about that country? What do you hate about it?”
JOHN LYDON: “I like the weather. I like some of the people. I hate most of it.”
GARY GOLD: “Are you going to live there the rest of your life?”
JOHN LYDON: “Maybe …”
GARY GOLD: “How does it compare to the US?”
JOHN LYDON: “I dunno, these are stupid questions.”
GARY GOLD: “I know, but I’m unprepared. Like most people, I just know what I’ve read in ‘Rolling Stone’ about you.”
JOHN LYDON: “Too bad! I’ve got nothing to say.”
GARY GOLD: “What are you doing in Toronto?”
JOHN LYDON: “I don’t know, but I can tell you right now that I bet the bands here suck.”
GARY GOLD: “How can you tell that?”
JOHN LYDON: “From the cut of the buildings.”
GARY GOLD: “Hmmm … What are you going to do now?”
JOHN LYDON: “I think I’ll have a rest, I think I deserve one. I’ll get another band going, no one’s gonna stop me. I’ll make some records, maybe. I’ll have to work, though – all my money’s tied up, it’s all in courts with you-know-who. I got a house, a little one, that’s all. That’s all I need, that’s all I can afford.”
GARY GOLD: “Any idea what your new band will consist of?”
JOHN LYDON: “No. Just music, and a little less hype than last time.”
With that, Johnny finished off his 7-Up, left an American dollar on the table told me to “Keep it up” (?) and walked out of the restaurant. So much for the scoop of the century!
In the months since that lunch, the Sex Pistols have reformed without Rotten, but with you-know-who still managing, and have a new 12 inch single due any minute. Along with the 45 will be a documentary film of the Pistols tentatively titled ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ and a flurry of paperback histories of the band.
John has formed The Carnivorous Buttockflies with three other young, unknown London musicians and, according to a nice letter I received from his little house last week, they’re rehearsing hard. I don’t really know how to end off …
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)