LONDON (Reuters) - He and his band have been the scourge of the British establishment for decades, whether by swearing on television in an age when it still shocked or mocking the monarchy.
So it may come as a surprise to hear Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, or Johnny Rotten as he is more commonly known, describe the punk music movement he helped pioneer as championing “family values.”
“Family values, unity, spirit, community. All these things they try and steal away from us. That’s punk,” Lydon told Reuters in an interview this week.
“There’s hardly any equipment on stage because a serious band don’t require vast amounts of electronic gadgetry -- there’s no fake, there’s no nonsense,” Lydon added at the London launch of a DVD of the Sex Pistols tour in 2007.
“The songs are as saucy and bawdy as everyone in Britain should always be. They’re full of irony, fun and amusement.”
The Sex Pistols are best known for hits like “Anarchy In The U.K.,” “Pretty Vacant” and “God Save the Queen,” all from their 1977 album “Never Mind the Bollocks ... Here’s the Sex Pistols.”
Despite being the band’s first and only studio album, it is often named as one of the most influential in pop music history.
An audience of friends, family and British rock musicians were in the audience at a screening of the DVD in a former concert hall in north London, not far from where Lydon grew up and where the Sex Pistols played one of their first gigs.
“It’s one of the very first places that we could actually play in as a Sex Pistol,” he explained. “Most of the pubs and clubs -- we were underage, you see, so they didn’t let us in and they didn’t trust us.”
In between footage of the Sex Pistols’ 2007 performances, band members Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook revisit venues in Soho, London, and childhood haunts, while Lydon gives a guided tour of the city from an open-top bus.
Throughout the tour, the 52-year-old lambastes much of the glass-fronted, post-war architecture, and says the gherkin-shaped Swiss Re tower should be blown up.
Today the Sex Pistols tend to be looked upon with a mixture of nostalgia and affection, but in their heyday over 30 years ago they were controversial and hated by many.
“At the time we were truly, totally hated and resented,” Lydon recalled. “It’s hard to feel fresh when 300 northerners are throwing beer bottles at your skull and mean to damage you severely.”
The DVD is titled “There’ll Always Be An England,” a patriotic war-time song which was also used on stage during their tour. Lydon’s commentary is peppered with references to his working class roots and deep pride in London.
Asked what he thought about being an iconic symbol of rebellion, he replied:
“I don’t understand all that icon stuff, but if you’re offering it I’ll have it. I don’t need to be number one.”