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John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, was the lead singer and front man for the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols.
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Born in 1956, John Lydon was the lead singer for the groundbreaking English punk rock band the Sex Pistols. Formed in 1975 with Lydon, renamed Johnny Rotten on account of his bad teeth, as its front man, the Sex Pistols rose to fame with anger-fueled singles like “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen.” After the group disbanded in 1978, Lydon formed a new band, Public Image Limited (PiL).
Musician. Known as Johnny Rotten during his days as lead singer of the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols, John Joseph Lydon was born January 31, 1956, in London, England. The eldest of four boys and the son of Irish parents, as a child Lydon suffered through a long bout of meningitis that landed him in a coma and affected his eyesight as well as his memory.
Bright but rebellious, Lydon struggled in school. At Hackney and Kingsway Princeton College, where he'd enrolled after getting kicked out of Sir William of York Catholic School, Lydon met John Simon Ritchie, whom the world would later know as Sid Vicious.
The two fast became friends. After leaving Hackney, they stayed at the homes of various friends as they explored London's fashion shops and nightclubs.
One of Lydon’s favorite stops was a shop called Sex, a fetish-themed store owned by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and her partner, Malcolm McLaren. The burgeoning punk scene fascinated McLaren, who loved pushing cultural buttons and was fresh from an adventurous, somewhat disastrous run as the in-your-face manager of the New York Dolls, a pioneering glam-rock band.
After the Dolls split up in the early 1970s, McLaren returned to London, intent on creating a new band to manage. In Lydon, whom he met for the first time in 1975, he found his front man. After a quick audition, Lydon, renamed "Johnny Rotten" on account of his bad teeth, was tapped as the band's lead singer. The rest of the band featured guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock and drummer Paul Cook.
Over the next three years, the Sex Pistols would come to epitomize English punk. Their unique blend of fury and violence incited both hatred and deep reverence.
Beginning in November 1975 the group released a string of punk anthems, starting with “Anarchy in the U.K.” and later “God Save the Queen,” “Pretty Vacant” and “Holidays in the Sun.”
“God Save the Queen,” in particular, proved to be especially offensive to a country that prided itself on its manners. Released in 1977, the same year as Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, the song rose to number two on the British charts. That same year, in late 1977, the group released its one and only full-length album, Never Mind the Bollocks…Here's the Sex Pistols, which quickly climbed to number one.
But the same energy that drove their music and stage performances soon consumed the group itself. Lydon was especially angered by McLaren, who wasn't afraid to market the band as a group of goons.
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Following the "Swinging London" era of the 1960s, a new group of cultural icons arose. The 1970s saw the emergence of the punk rock movement, built upon the wave of psychedelic and folk rock music introduced in the '60s. In the post-hippie era of the early '70s, rock 'n' roll had a new glam image, pioneered by outrageously dressed rockers like David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Soon other acts followed, most notably young performers like Siouxsie Sioux and groups like T.Rex and The Clash. The music of the '70s inspired fashion as well, in particular designer Vivienne Westwood, whose punk designs for the Sex Pistols helped define the decade's London style. Biography.com looks at the various icons who defined London in the '70s.
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