Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fifty Years Young

... today is that Flower of Romance, the great John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten. You can celebrate his golden jubilee by going to your favorite CD shop and picking up his new 2-disc career overview set, THE BEST OF BRITISH ONE POUND NOTES. It's got almost all the essential tracks from Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd., as well as the fabulous "Time Zone" recording he made with Afrika Bambaata back in the '80s, which was later used to open Season Three of THE SOPRANOS. (Why not the track he did with The Golden Palaminos? Oh, well.)

John has long been a hero of mine. In addition to being one of the truly singular and irreplaceable characters on our world stage, he's made history (while spitting on history), he's lorded over concerts that were sociological epicenters, he's turned AMERICAN BANDSTAND on its head, he's even acted with Harvey Keitel in a movie made by Italians. Look at that face: he should be doing Beckett plays. And making up new words if he can't memorize the scripted ones. The great music he spawned ("Poptones"!), the potent lyrics he's written ("Bodies"!), that one-of-a-kind voice of his... these are colossal contributions (and I haven't even invoked "Anarchy in the UK"), yet they're almost incidental to the greater gift of who he is.

I recently sold off nearly all of my old vinyl. I kept my Captain Beefheart albums, my Can stuff, my Velvet Underground -- and all of my Public Image Ltd. I hope John would take that as a compliment. It's not just that he sang me out of my 20s and into my 30s, but that nearly everything he ever recorded still sounds plugged directly into the raging current that gave it life in the first place. He called it the end of rock, but based on how valid the new Sex Pistols box set sounds, it's an apocalypse we can thrill to for the rest of our lives.

Thank you, John. And if anyone reading these words should see him today, buy that AntiChrist a lager.

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