John Lydon has strong views about Patti Smith, the Ramones, and Billy Idol

An English punk icon has strong views on, well...other punk icons.
Jim Dyson/GettyImages

Forget East Coast versus West Coast rap. Former Sex Pistols (and seeming Donald Trump supporter?) singer John Lydon has laid the gauntlet down and said New York punk is nothing compared to English punk. And heck, maybe he is right.

Lydon, known only to some of the rest of the world as Johnny Rotten, is in the news a lot lately as he is doing press for his band since 1978, Public Image Ltd, whose new album, End of the World, was released on August 11th. Lydon was speaking about the origins of punk in a recent interview with The Sun and he brought up his irritation with an "awful lot of American journalists" who appear to claim punk music started in New York. Lydon's parents are Irish but he was reared in the UK so clearly would have a staunch stance the punk was born in the UK.

And Lydon isn't wrong. The Ramones were around before the Sex Pistols, but New Yorkers The Ramones apprached their music differently. Punk, at its best, is more than just music, but a culture and an aggression. In that way, the Dead Kennedys are more of UK punk band than United States punk, for instance.

John Lydon says the American press doesn't give UK punk its due

As Lydon stated, "But I didn’t like what it turned into with all that uniformed, studded leather jacket nonsense. I blame the Ramones!"

Instead, according to Lydon, the real influencers of punk were more glam acts like Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, and David Bowie. This freedom of expression and allowing people to celebrate them being different in some way, instead of simply a slight turn of art form that New Yorker Patti Smith did, led to UK punks feeling the freedom to be themselves and express anger and rage through the aggression of the music.

Other music news and analysis


Lydon specifically names Patti Smith with what he sees as a New York press bias towards their own instead of also giving as many props to the UK bands. And Lydon points out that his dislike of the attention Patti Smith gets in New York has nothing to do with Smith being female. Lydon adds, "I loved X-Ray Spex, The Slits and The Adverts. Really exciting and the more different they were, the better."

And no offense to the Ramones, but many of the UK punk bands could do many different things with the sound while the Ramones either didn't or couldn't. For instance, the Clash were definitely punk when they began but showed with the brilliant album, London Calling, that they could pretty much master whatever they wanted to do. So maybe the reason UK punk is better isn't just the culture they created, but simply because the bands overall are more talented.

Just don't ask Lydon about how a couple of former Sex Pistols formed a band with Billy Idol. Lydon is not a fan of Generation Sex.

Next. Top-selling musical artists of the 1980s. Top-selling musical artists of the 1980s. dark