Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About John Lydon

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 31, 2012

From his time with the Sex Pistols right up to his brand new work with Public Image Ltd., punk snarler John Lydon -- often known as Johnny Rotten -- is one of the music world`s most divisive, controversial and consistently entertaining figures. And with Public Image's This Is PiL, their first new album in two decades, on shelves now, it is the perfect time to take a look back at the legendary frontman's memorable career.

Our extensive new Timeline feature covers Lydon's life from childhood right up to the present day, and includes an interview with the man himself. There's a lot of information there, so to get you started as you dive in, here's a breakdown of some of the article's most notable and curious factoids.  

Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About John Lydon:  

1. Lydon was severely ill as a child and still suffers as a result.

At age seven, while living in the tough north London Finsbury Park area, Lydon contracts meningitis. He spends a year in hospital, often slipping in and out of a coma. Part of Lydon's treatment involves drawing fluid from his spine on a regular basis, which leaves him with a noticeably hunched back. The disease also permanently affects his eyesight, leading to what is later called "the Lydon stare."  

2. Lydon nicknamed Sid Vicious after his pet hamster.  

Lydon needs one more year of education, so he is enrolled at a state school, where the more diverse student population tolerates his attitude. Among Lydon's first acquaintances there is John Simon Ritchie, who lives with his mother in poor conditions near the school. They bond over Ritchie's sense of humour, even though Lydon initially finds Ritchie naïve and slow-witted. Lydon ends up calling Ritchie "Sid Vicious," a name he's already bestowed upon his pet hamster.  

3. The Sex Pistols accidentally insulted Joni Mitchell.  

As an olive branch to Lydon, Richard Branson invites him on a trip to Jamaica in February to assess potential signings to Virgin's new reggae subsidiary label. While there, Lydon and some others are invited to a house where Joni Mitchell is living. They object to the music being played, and are told it's her new album. Furious, the Canadian songstress kicks them out

4. Lydon considers himself a Californian rather than a Brit.

He says plainly that he did it [a Mountain Dew commercial] for the money and to test out his new home studio in L.A. where he is beginning work on a solo album. "I do consider myself a Californian," Lydon says. "And I hope that annoys a lot of Californians! But really, home is where the heart is, and I find this to be a very generous state. It had to be, because I was basically run out of Britain."

5. Lydon and his wife could have been killed in a plane crash.

At the end of 2003, it's announced that Lydon will participate in a British television show called I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here, in which he and other notable names are placed in a remote location in Australia, and asked by viewers to perform unpleasant tasks. Lydon leaves the show a few weeks into its run after producers refuse to tell him if a flight his wife is on lands safely. His concern stems from the lingering fears of flying they share since 1988 when he and Nora had been booked on, but arrived too late to board, the doomed jet that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.

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