Johnny Rotten’s Other Legendary Band Gets Their Definitive Documentary with ‘The Public Image is Rotten’

GameStop, Inc.

The Public Image is Rotten

John Lydon is best known by the adopted name of Johnny Rotten from his days in the influential and controversial punk band, the Sex Pistols. The band left a lasting mark on pop culture and reshaped the punk movement in England and America in their three short years of existence before they imploded under the weight of drug use, in-fighting, and non-stop media scrutiny. Out of the ashes of the Sex Pistols, Lydon dropped the moniker of Rotten and formed a new band, Public Image Limited (or PiL). Nearly two decades after the definitive documentary on the Sex Pistols, The Filth and the Fury, Lydon’s musical career is once again subject to an extensive documentary with The Public Image is Rotten, following Lydon’s lengthy post-Pistols career with numerous interviews with Lydon as well as band members past and present. It’s a fascinating look at a musical artist whose legacy seems to have been defined by his youthful dalliance in a manufactured outrage machine and not the decades of experimental post-punk musical deconstruction that better reflects the man as a whole.

Director Tabbert Fiiller interviews John Lydon, who is always burning a Marlboro Red and sipping on a Corona. At first, the punk icon recalls his youth, his relationship with his mother, and contracting meningitis which robbed him of his memory and ability to speak. The illness is crucial in understanding Lydon’s need to leave nothing unsaid and a desire to control everything he possibly can. This also factors in with his indifference towards the Sex Pistols and the band’s legacy. In Lydon’s eyes, the Pistols were a creation of Malcom McLaren, just as manufactured as any boy band and not truly his own creation. Even musically, the Pistols are rather derivative of a lot of previous proto-punk bands such as the New York Dolls, whom guitarist Steve Jones liberally ripped off on the band’s lone record (despite the fact there’s a song slandering the trashy glam band). Public Image Limited is Lydon’s brainchild and it’s obvious that it’s the work that he’s most proud of.

After the Pistols imploded at their final show in San Fransisco, Lydon was legally prohibited from using the name Johnny Rotten due to a legal dispute with McLaren. Lydon formed Public Image Limited with guitarist Keith Levene, who was briefly in The Clash, and bassist Jah Wobble (John Wardle), a childhood friend, and were joined by drummer Jim Walker. PiL released their first single “Public Image” which didn’t sound too far off from the raucous sounds of the Sex Pistols with Lydon’s voice sneering his angsty lyrics. The rest of their debut album, however, greatly differed from the rote punk sound and wasn’t considered much of a commercial success. Walker wasn’t long for the band and departed and was replaced with Martin Adkins. The lineup of Lydon, Levene, Wobble, and Adkins would record PiL’s finest album, Second Edition (or Metal Box depending on whether you got the album in the US or the UK). Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea recount the influence of PiL’s second album, and further discuss why the record still resonates today with its experimental style and atonal melodies, anchored by Atkins’ drums and Wobbles’ distinct bass as Levene’s chaotic guitar blares in a high pitch that echoes the voice of their lead singer.

Credit to director Fiiller for not allowing The Public Image is Rotten to be dominated by the commentary of the band’s frontman and leader. Each member of the band is given an opportunity to present their side of the story. As the years progressed, members of the band came and went. The way the film cuts between the varying perspectives of the various band members gives the film a certain sense of intimacy as it takes you behind the curtain and into the interpersonal relationships that become strained between the notes.

Friendships crumbled and feuds emerged, and a few distinct instances gave Lydon the feeling that his former bandmates betrayed him. One such instance is the solo album by Jah Wobble entitled Betrayal. Lydon claims that the bassist used PiL records as his backing tracks. Fiiller plays the two tracks in succession and it’s pretty obvious that Wobble did use PiL records despite claiming to have not. In a similar fashion, years later, Keith Levene released a bootleg copy of the forthcoming album This is What You Want…This is What You Get under the name Commercial Zone. Sometimes Fiiller’s film sides with Lydon in these feuds and other times the director embraces ambiguity, allowing the viewer to decide who’s at fault in the friction. The interviews of everybody is corroborated with archival footage, some of which is from grainy, practically destroyed video tape. But everything in The Public Image is Rotten paints a picture of a band in constant turmoil and the figurehead who keeps the machine moving despite the litany of kinks.

It’s rare that a musician can get one excellent documentary spanning their musical career, but for John Lydon he’s now had one documentary for each of his two legendary bands. The Sex Pistols are the band that most people know thanks to the infamy they built during their short career. But it’s Public Image Limited that Lydon is most loved for by music nerds, and The Public Image is Rotten is the definitive portrait of the band’s ups and downs over its decades of existence. It’s sometimes ugly. It’s sometimes antagonistic. It’s sometimes rotten. But, for better or worse, it’s pure John Lydon.

The Public Image is Rotten
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

Best known as Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols, John Lydon has been fronting his second band Public Image Limited for decades and PiL gets their own documentary with The Public Image is Rotten, an intimate and captivating look at post punk innovators and their legendary antagonistic frontman.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Javicia Leslie Is the New ‘Batwoman’

Press Release from Warner Bros. and The CW: Warner Bros. Television,...

Palm Springs Review
‘Palm Springs’ Review — A Marvelous Time Loop Romantic Comedy For the Moment

These days, every day seems the same. Wake up. Don’t leave...

Peri Gilpin Discusses Possible Emmy Nod for ‘Old Guy’

Peri Gilpin continues to have a wonderful career in with a...

Event News Event Reviews
Adult Swim Con is Apart of Comic-Con @ Home!

From Cartoon Network – Adult Swim announces the first-ever Adult Swim...

SDCC Amazon Prime Activation
[Con-Pression] SDCC Amazon Prime Activation

We relive moments of Con past to deal with our Con-Pression,...

Casey Biggs and Jeffery Combs Discuss their Virtual Meet and Greek Along with Star Trek Las Vegas

On the heels of Creation Entertainment announcing the Official Star Trek...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
SnowRunner
SnowRunner Launches Today

SnowRunner looks to be the ultimate off-roading virtual experience and launches today...

John Wick Hex
John Wick Hex Releases May 5th on PC and Playstation 4

John Wick Hex releases on May 5th on PC and Playstation...

Marvel United Funded
Marvel United Funded – Only Hours Left to Back Marvel United

Marvel United funded in the first 31 minutes! Now you only...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular Variant Covers Announced

Press Release from DC Entertainment:   “In brightest day, in blackest...

Comic Historian and Writer, Scott Beatty Discusses the Future of the Industry

Scott Beatty is an incredible guy. He’s a writer, professor, father...

AEW Star, Hangman Page Reads Aloud to Children on Instagram on Friday, April 17

Press Release – CHICAGO, IL (April 14, 2020) – With schools...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Celebrate Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting with Loot Crate

Press Release – Los Angeles, CA (April 16, 2020) – For almost...

McCafé Frappé
McCafé Frappé in a Bottle is a Great Way to Start the Day

McCafé Frappé in a Bottle is the best way to start...

Consumable Gift List 2019
FBN Consumable Gift List 2019

Our Consumable Holiday Gift List 2019 – The best gift to...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
We get ‘Fit with Mandy’ Rose

Former WBFF Bikini World Champion and current WWE Superstar, Mandy Rose...

WrestleMania 36 Night Two Recap!

After a handful of amazing matches at WrestleMania 36 Night One,...

WrestleMania 36 Night One Recap!

People have questioned the motives of Vince McMahon and his desire...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the wizarding rumble: A new horizon chapter: 4

Ron falls further and further under the spell of the island....

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Wizarding Rumble, mini-arc: New Horizons chapter 3

Ron is easily seduced by the trappings of Animal Crossing..

Comics on the can: Babylon Working

COMICS ON THE CAN Babylon Working issue #1 Created by Marcel...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
New Single ‘Aqua’ from ‘The SpongeBob Move: Sponge On the Run Debuts Today!

From Paramount Animation – LOS ANGELES, CA (July 9th, 2020) –...

Comedy Duo Ben Giroux and Jensen Reed Take Us, ‘Back To The 80s’

Two of the funniest men in show business, Ben Giroux (Hart...

James Maslow ‘Rush’es the Stage to Perform at Super Girl Surf Pro on Sunday

James Maslow is an American singer, actor and songwriter best known as the star of...