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on 19 September 2014
Great read
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on 30 April 1998
I read this book cover-to-cover without reading anything else during that brief time, and this was during a final exam period in law school. I was 12 years old and living in London when I first saw the Pistols on Top of the Pops, and the image made deep and profound impression on me and my brother. The book cleared up a lot of misconceptions I had about the band and particularly about Lydon and McLaren. It made Lydon more 3-dimensional character in my mind and made me realize what an interesting study he is, not just as a rock icon, but as a person. It also made me realize that "The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle" movie was little more than an exercise in low-budget self-aggrandizement by Malcolm McLaren. Apparently, Lydon is in possession of no less than 250 hours of film footage of the Pistols to which he won legal rights. I desperately hope he puts his talents to work in producing something from this archive in the not too distant future. The book left me with the desire to meet the man some day and have a talk over a pint (I'll buy, and I won't feel cheated). The book feels brutally honest, and is consequently painful to read at times, but I would urge anyone who feels permanently affected by the Pistols era to read it. It makes you realize how, had the creativity and imagination of the sheep-like public not been so limited, a movement sparked by a piece of rare art and originality might not have been snuffed out before it had a chance to catch fire.
One person found this helpful
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on 5 April 1999
This memoir is much better than I would have expected from the former Sex Pistol. I had been reading his interviews and listening to his music since the late seventies, and he was never one for accurate introspection.
I loved the music and the interviews, and I enjoyed this story immensely. Most of it really is a story, though, and while I'm ready to accept that Lydon honestly believes he is remembering things accurately, long-time fans will notice otherwise. For instance, his supposed inspiration for the 'Johnny Rotten' character--a blend of Richard III and Pinky from "Brighton Rock"--seems taken straight from the (very literary) pop weeklies of the time.
There are other distortions and evasions. The most galling flaw, however, is his constant tendency to conradict himself. Make up your mind, Johnny; is rudeness a refreshingly spiky assault on British blandness (when practiced by you) or an unforgiveable outrage (when practiced by others)? Were you disconsolate at Punk's failure to unite all social classes, or do you truly feel your oft-expressed contempt for every class but your own? The inconsistencies go on and on....
Overall I liked this book, I think the prose truly captured Lydon's character, and the anecdotes he tells are illuminating. But some real insight into his own motivations, and a little more candor and less repackaging would have made it a classic.
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on 28 February 2001
From the moment Johnny Rotten sneered and swore in front of camera in Bill Grundy's Today studio in 1976, punk rock has found a place in the national psyche. It was hard to ignore the Sex Pistols, a fourpiece from London who more often threatened to unleash war on their audience than croon them with teen friendly ballads. Yet the Pistols, and their vocallist Rotten (aka Lydon), made more impact and attracted more fame, notoriety, and yes, even critical acclaim in their short troubled life span than most other bands in the short history of rock. Rotten, a curious mix of anarchic rock icon and pantomine villain, was a hybrid of the ridiculous fashions from the early Seventies coupled with his own vibrant artistic energy which manifested itself in an alarming dress sense and striking stage presence. In this lucid and typically brazen account of his years in the band he casts his acerbic prose at the personalities who entered his orbit during the heyday of punk rock in the late Seventies. Malcolm McLaren, the band's manager, receives the bulk of the author's wrath, depicted as shallow and opportunistic, who seized upon the band's ideals to build himself a business empire, whilst the myth of Sid Vicious is torn to shreds, Finchley's finest emerging in the final pages as a sad and lonely figure with barely enough wit to polish his safety pins. The problem with this book is that Lydon lacks the detachment of an observer in offering his viewpoint: there is no middle ground with this man, and his dismissal of many of the more interesting points in the book, his rivalry with Glen Matlock, the snipes at Nancy Spungen, and in particular his antagonism with McLaren would have been far better dealt with by the objectivity of a journalist or critic. That said this is a lively memoir, packed with anecdotes and indiscretions. If you can remember the opening lines to Anarchy In The UK or the incandescent orange of Rotten's hair then prepare to walk down memory lane with pop's Mr Nasty ... but if you still need i.d. at the off-licence then read up on this dark and dangerous quartet who banished bubblegum pop (remember the Bay City Rollers?) into a black hole for a short time and restored rock 'n' roll (along with The Clash and The Undertones) back to its vibrant best. De ja vue anyone?
2 people found this helpful
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on 14 July 2001
This book was quite an interesting read. I used the term interesting because Lydon seems to be a bit confused. His opinion gets in the way of what could be fact. It's hard to distiguish the "he-says she-says" from what actually happened. I liked it because as much bulls**** as Lydon does, the book really describes the scene and what happened among the band members, especially Sid. Poor ol' Sid. This book really destroys the myths about him. To Lydon all he was was a mate from school that he recruited when Matlock was kicked out. He was a face. Ah, the memories in this book are something, even from his childhood, very interesting indeed. Maybe the Pistols didn't start Punk, nor did they end it, they embodied it however and did a damn good job.
8 people found this helpful
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on 18 May 2004
Must say from the start I was there when punk rock started. Reading this book tells not only who started it but why & when. John tells it as it is and so funny too. You don't have to like punk or Sex Pistols or be interested in music, fashion to like this book as it is pure fun. I could not put it down and found knowing John and how he talks I could hear him in every word. One big thing I love of this book compared to others is John let's those he knows tell the story too. So not only are you getting words and wisdom from John Lydon but from the likes of Billy Idol, Chrissie Hynde and even his father has a word or two to say. Truely loved every word. It is worth the money alone just to find out the real truth about "The Greatest Rock'n'Roll Swindle"-buy it
4 people found this helpful
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on 2 October 2012
I read this in hardback when it was first published and enjoyed it then. It's Lydon being Lydon, honest and blunt about everything. As a document of early punk and a genral picture of the punk scene as a whole, it's not a history - what it is is an insider's story of the Sex Pistols and what it entailed and the pressures they were under. I found it fascinating.
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on 29 April 2003
Here Lydon gives his version of the turbulent days of the Sex Pistols plus an insight into his childhood days spent in North London. At the age of 37 when this book was published, Lydon hadn't changed much: burping through a book-signing session, he still despised authority and laughingly concedes that Diana and Fergie had succeeded in what the Sex Pistols first undertook with their mocking version of God Save The Queen: to put a nail in the coffin of the royal family. Even music's royal family gets their share of flack. In a Daily Mirror article, freespeaking Lydon labeled the likes of Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney 'social climbers', branded Elton John 'a fat buffoon' and called Bowie 'a pompous prat.' Strong words, but the book as a whole is a lively read.
5 people found this helpful
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on 5 November 2004
I found this book extremely interesting and the description of Johns childhood and upbringing and the atmosphere of society in general and life in London at that time was really fascinating. As a child of the '70's growing up on a council estate where money was tight it conjured up all kinds of memories. Whilst I thought John wrote intelligently I was not too impressed by the editing of the book with its American spellings and, my pet hate, saying 'math' instead of 'maths'! His portrayal of his friend Sid was touching and honest and the aftermath of his death was not glorified in this book to cash in from fans of the macabre but was dealt with in a respectful manner. It was interesting that his fellow band members sided against him when he was fighting M.M. in court for ALL their interests! His a bigger man than many. Most of all this book presents in a logical and truthful way how the UK did not copy Punk from New York but that it grew organically from an entirely different seed.The Sex Pistols helped to cross pollinate the two.
11 people found this helpful
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on 3 February 2001
although the book is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the punk eraor rock music generally,as a long term fan oflydon i felt a bit let down by this long awaitedfrom-the-horses-mouth expose.it lacks chronology,is full of contradictions and generalisations and includes a terribly vindictive attack on englands dreamingauthor jon savage-a man who has done nothing but good for lydon.. .mclarensimilarly recieves short shrift,an attitude thatconfounds me... there isn't enough detail for uspistols info junkies.i think this is aimed at the mass market rather than the diehard fans,that's just an economic reality,probably.it could/should have been twice as long.it leaves a lot of unanswered questions and barely touches on the pil era-does lydon consider hs work with them insignificant?glen matlocks book is much better in my opinionbut unfortunately he isn't as fascinating a character as john lydon.never mind,i will always treasure my signed copy!
One person found this helpful
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