The Sex Pistols Return To The Road

The Sex Pistols have begun lining up dates for their late summer outing, a tour frontman Johnny Rotten (real name: John Lydon) claims will eventually lead to a Sex Pistols concert in Baghdad.

The Sex Pistols have begun lining up dates for their late summer outing, a tour frontman Johnny Rotten (real name: John Lydon) claims will eventually lead to a Sex Pistols concert in Baghdad.

As first reported here, the cross-country, 13-date trek will launch Aug. 20 in Boston. The run is the first for the Sex Pistols since the group's 1996 Filthy Lucre reunion tour. The band had called it quits in early 1978 after Rotten walked off the stage at a San Francisco concert.

This summer has already seen live dates from '70s-era punk acts such as Wire, the Buzzcocks and the Stooges, yet unlike the others, the Sex Pistols will be touring without any new material. The band's sole 1977 album, "Never Mind the Bollocks," is often credited with giving a face to punk rock, but the group's 1996 reunion tour was met with criticism for cashing in on past glories.

In an interview with, Rotten explains why the Sex Pistols will never write another song, and justifies the band's reasons for touring on material that's nearly 30 years old. The forthcoming tour will once again feature the original line-up of Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock, and drummer Paul Cook. (Shortly after the release of the band's first single, Matlock left the band and was replaced by Sid Vicious, who died of a heroin overdose in 1979.)

From his Los Angeles home, Rotten was only willing to give's Todd Martens a 10-minute phone interview, and strictly held to the time limit. Before introductions could be completed, Rotten interrupted to say, "You now have 9 minutes and 33 seconds."

Are we going to hear anything new on this tour?

It's new if you've never seen us before. Then it's all new. Every time we perform the songs they're new, simply because of that.

With all that's going on in the world, I just figured you might have something to say about it, and this tour would preview new work.

Look, we're the Sex Pistols. It is what it is. We only needed to make one album to absolutely define how the world is. There's no need to duplicate or jump on that like it was a system for money. It isn't about that. We've never been into it for that. It would be wrong to try and come up with another Sex Pistols album. I don't feel right about it. There's no need for it.

What we've done is an achievement in itself. It's a historical one. We've had no help from the music industry. Never. Never. We've been disenfranchised from the day we started and we still are. We're going out on tour by hook or by crook at the cheapest price possible. You compare our tickets to the other wankers out there. We're doing that with no recording company sponsorship. We have no record label. Any young band should watch this and know that the music industry is out there to do you no good. No good at all. They specialize in compromise. Once you compromise, you're finished. You're dead. You're nothing but a coat hanger that they dress up.

Let's go back to what you said about recording another album. If there's no need to duplicate it, then I don't understand why that same standard doesn't apply to touring.

The truth is the truth. We do what we want to, and that's the truth. Who's to say we shouldn't keep touring? This is the Sex Pistols, mate. We don't follow any rules. Rules are for fools. Rules should be in constant in change. If rules don't adapt to the current mode of society, then rules are irrelevant, and no rules apply to the Sex Pistols. We hurt no one, and oddly enough, what we do benefits everyone.


Yes, everyone. It would be nice to be paid for it once in a while. We're piss poor and famous. That's great, isn't it? So what? At least I got my name. No one can take my name off me. My name does mean something. It stands for something. It stands for something true. No, they can't take that away from me. I'm not here to let the bastards grind me down. Our audience is as disenfranchised as us and we all know it, and we tour out of respect for them, which is more than any other band can say, a lot more.

So what are you looking at for a ticket price?

It's $35. And that's for three bands. Reverend Horton Heat is definitely coming with us. He's absolutely up to his own world and that's who I celebrate. I respect his commitment.

So if this is the same set list as the Filthy Lucre tour, why should someone spend their $35 to see the Sex Pistols instead of, say, the Warped Tour?

I have no idea. It's not for me to tell you. That would be your decision, but I think you should have the information at hand as to how you make that decision. Quite frankly, I think it's a miracle that we're still alive, and that's historical in itself. We fought this industry tooth and nail non-stop for 25 solid years, and we're still here. Hello? They can't get rid of us. And there's a reason for that. It's truth. You can't hide truth. You can manipulate it. You can slag us or put us down, but you'd be wrong. I've not put a word out wrong, not ever.

You talk about how it's historical just to be alive. In recent history, Joe Strummer [of the Clash] and Joey Ramone both passed away, essentially making the Sex Pistols the last giant band from the first punk wave to still be standing. Has that caused any sort of reflection on your part?

It's tragic, but we all die. It's not, 'Oh dear, there goes the punk movement.' There is no punk movement. There's a hell of a lot of individuals on this earth who do not need to make themselves part of the collective. Once you start mobbing up into little groups, that's separatist, and it's anti-human.

I've known many people who have died over the years. The biggest reflection I ever had was when my mother died. So what is some people who I know as acquaintances? I don't approach Joe or Joey as legends. They're human to me. I'm sorry they're gone, and I miss them, but that's all. To fake any other emotion into it would be evil. I'm being honest. I didn't like the way when Joe died, and the likes of Bono would jump on it and want to do some celebratory Clash gig as some sort of fake homage. I can't bear that. That is so wrong. That is hypocrisy and it's self-indulgent and it shows no respect to Joe at all.

But isn't it funny, Joe and Joey both died after they got into the "rock 'n' roll hall of shame." So it may be a good thing that they've ignored us.

When you look at today's political climate, what Sex Pistols songs do you think have held up the best?

The song 'EMI' is more relevant than ever. That was a complete tirade on a record label, and here we are without one yet again.

As the record industry is about to sue fans for downloading music, would you even want to be associated with a label?

No. I don't need them to be telling me how I should live, or what songs I should write or what I should do or what I should be committed to. Where were they when I was starving? And now I'm starving again. Where are they? I don't need them. We're chipping away at the system bit by bit in as many ways as possible because the system is wrong. The system does not care for people. It cares for left wing or right wing, and there's no common sense in between. There's no picking out the best of anything. There's no choice. It's all or nothing, and that's foolish. That's no way to approach a new millennia.

Aside from touring without a label, what else are doing to chip away at the system?

I'm going to Baghdad. The Sex Pistols will play Baghdad. You're offering them democracy; well let's give it to them in its ultimate extreme. They are human beings just like us.

How are you going to get over there?

The more red tape they put in front of me, the stronger I feel about it. I see no reason for denying the people of Baghdad anything. Don't let people suffer. Just don't. It's not right. The longer troops stay on those streets with guns, the longer it's going to get more bizarre. We all know that. Do they need democracy? Is democracy so great? It comes with a few problems, doesn't it? Let's let them know.

Wanting to play Baghdad certainly makes for a good soundbite, but how serious are you to see it through?

I'm deadly serious. Deadly serious. It's very close to happening. Let's be logical, for what reason on earth would the people over there want to blow me up? That's the bit that's not understood. Unlike forcing Metallica on the Iraqi prisoners, I'm giving them a choice. They don't have to come. The show will be free of charge. It would be a mean-spirited to be charging them in U.S. dollars. I will do it. I see no reason not to. They could use a good bleeding view of how the world is.

But with all the chaos in Baghdad, aren't they getting that view now? How would a Sex Pistols concert show them the truth about democracy?

How can you even ask that to the man who wrote 'Anarchy in the U.K.?' That's hilarious. I don't need to explain anything to you. You missed the bloody bleeding obvious, mate. Are you sure you're not a pal of Bush?

I just question how Baghdad citizens would relate to the Sex Pistols, and what you would say when you got there.

Look, we all know the war was for oil, and I think the politicians, who are all of our enemies, could have been a bit more honest about it. It was clearly understood that the U.S. didn't want its oil supplies jeopardized because it wrecks our economy. I know Osama and Saddam aren't over there. If they're anywhere, they're in Florida.

Here are the confirmed Sex Pistols tour dates:

Aug. 20: Boston (Fleet Boston Pavillion)
Aug. 21: Wantagh, N.Y. (Tommy Hilfiger @ Jones Beach Theater)
Aug. 23: Atlantic City, N.J. (Trump Marina)
Aug. 24: Washington, D.C. (9:30)
Aug. 25: Toronto (Molson Amphitheater)
Aug 27: Cleveland (The Scene)
Aug 28: Detroit (Cobo Arena)
Aug. 29: Chicago (Aragon Ballroom)
Aug. 31: Englewood, Colo. (Fiddler's Green Amphitheater)
Sept. 3: San Francisco (Warfield Theater)
Sept. 5: Las Vegas (The Joint)
Sept. 6: Los Angeles (Greek Theater)
Sept. 7: San Diego (San Diego Street Scene Festival)