Born in London in 1956 to parents John Lydon from Galway and Eileen née Barry from Cork. They emigrated to London moving into a 2 room flat with an outdoor toilet in North London. At the time, the area was largely impoverished with a high crime rate and a population which comprised predominantly of working class Irish and Jamaican migrants. John would spend his summer holidays with his mother's family in Cork.
John was the eldest of four brothers, and as the eldest he had to look after his siblings due to his mother's regular illnesses. Describing himself as a "very shy" and "very retiring" kid who was "nervous as hell", he hated going to school, where he would get caned as punishment and where he "had several embarrassing incidents... I would shit my pants and be too scared to ask the teacher to leave the class. I'd sit there in a pants load of poo all day long."
Aged seven he contracted a serious bout of meningitis which put him in and out of coma's for almost a year. Wiping most of his early memories and affecting his eyesight. On returning to school he was painfully shy and labeled a "dummy". The experience only made him stronger and more determined. The meningitis was also responsible for giving him what he would later describe as the "Lydon stare", and for him, this experience was "the first step that put me on the road to Rotten".
Before John could complete his O Levels he was expelled from Catholic secondary school. He attended Kingsway College to finish his exams. Following the completion of his O-levels, he got into a row with his father who disliked his long hair, and so, agreeing to get it cut, the teenager not only had it cut, but in an act of rebellion dyed it green. It was about this time he met Sid Vicious and the rest is a well known story. He was christened "Johnny Rotten" on account of his decaying teeth.
On October 6th 1980, he was jailed in Mountjoy prison after an altercation with the Garda at the Horse & Tram pub. He described it as a rejection by his homeland. He recounted the events again bitterly in an Irish Times interview: "I went to a pub and the barman wouldn't serve me. Words were exchanged and the police were called. I was arrested for attacking a policeman's fist with my face and jailed in Mountjoy. Some homecoming."
In his autobiography, "Rotten: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs, Lydon says: "It's no accident that the Irish invented stream-of-consciousness literature. It was of absolute necessity. Poverty and deprivation of their own language made this very important. Hence long term memory, which is a Celtic thing."
Johnny travels on an Irish passport. He is seen by many as the figurehead of the punk movement and the Sex Pistols have been hailed one of the most influential acts in the history of popular music.
Photo: Johnny Rotten & Sid Vicious