Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs: The Authorized Autobiography Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols
Book by John Lydon with Keith and Kent Zimmerman.
Review by Ronnie

“Much has been written about the Sex Pistols. Much of it has been either sensationalism or journalistic psychobabble. The rest has been mere spite.

This book is as close to the truth as one can get, looking back on events from the inside. All the people in this book were actually there, and this book is as much their point of view as it is mine. This means contradictions and insults have not been edited, and neither have the compliments, if any. I have no time for lies or fantasy, and neither should you.

Enjoy or die...”
– introduction to ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS

A little disclaimer here: this is not a new book, it came out in 1994. So, this review results from my passion of reading rock histories/biographies, both old and new. Like anything written about punk, you have to take this book with a grain of salt. I once tried to read "England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond", the HUGE volume about the history of punk rock, but the damn thing was too dry and boring. The same goes for the book "The Last Gang in Town : The Story & Myth of the Clash" (although I did finish this book). You would have thought that both of these books were analytical books on classical music or jazz! The one thing that punk was NOT was "dry and boring"!

That is the greatest strength of this book: it tells of the passions and circumstances that led to punk. John Lydon does not overanalyze. You get the emotions that brought punk about, pure and simple. If something happened by accident, Mr. Lydon points that out as well. And yes, he does debunk some common misconceptions. Malcolm McLaren is portrayed as a tightwad opportunist - not the punk visionary that he would like the world to believe he is. It is a pity that a lot of people watch "Sid and Nancy" or Malcolm's "The Great Rock 'N Roll Swindle" film and think they now "get" punk rock. It's a little like watching "The Monkees" TV show and proclaiming that you "get" the music of the '60s.

Additionally, I found the book entertaining on a completely different level. I find John Lydon's psyche fascinating, especially his "question everything" mantra and his propensity to "stir things up". Although the book consists of many reminisces of people that were actually THERE during the glory days of punk, I would have rather had a book solely of Mr. Lydon's thoughts. After reading this book, another question comes to mind. This book came out before the Sex Pistols FILTHY LUCRE "reunion" tour (and the obligatory live album), Johnny's Mountain Dew commercials and the "The Filth and the Fury" film. I would have loved to hear how Mr. Lydon justifies these.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to peel away the misconceptions about punk. It is not perfect, but it’s better than 99% of the books out there that attempt to explain and analyze punk. This book is a scathing indictment of the post-punk groups that are performing today. Mr. Lydon repeatedly explains that punk was not about "uniforms" (torn shirts, mohawks, dog chains) but about individuality. The "new punk" bands (or fans of this so-called "new" music) could do themselves a favor by reading this book. The post-punk bands of today champion the very thing that the original punks were against: an established music form with goose-stepping, uniform wearing (albeit the "punk" uniform), never-question-the-rules mentality.

A very profound quote kept popping into my head as I read, ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS. I can't remember who said it or when I first read it, but it sums up everything about punk:

"Punk HAPPENED (note the tense)"

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