John Lydon's reply to fan Martin Smyth January 1978
The letter reproduced below was sent to me by Mr Lydon in early 1978. I was a 12 year old schoolboy besotted with punk in general and the Pistols in particular and I decided to write a letter to John expressing my feelings about the band. Even given my tender years I was aware that punk was something that was going to have a massive impact on my life. Now in middle age I can truly say that punk and the ideas behind it have been my single biggest influence and something that I still draw a lot of inspiration from.
I wrote the letter towards the end of 1977 after the release of the Bollocks album when all seemed fine and dandy with the band! John very kindly took time to reply sometime shortly after the disintegration in America. I clearly remember the letter arriving as I was getting ready to go to school one day early in 1978. I took it to school and most of my friends seemed to think it was something I had put together myself!!
A few years ago the original letter turned up for auction at Sotheby's. How did it end up in Sotheby's?? Sometime in the mid 80's when I was doing a fanzine, putting on gigs and being fairly involved in the music scene in Belfast, I had a bit of a cash flow problem and a local record dealer offered me (what I thought was a fairly tidy sum) for the letter and I foolishly decided to sell it! It was some time after that I discovered the letter had been sold for a large sum of money at the London auction house.
30 years later I realize that off loading the letter was not one of my better moves. The actual content of the letter is incredible. John's honesty shines through and it does give an insight into his state of mind in early '78. Remember Sid was still alive and PIL was not yet formed so the contents of the letter do capture a moment in history. I was lucky enough to catch the Pistols in Birmingham in June. This was the first time I had seen the band and I was somewhat dubious in case they failed to live up to expectation but I need not have worried. As with everyone else there, it was an emotional night and the band were absolutely on top form. I hope some new songs materialise. 2008 has been a difficult year for me personally and not for the first time the Sex Pistols have been a massive help in seeing me through it. Thank you chaps!!
Transcript of letter.
I received your letter the other day from Virgin and decided to reply to you personally 'cos it's not the usual type of letter that I get sent. Mostly there (sic) from silly girls who've fallen in love and want to marry me, or just plain mad death threats. So....
The band have now broken up due mainly to Mr McLaren's paranoia & spite, Steve and Paul's foolishness for still believing he ain't no crook, and Sid's stupid drug abuse. I ain't totally without blame either I suppose, cos I freely admit to being an arrogant big head who always has a sarcastic answer when I feel like it.
However all that has past now, and we, or at least I will not work with them ever again. The future or lack of it ain't so dim, Malcolm will find someone new to abuse and steal from when he's finished spending Paul and Steve's money in Rio. They'll always be told what to do. Sid I hope will grow up and give up his stupid weakness, and I'm going solo. I've already recorded several new songs, but since Malcolm will not come back to London I cannot release them, because the old contracts have not yet been terminated (he's well aware of this by the way and I've had to get a lawyer on to it.)
Never mind though, life's still fun, just about.
Ta for writing & sorry I can't give my address for obvious reasons, but if you want to write again for anything just send it to Virgin and I'll get it.