John Lydon’s favourite track from 1978

John lydon

Aside from his work with the Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd, and Country Life Butter, John Lydon is best known for his ability to slam people. Lydon’s sharp tongue has enraged everyone from Paul McCartney to his own Sex Pistols bandmates. Several artists were victims of Lydon’s strong opinions during his brief stint as a music journalist in the 1970s. But one unusual band found favor with the punk frontman.

1978 was a pivotal year for Lydon. The frontman spent much of the year rediscovering himself after leaving the Sex Pistols. It effectively signaled the end of the early punk rock scene. Lydon founded Public Image Ltd. after experiencing a spiritual awakening on a trip to Jamaica. He was on that trip with Don Letts, Dennis Morris, and Virgin Records founder Richard Branson.

Public Image Ltd was a pioneering act of the post-punk scene. It was known for fusing punk’s energy with a more mature sound influenced by the experimental and avant-garde. Despite having a busy year, Lydon still found time to write record reviews for the music press. Johnny Rotten has never shied away from giving his views on current music trends. Many will remember his 1979 appearance on Jukebox Jury, during which he lamented Donna Summer and generally derailed the Noel Edmunds presented show.

And he’s not giving up. When he spoke with us last year, he complained about how “corporate thinking” suffocates current bands. The vast majority of musical opinions have been overwhelmingly negative over the years. Few bands have received the Rotten Tomatoes stamp of approval. But in 1978, he chose his single of the year, and it was an unexpected choice.

Electronic music became increasingly popular in underground music scenes toward the end of the decade. Synth-led music, pioneered by European groups such as Kraftwerk and Telex, became more popular during the post-punk era. Fringe artists such as Martin O’Cuthbert were experimenting with these new instruments and sounds, and John Lydon became a fan.

Lydon wrote for NME, selecting Cuthbert’s debut single ‘B.E.Ms’ as his single of the year for 1978, “Seriously, when I played this record, an object on the wall started to vibrate very quickly, and I have witnesses to prove it.”

The album’s title refers to ‘Bug-Eyed Monsters,’ and the music itself sounds like a marching song for an alien army. Lydon continues in his typically confrontational style of praise. He declared, “Martin O’Cuthbert is either a very evil person (just listen to the record) or a total fool (just listen to the record).”

“Probably be big in Japan, and at a guess, I’d say the whole thing comes off a Yamaha organ cos no synthesizer could sound that bad, could it?” concludes Lydon’s review of the single. And that’s about all the praise you’ll get from Lydon, the pinnacle being that even Rotten seemed perturbed.

O’Cuthbert never achieved mainstream success. Even after Lydon’s testimony, his records have since become cult collector classics. It was with fans drawn to his strange, alien synthesizer sounds that Lydon adored.

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