Johnny Rotten, the grumpy old punk

Religion, heaven and hell are all targets for the former Sex Pistol, who gets to rant freely in a new television show
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As Johnny Rotten, he was the archetypal angry young rebel, shocking many with his crude language and fondness for anarchy. Now, 30 years after the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" was banned from the airwaves, John Lydon is joining the nation's "grumpy old men".

Lydon, 50, will make the transformation to national curmudgeon in a new television series in which he gives vent to robust views about religion and death. The former Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd frontman dismisses heaven and hell as "ridiculous concepts" and blasts those who espouse religious beliefs as "desperate and lonely".

Lydon made a partial transition from enfant terrible to national treasure with his appearance on I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! in 2004. But he showed he had still not lost the power to shock when, during a live broadcast from the Australian jungle, he shouted "fucking cunts" before the watershed, forcing ITV to apologise.

In the new series, The Meaning of Life which begins tonight, he says: "Heaven and hell, oh what ridiculous concepts. Heaven, it sounds like coming out of a Pink Floyd concert. How grim, awful. Aww, no. I want to get back to the flaming haemorrhoids of hell." And on the subject of faith, Lydon says: "I don't think anyone is religious. I don't deep down inside believe it. I think they're desperate and lonely and clinging to some vague hope that there's some meaning to all of this. There is but it's 'get out the bloody house'."

The new series has been made by the creators of the BBC2 hit Grumpy Old Men, in which well-known figures air their moans, groans and observations about life.

The new series is not the only outlet for his rants. On his website he has a "bollocks section" in which he hits back at what he perceives as untruths written about him. The site was also the chosen forum for a snub to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which planned to induct the Sex Pistols last year. They refused to attend, Lydon posting a handwritten note explaining their disdain for the occasion.

Lydon's views in the series are not entirely downbeat, however. He says: "You lead by actions, by what you do, and you learn from that and all the people who have done things that have impressed me in my life, like Gandhi. His idea of passive resistance really impressed me. He went 'no, we'll do nothing', and nothing worked brilliantly. That's a lesson in life and it should be absorbed."


1977 "As soon as we get to be boring old farts, then we quit. I mean I've made that very clear. I don't want to be like Mick Jagger"

1987 "I've created several musical trends, really. That's not because I'm so far out and fabulous. It's because most bands have no ideas of their own. They're so desperate they'll grab at any old straw"

1997 "It's no use banging your head against the wall because nobody's listening. Until there's a generation that says, "Stop this it's stupid!" you can't change anything. I've not seen a generation to do that since punk"

2007 "I don't think anyone is religious. I think they're more likely desperate and lonely and clinging to some vague hope that there's some meaning to all of this"