The Sex Pistols frontman – who, he says, offered a “direct assault on mediocrity” – did not react well to the broadcaster’s suggestion that he wasn’t the only young person to have been anti-establishment.
“What you were doing was what every young person with a bit of energy, with a bit of interest in life, was doing and that is being anti-establishment,” said Humphrys.
“Stop it, don’t be silly,” responded Lydon. “That’s neither here nor there. That’s just the backdrop of nothing. I was standing up and being counted; I made my opinions very clear and you can’t lighten that load at all.
“It was no fun to be discussed in the Houses of Parliament, under a traitor and treason act – that wasn’t what everyone was doing.”
“It was great publicity,” suggests Humphrys.
“Great publicity? It carried a death sentence mate. Let’s get serious,” said Lydon angrily.
“Well you’re still here,” said Humphrys calmly.
The veteran broadcaster goes onto comment: “You wanted to change attitudes. What you haven’t succeeded in doing is changing society and if that’s what you really were setting out to do…
Lydon jumps in incredulously: “You put a lot on me don’t you?”
“It was you claiming it,” laughs Humphrys, to which Lydon calls him a “silly sausage” and denies ever wanting to change society.
Humphreys, who admits he’s “never been called a silly sausage before”, continues: “You can’t be both outside the establishment looking in and saying, ‘I want to change things or I am different.’”
“Says who? Says you! Says you!” exclaims Lydon. “Don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me nothing, don’t tell me what to wear, don’t tell me what to think. I mean you no harm. I’ll let you trundle along as merrily as you like, so long as you don’t step into my space.”
When Humphrys suggests that Lydon – now a frontman for Country Life Butter adverts – has changed over time, he gets riled again:
“I wouldn't say I've mellowed over time or calmed down; that's just not ever gonna happen,” he said.