The Bad Guy

Wisdom Wasted On The Young

There are few things more hilariously awkward than a teenage boy discovering his “punk rock-ness” for the first time.

We’re talking about me here.

The year was 1987 and I was a Freshman in high school. It was Columbus Day and I had a ticket to see PiL at the Warner Theater in DC. Since it was a day off from school I was walking around town, making my way to to the nearest Metro station. Despite the fact that I really had no reason to, I was strutting like George Jefferson, in an ugly army jacket, a Jam shirt, my hair in the most unfortunate mohawk/mullet cut ever devised, and I had braces on my teeth. Yeah, I’m not too proud of my fashion decisions during that period of my life.

Anyway, on my walk down Connecticut Avenue I noticed a familiar face walking into the Mayflower Hotel.

me: Holy SHIT! It’s Johnny Rotten!!!

Since my punk rock collection during that period extended to a few local hardcore bands, the Clash, Sex Pistols and the Ramones, seeing Johnny Rotten was a big freaking deal. I reacted with haste. My strut turned into a sprint as I became determined to meet Johnny Rotten. My two-sizes too big combat boots stomped the pavement, and my collection of pins clanked like dull jingle bells against the wool of my jacket.

I zoomed through the front door and came to a dead stop one foot in front of the man, the myth, the legend…Johnny Rotten.

me: [Gasping for breath] Excuse me, I saw you walking in and I wanted to meet you.

John: You don’t say.

me: I just wanted to say that I think your music is awesome and I consider you one of my personal heroes. [Still a bit out of breath]…One moment…[Catching my breath, finally] *WHEW* Yeah, so I was wondering if I could ask you a question?

John: Stop right there.

me: Huh?

John: First off, what you want to do is stop the “hero worship.”

me: Uh…

John: I’m a musician…Playing music is my PROFESSION. I strongly urge you to not consider me a hero.

me: Wha-?

John: What you want to do is become your own hero. Don’t be following what your friends are doing, don’t listen to the people on the TV, don’t model yourself after singers in bands, and never follow ANYONE blindly. Find your own path and be your own hero.

me: OK, Mr. Rotten.

John: Don’t call me that.

me: Sure thing…John?

John: That’s Mr. Lydon to you.

me: OK, Mr. Lydon.

John: And you are?

me: I’m Chris.

John: Alright, Chris. Have a good day… [We shook hands and he gave me his parting words]…Now fuck off.

After that meeting I was energized. I had just shaken hands with Johnny Rotten! Of course the advice he had given me had gone in one ear and out the other at the time. All I told my friends about that meeting was:

me: Johnny Rotten just shook MY hand and told ME to FUCK OFF!!!

generic friend: No…WAY!!! That’s sooooo awesome!

It wasn’t until later on that I really took those words to heart. It was good advice and I thank John Lydon for giving it to me.

Except for that “Fuck off” part. That was just mean.


June 4, 2007 - Posted by | advice, awkward teenage years, John Lydon, music, PiL


  1. Nah, that was punk, surely?

    (Mean would be pointing out the typo: you meant ‘except’, not ‘accept’. Oops!)

    Comment by Gelt Guy | June 5, 2007 | Reply

  2. Pointing out a typo isn’t mean, it’s helpful. It is now corrected.
    Thanks for the heads up.

    Comment by thebadguy | June 5, 2007 | Reply

  3. I finally just found this — got lost on my “friends list”

    What a cool fucking story! You never told me that in all these years!

    Comment by geltsgirl | June 7, 2007 | Reply

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