As Johnny Rotten once snarled, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
To the dismay of aging punk fans, a British television company announced Monday that the former Sex Pistols singer and angry punk icon – now known by his real name, John Lydonhas agreed to appear in the reality show “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!”
“I’m gobsmacked,” said Tony Wilson, a British journalist and music entrepreneur who knows Lydon. “I’m shocked, but I have faith… I’m sure he’s doing it for the right reasons.”
Other punk fans were appalled.
“The announcement made me feel instantly old…. If it has come to this for the prince of punk, then mediocrity really does get us all in the end,” wrote Lee Randall in The Scotsman newspaper.
In The Guardian, rock critic Charles Shaar Murray said “minds boggled” when rumors of Lydon’s participation surfaced. “Whatever happened to punk rock, maaaaan?”
Britain’s near-insatiable appetite for celebrity gossip – no matter how minuscule the celebrity – and love of reality TV has spawned a clutch of celeb-reality hybrids, including “Celebrity Big Brother” and “Drop the Celebrity,” in which the moderately famous face ejection (with parachute) from a plane.
“I’m a Celebrity,” which begins its third latest run Jan. 26 on the commercial ITV network, strands C-list celebs in the Australian jungle, subjects them to a series of icky trials involving spiders and snakes and allows the public to vote them off the show one by one.
The show has proved a hit in Britain, drawing up to 14 million viewers – nearly a quarter of the population. A U.S. version on ABC last year fared less well.
There’s no prize money for the winner, but previous British victors – a DJ and a cricketer – experienced big boosts to flagging careers.
Alongside Lydon, the lineup includes a topless model named Jordan, former Olympic 400-meter runner Diane Modahl, ’80s pop pinup Peter Andre, and Lord Brocket, an aristocrat jailed in 1996 for insurance fraud.
They’re joined by a member of a girl group, a former soccer player, a former soccer player’s wife, a former BBC royal correspondent and a former radio DJ.
The show’s executive producer, Natalka Znak, said the lineup was “the most unpredictable cast yet.”
“Unpredictable” certainly sums up Lydon. As lead singer of The Sex Pistols, Lydon, now 47, helped revolutionize music with raucous antiestablishment tracks such as “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the bitterly sarcastic “God Save the Queen.”
The group’s outlandish dress sense and incendiary lyrics – “God save the queen, the fascist regime” – shook up British society, but the Pistols’ career was short-lived. The band broke up during a tour of the United States in 1978. At their final show, Lydon goaded the audience with the words, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
Lydon went on to form the ’80s band Public Image Limited and now lives in Los Angeles. The Sex Pistols reunited in 1996 – with original bassist Glen Matlock replacing the late Sid Vicious – for the Filthy Lucre Tour: “We have found a common cause, and it’s your money,” remarked Lydon. They reformed again in 2002 to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s golden jubilee.