Recently the Guardian broke a story that Johnny Rotten -- baptismal name: John Lydon -- is starring in a new TV campaign for Country Life butter, and now the British paper has the video. Please, give them their precious page views and watch it; it's non-embeddable.
Perhaps this will seem a bellwether moment to some people, but Lydon has long since morphed into a sad, loud-mouthed twit with very little to say and hardly any talent -- or musical product -- to warrant his continued fame. As the Guardian mentions, he once railed against the queen and the monarchy during her Silver Jubilee, but what else besides a "figurehead" could we call him now that the power of punk rock is so long dead? Naturally, he's better with butter than guns.
However, based on the reports of more gossipy sources, Lydon was characteristically rotten during production of this spot. According to The Tart, he insisted on running with a burning Union Jack through a cow field and resisted wearing the garish tweed suit in the same shot. Whether this is true or not, Lydon is clearly straddling a line between maintaining an anti-capitalist brand and milking it to the last drop. He told the Guardian, "People know I only do things that I want to or that I believe in and I have to do it my way ... I've never done anything like this before and never thought I would, but this Country Life ad was made for me and I couldn't resist the opportunity."
Even though most semi-prosperous musicians have cast off punk rock's chains by now, one would think that Lydon would have a harder time, considering many of them were forged in his name. Although we'd argue the Sex Pistols were never really sure what they were railing against except boredom and that fashion and appearances were crucial from the beginning, history and lyrical analyses aren't really relevant here, because Lydon and "punk" have become indistinguishable in the popular imagination.
Country Life is lucky that punk still represents a strangely safe, frozen-in-time sense of rebellion. His name is Johnny, and he himself is lucky to still be around and amply suffused with enough piss and vinegar to keep up the act.