In 1997, tour drummer Robert Williams sued Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) for lost wages and assault.
The musicians then decided to settle the matter in the American way, by appearing on the popular, syndicated court television show, Judge Judy.
In 1997, Lydon hired Williams as part of his backing band for his solo album, Psycho’s Path. Williams, whose eclectic drumming resume includes stints with Captain Beefheart, Elvira Mistress Of The Dark, and Pee-Wee Herman. (Williams said in an interview that Beefheart, aka Don Van Vliet, also shortchanged him on tour.)
Williams’ version of what happened with Lydon is as follows: “I worked for [Lydon] seven days a week from noon until one in the morning for six months, preparing the musicians and arranging the set. The day before the tour, the management informed me that my pay was cut by a third and that I’d be sharing one hotel room with the other band members and the crew, so I filed a small claims suit against him.”
Prior to the Judge Judy taping, Virgin Records released a press release about their version of what happened, saying, “During rehearsals, Williams’ behavior became increasingly provocative, adversely affecting the camaraderie of the band.” As the start of the tour was a few days away, Virgin says they decided to keep Williams, but have a meeting with him to discuss his behavior.
At the meeting is where the lawsuit trouble began, with Williams claiming he was fired, and Lydon saying that he quit.
As to the assault charge, Williams claimed Lydon head-butted him during the meeting; Virgin said Williams bumped his head on Lydon’s chin.
How did it all play out on Judge Judy? Did Williams get the $5,000 in damages he sought? You’ll have to watch the video to find out.