How the unlikely partnership of Steve Vai and John Lydon forged one of the most unforgettable alt-rock hits of the '80s

John Lydon (left) and Steve Vai perform onstage
(Image credit: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives, Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

When you think of the guitarists who shaped the sound of John Lydon-fronted alt-rock legends Public Image Ltd, the first name that usually comes to mind is Keith Levene, the unorthodox six-stringer who passed away last week (November 11).

One name that probably doesn't come to mind is that of electric guitar extraordinaire Steve Vai, famous for – his solo work aside, of course – his fretboard acrobatic-filled stints with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, not the artists you would typically associate with anti-establishment firebreather and punk legend John Lydon.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.