Tag Archive: John Lydon

An Audience with John Lydon @ Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Tuesday 14 October 2014

In the 70’s this chap and his fellow punks took on the music industry and gave it a swift kick in the b******s, whilst sticking their fingers up to the establishment. For a brief moment in time, him and his band scared the s**t out of everything the establishment held dear and shook up the world of ‘popular’ music forever. And once that trip was over, he set up a different band – creative, innovative, still doing their unique thing today. And that’s just his musical side. With a new autobiography out – ‘Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored’ – we’re here to see the irascible character that is John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten.

John Lydon_Audience-7
The Sex Pistols shook up the world and then some. Probably the world’s most notorious band ever, Lydon as their lead singer, became vilified by the press and scared politicians so much, he was even discussed in the Houses of Parliament, under the Traitors and Treasons Act, which still carries the death penalty. PiL (Public Image Limited) - his musical true love have been his outlet – on a truly personal basis on so many levels  – a musical challenge  and journey. Over the years PiL have had over 49 members (“a college of Further Education” Lydon quips tonight, some going onto more success than others) and to see them live is a joy in the true passion and professionalism that they deliver.

Meanwhile he’s turned up on TV on adverts selling butter (for which monies earned brought PiL back to life after hiatus) and ITV’s “I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here” which he would have won by a country mile, if he hadn’t walked, full of integrity and for all the right reasons.

He’s just released a new book ‘Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored’ -his autobiography of a fascinating life. Tonight’s event is just one of three theatre dates – all total sold out. And he’ll be interviewed by friend and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Matt Everitt. His book goes from his childhood to present day and tonight, there’s no reading, just Lydon’s thoughts and questions from the audience.  Why the book?

‘This book is about the life of a risk taker. I make things safe for other people to follow in my wake’ – John Lydon

So two seats, a table and bottles of water adorn the stage as Everitt appears to introduce the ‘icon’ (a word he knows Lydon will just hate). Lydon stomps onto the stage, adorned in crumpled designer suit and bags like he’s walk off the street – to rapturous applause.  He’s a “bit ill” (clearly flu-laden), the Boots bag contains medication and a box of tissues. Oh and a bottle of brandy.  After relating he’s ill, he says “Hello. I’m John. But at least I’m here…..” with that menacing grin of his. Everitt asks him if he likes Birmingham – “Are you trying to ruin this interview?” he quips – he likes us here in Brum – we ignore those major newspapers; a conversation about Brum soap “Crossroads’ and the “access” he’d like to get to Ms Diane… He’s written about his life before; this book is about his life and is part of an extremely long end (he’s 58 and intends to gone on ’til he’s at least 100). His life is “half-done” and unlike the Stones song – he has no intention on dying before he gets old – he wants to be extremely old!

John Lydon_Audience-9

Scandal has been looking for him all his life – it’s surrounded him – and clearly his book will be a fascinating read. Few will have challenged society so much that his home was regularly raided by the Police; he even knew the Police Officers by name – he’d see them in the pub and they’d say hi and reluctantly indicate they would raid his home later that week. He was notorious and continues to have that menace about him. But as we can relate,  Lydon is harmless, he’d never hurt anyone, as he attests his political hero is Ghandi.

He’s saddened by the death of Robin Williams – he could relate to Williams creative mind – that bounces all over the place all of the time. His does the same. All of the time. As a child he had meningitis which left his comatose for 4 months and left him with no memory, no movement, no voice. Parents he didn’t know or recognise. It took him 4 years to recover. Doctor’s told his parents not to mollycoddle him – to make him angry. And that anger still drives him today.  And as he discusses the pain of life and of the death that has impacted on him – he’s very honest. A tear. We feel for him. He doesn’t want sympathy, but we are empathetic – we feel his pain – his honesty and the man behind the notorious image. A chap in the audience related he told his mother, suffering with dementia, he had told her he was seeing John Rotten tonight. “Do you still like him?” came the response. Lydon sends his love and to his mom – and agrees to and handshake and a hug that makes this guy’s day – he’s been a fan for 30 years…

“Do you think brandy goes with Night Nurse?” (Or Day Nurse – he has both in his bag).

There are those that come in for his ire – those in ‘management’ at the time of the Sex Pistols – “ those clothes makers”; punk’s ‘new’ look Green Day get a sneer; Simon Cowell get’s a slating; former PiL members Kevin Levin and Jah Wobble also get the Lydon sneer; Town Council’s he derides – we should go and call them to account – spend less time watching TV – go and party in the council chambers – stop these ‘normal’ people dictating how we should live; UKIP and Farage – “barrage – they’re preying on the stupid”; The Clash – now don’t ask Lydon about The Clash. That’s not a good move.

A question on Jimmy Saville – a famous comment Lydon made in ’78 – “We all knew way back in ’78” and derision towards the BBC and other establishments that allowed this and other such similar atrocities to happen.

What’s next for PiL? Once this book tour is over, he’s off to the Cotswolds with his beloved band for a new album. There’s no demos in advance, the creative process is organic; inspiration of the moment. While the Sex Pistols changed the world – punk could be copied (and in droves, and badly he thinks). PiL is his baby, it is unique and never copied. And he loves that idea.

The potential theatre opportunity of being in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ was a surprise to him. He loved the challenge and  the family aspect of the team of the cast, even though the promoter eventually pulled it. As if he was a vegetarian after being in the jungle – his comment was that he wasn’t “unless you mean vegetables like Jordan.”

A couple of people dare to walk out (not because they are leaving) and have to pass in front of the stage. “They’re not hiding their face from the 400 of you, they’re hiding from one of me,” he chortles. And after they take some time to return: “Are they doing drugs?”

Blowing his nose – the flu is not good even with the brandy and night nurse – and promptly lifts the tissue in the air and shout’s “Ebay!” – we laugh.

Lydon is brutally honest. He tells it like it is. He is incapable of lying. Honesty in full and glorious Technicolor. And we love him for it. He trusts everyone. Until they lie. He surrounds himself with only those who are truthful.  Nora, his wife, who he adores, get a mention. He says she’s as unique as him – and while they should grow apart over the years they just get closer.

And after an hour and 15 he suddenly stands – he needs a “s**t” – and it’s the end. And audience members rush to the stage to see if they can shake his hand and he’s rushed off stage.

Lydon is fascinating; a true character – at times deep and introspective – fully aware of his own failings yet brutally honest in his own explicative worded manner. And he says exactly what everyone thinks anyway. Get the book – it’ll be well worth the read. He’s loveable, yet remains menacing, but totally approachable. There’s no flies on Johnny. Just never piss him off.

**********************************************************

Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies and 102.5 The Bridge.