Neil Norman: Lydon - a loaded Pistol with his sights trained on humbug

Share
Related Topics

There could be something rotten in the heart of John Lydon. Last week came reports of a backstage fracas at the Summercase festival in Barcelona, when Kele Okereke, the Nigerian singer in Bloc Party, was allegedly subjected to a racist attack by the Sex Pistols singer and was left nursing a bruised face and a split lip when members of Lydon's entourage weighed in. And then yesterday he was reported to have sung boozily about "bloody Arabs" and "towel heads" during a lengthy pub session.

In the Barcelona episode, Okereke had approached him to ask about the possible reunion of Public Image Ltd, Lydon's post-Sex Pistols band. In Okereke's words, the singer became "intimidating and aggressive while his entourage responded with a racist tirade, including the statement, 'your problem is your black attitude'".

The incident was witnessed by several people, one of whom claimed that some members of Lydon's entourage behaved like "a gang of racist thugs". Three members of Lydon's crew are alleged to have punched Kele in the face and head as well as attacked Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson and Foals' Yannis Philippakis when they came to Kele's assistance.

Rather than delivering an apology for the behaviour of his crew, Lydon denied the allegations. Of the Okereke incident, he said: "We are in the middle of a wonderful tour. After 30 years we are achieving a true unity in our audience. They are multi-varied, all ages, all races, creeds and colours. When you are at a festival with bands who are jealous fools, lies and confusion usually follow." And he has been quoted denying having sung "any song that was racist towards Arabs or any part of mankind".

Lydon is a man of peculiar intelligence, brutal honesty and supposedly ironclad morality, so these charges are serious. A man born into a poor Irish background whose memoir of the Sex Pistols was entitled with righteous anger, 'No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs'.

"It's not an issue of the physical assault, even though it was an unprovoked attack," Okereke remarked later. "It is the fact that race was brought into the matter so readily. I am disappointed that someone I held with such high regard turns out to be such a bigot."

Before we assume that Lydon has held these attitudes since the days of the Sex Pistols, it is as well to recall that the band's anti-Establishment stance was all-embracing and that many of the original punk audience comprised a large percentage of non-whites, who responded to the blazing energy and anti-authoritarian lyrics with alacrity.

The problem was that many other lesser groups (such as some members of Skrewdriver) who came up in the wake of the Pistols and The Clash were little more than skinhead thugs who subverted the original intent into something more sinister. The use of iconography such as swastikas and Union Jacks became less a deliberately ironic provocation and more a statement of intent.

"You must assault all mannerisms, all assumptions, all the things that cause us problems and cause us grief," said Lydon in a recent interview.

"The unspeakable should not be unspeakable. When you bring these things out into the open, you can tear them apart. It's no good pretending Nazis don't exist. They bloody well do, and they must be stopped."

The suggestion that he has abandoned his principles to become the worst kind of Little Englander is a worrying allegation to be made about a man who always seemed to be above the common herd and whose own bullshit detector was permanently set to maximum.

"The thing that keeps me ticking is my values," claimed the singer recently. "And I maintain them because they're worthy. I like to wake up and feel I've done no wrong."

Unless he is entirely bereft of conscience, Lydon's happy mornings may be over for some time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If children with guns are safer than their unarmed peers, then Somalia must be the safest place in the world to grow up

Mark Steel
Theresa May  

Democracy and the police: a system in crisis

Nigel Morris
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff