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

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

War with Isis: If the US wants to destroy the group, it will need to train Syrians and Iraqis

David Usborne
David Cameron gives a speech at a Tory party dinner  

In a time of austerity, should Tories be bidding £210,000 for a signed photo of the new Cabinet?

Simon Kelner
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most