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: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?