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World overdue for ‘shake-up’

UNITED SATES: Political events lately had been unimaginable to many – Britain is leaving the European Union and Donald Trump is president of the United States. One person less surprised is John Lydon.



Sunday 23 April 2017, 10:00AM

Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon said he understood economic ‘desperation’ and shared a deep disdain for politicians. Photo: AFP
Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon said he understood economic ‘desperation’ and shared a deep disdain for politicians. Photo: AFP

For the frontman of the Sex Pistols, whose thumb-nosing punk revolution rocked the establishment in the 1970s, the tumult shows just how complacent the intervening generations had become.

“I think every now and again the world needs a shake-up. Apathetic attitudes always get what they deserve,” the sneering singer formerly known as Johnny Rotten said.

Trump, he said, is “kind of the kick up the arse that people needed”.

The punk rocker doesn’t count himself as a supporter. He has criticized Brexit and faulted Trump in particular for his opposition to legal abortion – a subject Lydon tackled 40 years ago in the song “Bodies”.

But Lydon, born in London to working-class Irish immigrants, said he understood economic “desperation” and shared a deep disdain for politicians.

“The issue of dealing with politics as usual, I think, is now dead,” he said in the telephone interview.

Lydon faulted the post-Pistols music world for failing to agitate in the same way.

“We’ve had a couple of generations now that loved to wallow in apathy and silly beards and daft grey tea-cozy hats. They all look the same, they all talk the same,” he said.

“There is no energy in it and so it ends up being incredibly negative and so it left the door open for The Donald.”

The Sex Pistols, self-trained and brutally direct, shocked Britain and were banned from the radio with blistering anthems such as “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen”, which the band blared from the Thames in a mockery of Queen Elizabeth II’s river procession.

But Lydon said true political anarchy was never his goal.

“I’ve always seen anarchy as mind-games of the middle classes – the spoiled, privileged few who can indulge in such nonsensical philosophies,” he said.

“Somebody’s got to build the roads and it certainly won’t be the anarchists,” he said before a lengthy laugh.

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Lydon was speaking before the release on March 31 of his latest book, which brings together lyrics to all 127 of his songs with the Sex Pistols and his successor band Public Image Ltd.

Entitled “Mr. Rotten’s Songbook”, the volume features Lydon’s handwritten lyrics alongside his own drawings and is limited to 1,000 copies, a run that Lydon said was intended to ensure top-end publishing quality.

The book idea emerged after Lydon was forced to collect all of his lyrics before he played China for the first time in 2013 with Public Image Ltd.

“The government insisted that they read every single lyric I’ve ever written. We naturally presumed that would be a negative. It wasn’t – it was a glowing positive, which came as some surprise to me.”

China tightened screening of foreign stars for politically sensitive messages after Bjork at a 2008 concert shouted a slogan for Tibetan independence.

Lydon, however, hailed China as a “wonderful place” and the audience as “fantastic”.

“I’m sorry, I’m not one of those left-wing student body idiots that gets myself banned for silly reasons. I get banned for very good ones,” he said.

Lydon said he was constantly drawing and that his book was a sort of “jigsaw puzzle” as he paired images to words. He voiced admiration for Ezra Pound, whose poetry took on a visual dimension through symbols.

“For want of a better word, I suppose it is poetry,” he said of his book when asked. “But I have problems with certain words.”

“‘Poet’ is appalling. It reminds me of some poncy old fart. The British ruined poetry with the affectations.”

He said he was not tying his book to Britain’s festivities last year for the 40th anniversary of punk, saying he had no time for such celebrations.

“There was the Pistols and then there was an awful lot of rubbish. And why do I want to dwell on the rubbish?”



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Jor12 | 24 April 2017 - 21:12:34

malczx7r...I wasn't referring to the Brexit affair, but to the rantings of an aging lunatic, who in his time hated everyone other than himself. 

I prefer the words of Lord Acton, in that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." One only has to look at the FIFA and IOC debacles. 

My criticisms of the EU are far more inclusive, such as the Parliament just being a talk fest; the contribution costs of member countries to the run the show and it's overreaching power to countries around the world, for example fishing in Thailand, Sierra Leone et al. 

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malczx7r | 24 April 2017 - 13:46:39

Jor12, i don't read the metro so if i was wrong i apologise.
I care and I think leaving is the best option, all the other countries will still want to trade with us, the coomon market was a great idea, sadly, corrupt greedy politicians turned it into a gravy train, luckily that will end soon!

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Jor12 | 23 April 2017 - 19:08:55

malczx7r...Wrong? He was asked what he thought about Brexit. His reply was the "the working class have spoken and I’m one of them and I’m with them.' that was about it. 

The article is correct in that "he has criticized Brexit" in the Metro on 22 April 2016 where he has stated. ‘To leave it [the European Union] would be insane and suicidal’, he resolves. ‘We’re never going to go back to that romantic delusion of Victorian isolation, it isn’t going to happen. ‘There’ll be no industry, there’ll be no trade, there’ll be nothing – a slow dismal, collapse. It’s ludicrous.‘It’s an act of cowardice really, it’s running away from issues instead of solving them.’

But then again who cares?

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malczx7r | 23 April 2017 - 11:21:15

You're wrong there, he wasn't against Brexit, he actually thought it was great if you watch the TV interview on good morning Britain!

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