LIE DOWN...I THINK I LOVED YOU
JOHNNY’s coming to town.
The town I was raised in to be precise - Bangor on the County Down the place where they thought they were doing so well they took the sea right out of town.
Where they did what they should naught and made it a haven for the dick with a Yacht.
ABOVE Bangor Pre Marina
Anyway old Johnny Rotten The Sex Pistol that roared, powering the songs of great venom and emboldenment that ran through that harried and violent town in the real time period of 76 - 77, by the simple expedient of diamond on plastic groove and electro magnetic frequency manifest in soundwaves.
He’s going to be there performing in Banger at the month long Open House.
Is it his first ever visit to the wee North? I think maybe not going by a local with a grudge and a story involving Johnny and, inevitably, Terri Hooley.
But Johnny is going be in Banger an it's awffy nice to be invited to see me old school chum Colin Famous Screenplay Writer and Author Bateman (to give him his full name) interview him onstage.
And then - after some avoidable whatevers (The Outcasts!) on the bill ahead of them- the rebarbative Pil take the stage.
Some sort of circle squared just across the road from where I bought Anarchy the day it came into Aquarius, the long gone record shop in one of those well stoned Blue Nose Churches in the front of town.
Aquarius where the late kiddy fiddling local DJ Jon Anthony once came in, leering at us grooming I think they now call it, one morning as we watched aghast and amazed as he rushed behind the counter the grabbed and groped the proprietoress because he wanted to to “play with her bosoms”.
Sex and and The Sex Pistols? We didn’t know where to look.
Seeing those Pistols and their gang in the NME before we’d heard a belch or a note I was kinda scared t they looked well creepy.
Bangor - nice, proper, its paedophile society figure kept centrestage and establishment supported (like Jimmy Savile) - breeding might have had something to do with that reaction.
And even Anarchy when I heard it first I wasn’t sure, an ugly rush of crude, a crashing bashing fighting thing.
But there was no way around it this was the new and Mclaren subterfuge or no the next year or so was some time to be a coming of age pop kid.
The moment when I ran to the phonebox in Bellevue to phone person’s unknown with the news of GSQT actual eventual release. Me old man unable to contain himself - rolling laughing on the floor of the Scarborough holiday let a few weeks later when I pompously announced that, with the BBC debut performance due to take place that night on TOTP (Temple’s Pretty Vacunt footage) it was imperative I have undisturbed telly access. Because? Well because...“Johnny Rotten is the most important lyricist in the country,” I pouted.
Dad was near in tears, obviously he got the joke I wasn’t quite sussed enough to twig
of a Johnny Rotten fronting.. the Sex Pistols.
I told Johnny about this years later “he sounds like the sort of fella I”d like to sit and have a drink with,” he said.
Butter wouldn't melt its not Crass or Felt But there's no disguising this is a Warrior Arising
That made me smile maybe because back then in the full flush of their first becoming the Pistols were so near yet so far I used to have a dream of seeing them in the sort of massive arena space they never occupied in that opening flourish.
That dream came true - a riot of anarchy and mayhem in a routine gig space - when I saw an in their full pomp early 90s Happy Mondays at (the old) Wembley Arena , transforming that old barn in a way I’d only previously seen The Grateful Dead on the Day of The Dead, 1989.
I got to meet and interview Lydon many times over the year.
First time was when, ensconced on the staff there after a few years as N Irish stringer and London freelance, I finally got an NME cover story with a Pil piece on the release of 3rd album The Flowers of Romance.
The Anton Corbyn cover image, of Johnny coming out of a roll of wallpaper, seems to be the only Pil NME cover absent from the web. The hand of the litigious, copyright savvy Dutchman at work, perchance?
The feature was in main a result of an afternoon spent in the infamous Gunter Grove flat Johnny offering me anything I, err, wanted (I demurred at actual human beings and opted for brandy).
I was there for the Sex Pistols comeback press conference at the 100 Club in 199?
And a few months later I was flown to LA to do the NME feature.
All 4 of the original Pistols in a room, Steve Jones there complete with ferocious bulldog Slobby (“he gives great blowjobs”), interview delayed while Lydon threw a wobbly when he found out I was doing the interview.
By the end of the chat and several cans of beer all seemed amiable enough to point where my offer to buy dinner was accepted.
Off we all went to his local Marina Del Rey Japanese, a colourful experience with Johnny sluicing up several small plates of quivering raw liver, Hannibal Lecter stylee, between expectorating grandly into the plant pot behind us.
All told a meal well worth the expenses cadged for it as it ended with John out on the street, trying to offer me out in a fight but nearly legless as the clean and sober Glen Matlock waited patiently to drive him home to Nora, aka the good lady wife.
A perfect intro to the feature.
We’ve met a few times more over the years, Lydon and I, and he’s regularly on the end of the phone line when I call up, as arranged, to get some quotes to promote the latest Pil album, book, film or whatever.
I’ll post the most recent of our chats, from earlier this year, in a few days or so, where he talks a little (v little) about his troubled past relationship with the land of his father and mother, and those dear departeds too.
First up here’s the text of Lydon feature published in the Daily Mirror two years ago with quotes excised from the published version.
At 60 John Lydon’s days as Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten, the authority baiting force of nature who transformed rock n roll, are over.
Metal Box and Album, two of the finest albums from his post Pistols outfit Pil are about to be re released in magnificently extended form and Lydon’s longest serving band are about to hit the UK on tour.
But the Islington bred Marina Del Rey residing singer is adamant there will be no more Pistols reunions.
“Definitely not. I’ve had very good conversations with Paul Cook (Pistols drummer) about this.
“There’d be no point - it would be better if we learned to like each other offstage rather than disliking each other on.
“That’s a really good way of approaching it.
“We lost our friendship, we did.
“Pressure and attention drove us apart, and those memories come back, you can’t make them go away.”
The young Johnny, his evil eye glinting at the centre of a punk hurricane, can’t have been easy company to keep.
“I was a stranger in paradise and to alleviate that loneliness I went and introduced Sid into the band - talk about Captain Chaos!” he chuckles.
Older and wiser now Lydon’s musical legacy and influence is confirmed by the re releases. The still radical dub depths Metal Box defined a musical frontier for the 80s and beyond.
“It's a pretty damn stable album considering we had to operate in whatever studio had spare time and somehow maintained an integrity.
“Even though, I gotta tell you we were arguing like cats and dogs with each other throughout; so there’s something to be said for adversity.”
The new releases come complete with reprinted contemporary reviews though Johnny has chosen to run putdowns rather than my rave reception for Album.
“I don’t really care what journalists think,” he snorts
“ I just wanted to show their bitter twisted small mindedness.
“Everyone was having a field day taking shots at me. Slings and arrows but here I am, all water off a duck’s back to me.”
Lydon’s continuing rude health is something to celebrate, still one of this nation’s greatest talents witness live - or even backstage. Last time Pil played London Johnny went out to invite waiting fans into the dressing room after the show. Singalongs on old favourites ensued, a heartwarming scene, indeed!
“They are decent people who have patience and hope to meet you - so you treat them with respect. It's not something generally broadcast in the media about us.”
Lydon admits to fear and nerves before he goes on but his onstage ferocity is as it was on the Pistols one and only album, Never Mind The Bollocks centred on one of the greatest most astonishing vocal performances ever recorded.
“None of its in tune and you shouldn't give a shit if it is, the energy takes it all,” Lydon reflects.
“If you have the right dynamic and mean what you say, Why on earth should you be dumbing that down with musicality?
“Me? I just let rip - from the heart, not a professional songbook.”
Live Tour starts Salisbury City Hall November 15
Metal Box and Album Super Deluxe Editions released December 9 and December 16 respectively
I do what is important for my own improvement, first and foremost and hope it has a pleasing effect on the listener.
Even if it jars and rattles every nerve in your system, that’s pleasing. Somehow. It would be nice now for the younger generation to pay attention what their forefathers were getting up to.
METAL BOX CREATIVE FICTION AND TAKING IT FOR THE TEAM
“Yeah we spent most of our advance on the packaging at the time because it was worth it and we just had to fly by the seat of our pants t… as to what recording time we could get.”
Is that something that has carried on from ‘your previous band’ - Creative Fiction.
“Well it's not my fault Vicar!
“It’s the pressure of being in a band and the difficulties of dealing with record companies and the ‘he said-she said’. It does create a very volatile atmosphere sometimes.
“Over the years I’ve learned to leave those major labels behind.
“Pil in its modern form doesn’t have those issues. IS it just coincidence they disappear when you leave record companies behind? The unity I always fought for but couldn’t keep is there now.
“The record company were horrified, it wasn’t what they were expecting.
“That’s where I got a reputation for being difficult to work because I don’t do the obvious.
“It’s a tense world, the creative world, all pulling in opposite directions.
“I had to be the union leader and work out these different directions were actually on the same road.
“I don’t mind we can argue all day long but its record company guidance that causes the most problems.”
LEAVING MY FAWNING NME REVIEW OF METAL BOX OFF THE ARCHIVE CUTS IN THE ALBUM BOOKLET BUT INCLUDING ALL THE SLAG OFFS
“I don’t care what journalists think I just wanted to show the bitter twisted small mindedness. “Everyone was having a field day taking shots at me.
“Slings and arrows but here I am, water off a duck’s back to me.
“I do what is important for my own improvement, first and foremost and hope it has a pleasing effect on the listener.
Even if it jars and rattles every nerve in your system, that’s pleasing. Somehow.
“It would be nice now for the younger generation to pay attention what their forefathers were getting up to.”
BOWIE’S GRAND FAREWELL AND STAGE MANAGEMENT
“My respect went up for him so high that he didn’t want long whingeing over him at an elaborate ceremony what an entirely decent sensible thing to plan. To bow out quietly, how brilliant.
“He turned up in Switzerland once with his son which was good but wanted to meet before the show AND that’s a no no.
“You’re living on fear and nerves, I said to him you wouldn’t like it if I did that with you. “Oh I wouldn’t mind…”
“Well he did mind because 7 months later he was playing in London and so I tried to do exactly the same thing but was not let in.
“So I called him out on it. It's incredibly rude to distract someone before they go onstage.”
PRESENTING TELLY PROGRAMMES
I got a whole new lease of life and interest. I don’t take those things likely, got my driver's license an a renewed interest in nature. I met gorillas in the jungle, the sheer gentleness of them, it was inspirational their need to communicate was as great as mine to communicate with them, it opened up my heart that did, not that it needed opening.
DOES HE HAVE A SPIRIT ANIMAL?
It would be a fluffy bunny rabbit
YOU LIVE NEAR LA YOU MUST HAVE LOTS OF TOFFS ON SPEED DIAL
In high society I remain a no go area and I’m quite happy about that. I mean what I say and the rest of those blokes are fairy dust