John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) shocked and entertained a crowd of over 700 people at the Octagon Centre in Sheffield on 15th October 2014 as he promoted his new autobiography as part of the city’s ‘Off The Shelf Festival’.
The 58 year-old took part in the live talk in Sheffield as part of a tour promoting his latest book “Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored” – the first to cover his whole life from childhood to present day.
Lydon’s incredible rise to fame as ‘Johnny Rotten’ in the controversial 70’s punk band ‘Sex Pistols’ saw him become a cult figure in society. He was seen by many as a figurehead of the punk movement, leading to him receiving the nickname ‘King of the Punks’, one that he revealed he did not like originally as he felt the term was derogatory. But he proudly went on to say “it stuck and it was on my shoulders to carry that through and turn it into a proper crown. And I did. And I am the King of the Punks.”
It was clear that his huge influence is still very much alive today as a huge crowd packed out the venue in anticipation for what the opinionated and controversial singer would have to say.
The talk lasted for over an hour and the expressive and often outspoken Lydon both shocked and entertained as he discussed many topics – including the bands that made him an icon – Sex Pistols and PIL, as well as politics, religion, society, the media, fellow ‘celebrities’ and even tribute acts, who he told to “get a life”.
Interviewed by Paulette Edwards from BBC Radio Sheffield, Lydon received a rapturous reception upon his arrival on stage before talking at length about his childhood. At just 7 years old, he was struck down by a coma that left him with no memory at all. Obviously an event that greatly affected him, he spoke of the difficulty at not knowing who his parents were but showed appreciation to them for not allowing him to sink into self-pity.
Lydon also talked about his Sex Pistols bandmate Sid Vicious, who died aged just 21 due to a heroin overdose. “I had been warning him for quite a while to stay away from heroin, but he was doomed from the beginning.” he said before going to admit his feelings of guilt, adding “I asked him to join the Pistols and I’m partially to blame here. In fact an awful lot to blame. And I feel very guilty about it. He was thrown in at the deep end . I just wanted an ally in the band.”
As outspoken as ever, he targeted a number of fellow celebrities throughout the evening. Russell Brand received the strongest criticism,hitting out at the comedian’s attempt’s to encourage people not to vote. Lydon went on to urge people to use their power and get more involved in politics, adding that “There’s nothing else to do!”.
He also shocked the audience when discussing the Jimmy Saville case, admitting he always knew what was going on. When asked what he did about it, he snapped that “I did what I could. I stood up and did interviews and said these things. And then got banned, for being hard or awkward to work with, or saucy, or filth and fury.”
Fans were also given the chance to question the singer and one took the opportunity to say “You changed my life John.”, to which he appeared briefly humbled.
In a lighter moment, Lydon discussed how he was convinced to allow the Sex Pistols’ music to be included in the Olympic Opening Ceremony – sighting both the fact that the video supported “All things British” and that “the entire (royal box) had to listen to a minute and 30 seconds of Pretty Vacant.”
This might not be the last Sheffield sees of Lydon, as he announced that his band PIL will be writing a new album and touring next year.
A controversial, yet highly entertaining figure, Lydon has divided opinion for generations but there was no doubting his popularity this evening.
And it was Lydon himself that summed it up best. “There’s only room for one Johnny Rotten in this world.”