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THRILLS AND BELLYACHES
One of the most iconic figures in popular culture, John Lydon is currently back in the saddle with the reconvened PiL. He talks to Stuart Clark about Malcolm McLaren’s funeral, the group’s controversial Israeli gig, his Irish background, Bono, Bob Geldof and Madonna. Oh, and that much-discussed butter advert.
Stuart Clark, 06 Sep 2010
“Hot Press? You gave me an award, didn’t you? It fucking broke, you cheapskates!”
Those were the first – and last! – words exchanged between yours truly and John Lydon in 1996. The occasion was the London 100 Club press conference or, more accurately, mêlée to announce that after eighteen years of routinely slagging each other off, the Sex Pistols were getting back together for a supposedly one-shot reunion gig in Finsbury Park.
A lot’s happened since then, not least the death in April this year of former Pistols manager and all-round mischief-maker Malcolm McLaren.
The pre-interview deal with Lydon’s PR minder is that we concentrate on PiL and their upcoming visit to the Electric Picnic – no great hardship given their own raging against the rock ‘n’ roll machine, but John can’t wait to share a juicy bit of gossip with us.
“Bob Geldof told me some hilarious stories about poor old Malcolm’s funeral when he turned up at a PiL show recently,” he cackles in that pantomime villain voice of his. “How awful that went off. It just turned into a catfight between Vivienne Westwood and (former Clash manager) Bernie Rhodes. You know, absurd stuff like yelling at each other over the coffin. I would have gone for all the right reasons, but I knew egotism would be a part and parcel of it. It was great Bob telling me how it transpired in that inimitable Irish way of his!”
Are John and Sir Bob good mates?
“Sir Bob? How comes he got the knighthood? I demand a recount! Nah, it’s always a great laugh with him. I like the man. I mean, we row but we row properly. If there’s something to be said we’ll say it to each other’s face rather than through the media, which is where most rows seem to take place these days.”
Something that’s always intrigued me is whether or not Lydon was invited to sing on ‘Feed The World’?
“No. I forget exactly what happened but PiL’s name was sort of linked to Band Aid without any mention of it being made to us. It was all very confusing and wrong. You don’t need to grab our name and attach it to your cause in quite that way. A phone call would have helped.