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Never mind the Bexhillians

John Lydon in Conversation - De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill - Sunday, 12th October 2014

Written By Andy Gunton

  • Photograph by Nastassja Kaschevsky

  • Photograph by Nastassja Kaschevsky

  • Photograph by Nastassja Kaschevsky

You know times have changed when classic tracks by the Sex Pistols are used as low volume backing music, as they were prior to John Lydon’s appearance at the De La Warr Pavilion, in Bexhill, last night.

John Lydon himself has become a bit of a national treasure these days, as the full auditorium proved, even going as far as advertising butter on TV. 

It’s all a far cry from those heady days of the mid 1970’s when he was discussed in Parliament under the Traitors and Treason Act. An Act that still held the death penalty back then, as he was very keen to remind us.

I’m not sure all of the audience had noticed the changes though and some were maybe still hankering for 1976/77, as bondage trousers were still in evidence and shouts of ‘Anarchy!’ punctuated the evening. One thing that became evident though is that John Lydon is definitely not one of those.

It just wouldn’t have been right for the evening not to have had a bit of controversy though would it and this was duly provided, even before the main man took to the stage. 

All tickets holders were given a free copy of John Lydon’s new biography, ‘Anger Is An Energy’, and he was due to do a signing session after the show. We were informed that this was now cancelled, much to the disgust of some members of the audience.

During the show itself, John Lydon gave an explanation of why he wasn’t going to sign any books, suggesting that the content of the book was far more important than his scrawled signature. Judging by the round of applause this explanation got, I’d guess that even the dissenters were in begrudging agreement.

I suspect that many people went along to this event not knowing quite what to expect from the man himself, or from the evening as a whole and I include myself in that number. Although this was obviously an exercise in promoting a new book, it could easily have been a lecture from a lifestyle guru, or a self help session and I expect many people went away energised, ready to take on the world.

John Lydon was at pains to share how he had lived his life on his own terms, done things the way he wanted to do and that he was going to continue in exactly the same manner. His message to us all was not to live in the past, as life moves on, and don’t be a member of a tribe, but an individual.

Mention must be made of Alexis Petridis, of The Guardian, for holding the whole evening together so well. That cannot have been an easy task, but he asked the right questions and allowed John Lydon to give vent to his opinions and go off on tangents when required. One of the more light hearted parts of the evening came when John Lydon noticed that Alexis Petridis was ‘smoking’ an e-cigarette and asked to share it. This required a quick lesson in the operation of the ‘cigarette’ and much ‘smoke’.

As for the content of the conversation, all expected topics were covered, including the Sex Pistols and P.I.L. Some myths were corrected and some great nuggets of information were forthcoming too.

Who knew, for example, that Lemmy tried to teach Sid Vicious to play the bass guitar, that John Lydon is a huge fan of Hawkwind (especially Master Of The Universe), that he was due to play King Herod in a stage version of Jesus Christ Superstar, until the plug was pulled and that both John and his wife, Nora, narrowly missed catching the ill fated Pan Am flight 103 that blew up over Lockerbie in 1988?

Another aspect of the evening guaranteed to get an airing were John Lydon’s very forthright opinions about politics, politicians, religion and the Monarchy. He certainly didn’t disappoint us and obviously touches a nerve when he speaks about these topics, as there was much applause, raised fists and supportive shouts from the masses

He was particularly passionate when talking about education, reading and libraries, all of which have helped guide his life at some point.

So, was there any Anarchy in the DLWP? No, and John Lydon’s answer as to who his hero was, during the Q and A session, may well have surprised many of those present. He chose Gandhi, a man of non violence and passive resistance. He then went on to suggest that violence and rioting never solved anything.

I guess this just goes to show that John Lydon is still a bit of an enigma and is never quite as we expect him to be and it’s also probably why so many of us turned up to hear his views at the De La Warr on Sunday evening.

John Lydon is obviously seen as a hero by many, maybe that’s because he is all those things that so many of us aren’t? A man who does what he wants, says what he thinks and who doesn’t care what others think of him. A man who uses his anger as energy and then put’s it to good use. He is very much his own man and proud of it.

From the filth and the fury to a national treasure in one lifetime isn’t bad is it? And, I’m very pleased to say, it sounds as though he’s not finished yet.

Now where did I put that book…

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