Being Johnny Rotten

D195876c-9bf5-11e4_1122352hWesley Stace at The Times Literary Supplement:

Lydon the narrator is endlessly self-contradictory – there is no use criticizing the book on the basis of this essential component of his character. He is also abrasive, immodest, given to outlandish claims, prone to speaking about himself in the third person (“poor old Johnny Rotten”), and either very funny or mesmerizingly humourless. He seems to will misunderstanding, purely so he can complain about it, and is equally happy to speak ill of the dead and the living in his eternal battle over the soul of the Pistols. Occasionally, as the book goes on, he picks a fight with himself just to pass the time.

The tone changes when he writes tenderly, and uxoriously, of his wife, Nora, and extended family. Libraries have been another kind of saviour and there are paeans to Dickens, Wilde, Ted Hughes, Muriel Spark and John Keats. Punk did not brush away the musical past as its publicists have claimed, and Lydon emphasizes the musical continuum, praising influential musical acts from Can and Hawkwind, through Kool & the Gang, to Duran Duran and Depeche Mode. Of the Edgar Broughton Band, he wisely notes: “I don’t expect the music would bear up too much today, but that isn’t the be-all-and-end-all”.

It’s perhaps fitting that the career of Lydon, who undoubtedly sees himself as a force of nature, took a left turn when he became the presenter of “extreme” nature programmes, including John Lydon’s Megabugs and John Lydon Goes Ape. During the filming of the latter, he finally met his match: “You can not train [gorillas], they will not have it . . . But then I’m untrainable too”.

more here.