One of first things I said when I grasped John Lydon’s newest autobiography firmly in my hands is, ‘Oh, what a tome it is!’ The print isn’t very large either and those words, small little beggers, packed tightly in like sardines.
Reading this book Anger Is An Energy – My Life Uncensored became a never ending pleasure, and there are not many of those around, unless you count the sado masochistic Simpsons Tapped Out game, although fortunately, playing it affords a little more pleasure than pain of late.
Yes, so, as I was saying, it was never ending. It was bottomless, like a large Costa’s coffee or a Kate Moss look a like, just no arse in it.
So the first conclusion I came to was, here is a man who likes to give you your money’s worth, a bit like Ken Dodd.
Now, a long time ago, I read John Lydon’s first autobiography, ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.’ but what with the getting old bit, and the occasional glass of wine thrown in, and all the things in my head, my recollections of it are a little bit hazy, but I do remember it as a cracking good read. What I also remember, is the sexy sandwich incident, which frankly makes me feel quite queasy, but like all unpalatable things, quite literally in this case, it’s indelibly imprinted in my mind. You see, if Glen… cough, I mean the person who allegedly is eating the sandwich, is consensual, i.e knows exactly what’s in it and wants to eat it, then that’s fine, but it wasn’t above board and that’s just bullying that is. Not cool, not clever, just sly and creepy and no-one likes a creep, except him or herself. Is that the only thing I can take away from that book, the sexy sandwich bit? Oh Good God, no, but yes, it was a good read and if you haven’t read it and you want to know about the sexy sandwich bit, (my words) then you’ll just have to acquire a copy. I’m not going to get into the in’s and out’s of it…
This guy, John Lydon is not pretty vacant, but he could be a witty vagrant. He’s got so many things in his head. He could join my ‘Things In My Head’ brigade. Although I can’t image him wanting to join any club. Maybe I’ll make little badges, like ‘Blue Peter’ badges and send them out. Not elitist or anything, as that would defeat the object. I don’t go in for all that ‘I don’t want to belong to any club who will accept me as a member’ nonsense. That’s just a very succinct example of self loathing. There’s enough people in life who will quite happily hate your guts already, don’t add to it by hating yourself. Some balance is needed.
Anyway, I’m perversely getting off the point here. John Lydon has a least another ten autobiographies in him. In some rather bizarre fantasy of mine, I see him writing a novel based on his life experiences, but to protect the innocent and not betray a confidence, he presents the truth as fiction, and people would then read between the lines. A great way of getting round court cases and people who might sue and other consequences to the bald truth. He would present the truth but be protected from it, and protect others, as it’s a ‘work of fiction’.
For instance, there were a few potential little revelations in John’s book regarding Nancy’s death. Oh, he didn’t say anything untoward, just inferred things regarding circumstances, ‘cos understandably, he doesn’t want to accuse, slander or libel parties…or die horribly and violently. There was talk about people owing serious amounts of money to drug dealers. If they can’t get the money from you, they’ll destroy you. Puts me in mind of another former drug addict, the lovely Danniella Westbrook. I think her drug of choice was cocaine, but in her autobiography, The Other Side Of Nowhere, she talks about how cocaine almost destroyed her.
She has publicly talked about how she owed £5,000, to drug dealers. Not a large amount of money in the business world, but a devastating amount in a drug baron’s world. As John says in his book, these people cannot be seen to be humiliated, they have to uphold a certain reputation. It’s all mafia style stuff really. It’s about slavedom, selling your soul. Your soul is theirs. But the fact remains, you do owe them money and they will take what you owe any way they want, need, feel they have to.
Danniella Westbrook has talked about how she was gang raped when she couldn’t repay her drug debt, as a warning to others, part payment, partly to get something back, whatever, the reasons why they did it, lust, revenge, warning, perhaps a culmination of all three, who knows…it’s horrible, but unfortunately, from the moment you owe them money, your arse belongs to them, make no mistake.
Anyway, I will waffle no more. For people have places to go and people to see and you’ll never get this five minutes back. Or maybe ten if you’re a slow reader. This book of John’s contains heaps of new information. He doesn’t rehash old stuff from his first. There’s a very, very small section where he repeats a little about his early childhood, but that’s good in itself, like the beginning of an serial episode, that might remind people what happened in the last one. I just see this as a continuation, a way of connecting and knowing we’re still talking about the same person.
He introduced me to the Calypsonian, Lord Kitchener and that wonderful record Dr. Kitch. Once I’d found him, I came across similar artists like The Mighty Sparrow and The Roaring Lion and then there’s Judge Dread, who parodies these older artists. Lord Kitchener and his ilk are, to my unschooled ears, a blend of Kid Creole and The Coconuts with Benny Hill on vocals. It’s Carry On Calypso. It’s reggae on speed with double entrendres.
Calypso, for me, has a hint of New Orleans jazz, which in turn reminds me of The Smoking Time Jazz Club, who perform on the streets of New Orleans, direct to the people, during the day. In the evening, if you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans amongst this wonderful music, you can check them out at the Spotted Cat. I must have danced to their version of West End Blues, many, many times. In my bedroom. Not in New Orleans but I was there in spirit, you understand.
I love the bit in the book where Lydon talks about the band ‘Faust’ and their album ‘The Faust Tapes’ Not many prepubescent or teenage British working class kid in 1973 could afford to buy an album. So we all bought singles instead but this band Faust decided to make an album and sell it for 48p, the same price as a single. I was three at the time but I reckon I would have bought it had I been a little older. I just have this image of all these joyful teenagers going to buy it, finally feeling like they’ve beaten the system. Or, not even that, just that feeling of ‘I’ve been given a break for a change.’ Hey, 48p was still a lot of money in those days.
Now that to me is politics in action. That’s creating social change. Granted, it’s a small change, but it’s a change in action.
The irony of it was, the album was classed as a single, due to its selling price and not allowed to enter the album chart. Okay, granted, the cynics say it was a marketing idea to boost the sales of a fairly unknown band, but, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours and then everyone’s happy. It introduces a sense of community spirit.
Billy Bragg did something similar in the eighties, and I believe is still trying to uphold that. Once you get into all that though, you have to sustain it and people expect more from you.
it’s like ‘Oh, you not on the side of the working people no more Bill?’ Just cos he might want to charge the going rate for something so he can pay his rent/mortgage, send his kids to school or whatever. The problem is, once you set a precedent people won’t cut you any slack. They want your balls on a platter.
Don’t let that put you off being kind and considerate and altruistic. There are so many rewards from that. You won’t necessarily see them straight away and you might not want them, you’re not in this for rewards, but all I’m saying is, just being nice, once in a while, is never ever a thankless task.
I bought an album of Billy Bragg’s in the eighties. It was called ‘Brewing Up With Billy Bragg‘ ‘Pay No More Than £3.99’ was printed on the cover, so no funny stuff. That made me feel so snugly and warm as an perpetually cold and undernourished 16 year old loser. Oh, the after glow. You get the feeling that someone, somewhere is doing something to actually change your life for the better. You feel cared for in some small way and yet they’re not related to you and there is no salacious motive involved. Again, it’s a small thing, but when strangers do things like that for other strangers, that has reverberations and it’s a manifesto.
Unfortunately, most manifesto’s don’t deliver their idealistic promises but an out to lunch band like Faust, Billy Bragg and others can make teenagers who are hungry for music, in fact in every sense of the word, feel a little less alone, or at least a little less isolated.
Who said keep politics out of music? There’s politics right there and it’s helping ordinary people for all the right reasons. Some people say that it threatens the music business and it may very well, which makes sense for these things to be done occasionally, as a novelty, to help both parties, the seller and the buyer.
After looking up some of these bands for the post, I noticed that Faust, Billy Bragg and John Lydon all have something in common. Richard Branson. During the time of their fixed price promotions, Faust and Billy Bragg were both being managed by Virgin records and of course, The Sex Pistols were under Virgin for a time.
This is what John does, he puts even more things in your head and then inspires you to branch off on your own into all this delicious research. Anger Is An Energy essentially promotes discussion, about music, about politics, about human nature, about lots of things, whilst also being a fully entertaining and very informative read, definitely a thumbs up.