The audience was captivated by a hilarious, occasionally moving and characteristically erratic interview with John Lydon at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Saturday night.
Dressed in an enormous, floor-length sheepskin coat, the former Sex Pistol, AKA Johnny Rotten, settled down in his seat on stage before leaping up suddenly to throw off the coat, tearing out his microphone in the process. “Oh, I’ve broken everything!” he shouted in mock despair.
“I’ll yell. I’m good at that,” he added.
Lydon summed up his new autobiography, Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored, as a “monologue of Rotten”, incidentally a perfect way to describe the next hour’s interview.
Asked by the interviewer if he was nervous, Lydon responded, “Well, you’re not like that sod John Humphrys”, referring to his spat with the Radio 4 presenter on the Today programme last week.
And with that, the audience was off on a winding tour of Johnny Rotten’s thoughts on The X Factor, UKIP, the NHS, Russell Brand, false teeth, Justin Timberlake and more.
It was a lot to take in, so here are Lydon’s best thoughts, broken down by subject for your easy reading.
John Lydon on…
The X Factor: “Many people don’t understand about music which is why things like The X Factor exist… ah, that’s just f**king karaoke….”
Politics: “I’ll tell you what rubbishes politics for me – when celebrities get involved. I’m very, very wary of tagging my name into support any of these f**king phoney bastards. But don’t be like Russell Brand and bum holes like that. If you don’t vote, you don’t count. You’ve got to start local. There’s f**k all on TV, so go to town hall meetings and give them f**king hell. I’ve been thrown out of so many town halls.”
Publicity: “I’ve always been surprised that anyone ever paid me any attention. I’m by nature a very shy person so I approach you almost like a family gathering, but without the violence.”
TV: “I used to love to stay up and watch a TV series called ‘Mystery and Imagination’. It was horror of the first order. Everything in life has a rhythm, even if you watch the news it has a pulse and a beat. And its not just the director at work there, it’s the way that words fall, and that’s quite beautiful.”
Poetry: ‘I focus completely on the word (rather than the melody). The connotations of being a poet… it’s will o’ the wisp stuff… too much of Keats’ influence, although I love Keats. I suppose I am a poet. Ted Hughes is my fave.”
His band Public Image Ltd: “I got rid of the Sex Pistols and I’m so much happier now. I’m now running Public Image LTD as the best band in the world and they don’t give two f**ks for fraudulent behaviour.”
Clothes: “They’re an obsession because I’m terrified if I don’t wear ’em, you might see just how ugly my body is!”
Justin Timberlake: “I wanted him to play me in the film of my first autobiography. We got no response from him whatsoever but I reckon he could have done it. He makes really bad movies, it’s like mediocre acting innit. He’s so desperate to be taken seriously, when the serious piece of acting would’ve been to try and f**king understand my personality.”
Peace: “You don’t need to burn down a McDonald’s to prove your point. Words are my bullets. I love everything that lives. Everything. I’m not one for running around crushing the ants… but when I get a hunger on I really do want to stick my teeth into the rear end of a cow.”
His musical future: “In less than a week I start recording a new album in the Cotswolds which is where we recorded the last one. But as you can imagine, that barn’s gonna be one chilly number. Hopefully that will affect the sound as much as it will my testicles.”
The NHS: “I fully support it. I want national health and education to always be of the highest agenda and I do not mind paying tax for that.”
Teeth: “When I was growing up, lots of people had bad teeth and the NHS were paying for people to get false teeth and all the Irish immigrants went for these false teeth so on a Friday night at our house with me spinning records, there’d just be teeth falling out. Can you imagine a load of drunken paddys fighting over whose dentures are whose?”
Dreams: “I really do trust my dreams… reality is a f**king nightmare.”
UKIP: “What is this UK thingy about? I’ve been away a bit and suddenly there’s this preposterous bunch of… they look like this really dodgy collection of the rejects from the other terribly party?”
Himself: “The fact that I’ve made any sense out of life at all is a big achievement for me, and bloody hell aren’t you lucky?! I could’ve turned into a wrong’un!”
Kasia is a TV, film and arts journalist who writes news, feautures and comment. She spends a lot of time feeling nostalgic about 90s American films and working her way back through the Desert Island Discs archive.