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The Review - MUSIC - grooves with RóISíN GADELRAB
Published: 5 November 2009
John Lydon with new friend Gary Barlow
John Lydon with new friend Gary Barlow
PiLs and thrills of
John Lydon

Electric Ballroom

JOHN Lydon is clutching a can of Stella, chuckling to himself and toasting Arsenal’s win over Spurs on Saturday.
We’ve hardly begun before we’re interrupted by manager “Rambo” bearing Marlborough reds. “Mannah to the Gods,” says John, ­erupting into manic laughter, “spreading nails like coffin tails – I wrote a song about it.”
Yet before we are ­finished, Lydon’s Sex Pistols rock ’n’ roll ­persona slips and an unlikely alliance forms. As we speak at a west London recording studio, Take That frontman Gary Barlow wanders by. It’s the first time the two have ever met but they speak like old friends.
“He’s a fine lad, ­nothing wrong with him,” says Lydon. “I saw him on the Jonathan Ross show. I get on well with Jonathan Ross, I think he’s all right, and if he likes him he must be kosher.”
It’s only six weeks until Lydon’s Public Image Limited (PiL) ­perform two dates at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, funded by the advertising campaign he fronted for Country Life butter last year – a move he came under fire for.
“The money I got from that advert is the advance on this,” says Lydon. “We live on a lucky end of a shoestring here until the first gig money comes in. Why are they questioning me? What manual am I supposed to adopt? I’m promoting a British product which I’m very proud of. ­Anything I can do to help British industry is fine by me and in return you’ve got PiL.”
Lydon says he is trying to cram as much as possible into these gigs.
“This is PiL – my heart and soul,” he says. “It’s not like the Pistols where you learned the songs and they will be sort of what they should be. PiL’s will be as it should be.”
From time to time he bursts into song quotes but generally it’s more a case of lyrical tongue-twisting. “We’ll be doing some newer bits and encompassing and focusing and entering and exiting,” says Lydon. “Expect extreme good taste, variety, voracity, honesty, excitability – a full gauntlet of all the emotions a human being can possibly go through. Songs that experience the tragedy of death to the joy of life.
“There’s a full-on industry of musical escapades that PiL is responsible for, often copied, never duplicated, and never surpassed.”
Turning to the Pistols, Lydon is candid in his reflections on the death of friend and band-mate, Sid Vicious.
“He was a lovely ­character, great sense of humour, great sense of fun and the drugs kicked all that out of him,” says Lydon. “Me and Sid spoke very freely and openly with each other, but he had problems from his mother who was a registered addict.
“He didn’t seem to be able to get out of it no matter how much guidance his friends would give him. I got him in the band that killed him so, so much for my advice.
“Sometimes the road to ruin is paved with good intentions and if I look back on it I can be thinking that, but I know that be not the case. We each rule our own paths and must do the best we can.”
Public Image Limited play the Electric Ballroom on December 22 and 23.

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