Johnny Not-So Rotten

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JOHNNY ROTTENA few weeks ago, I posted about former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten’s response to calls to boycott his upcoming concert in Israel.

Lydon’s performance at the Heineken Music Conference 2010 Festival in Tel Aviv on August 31 is already causing waves, with the usual suspects calling on the rock provocateur to cancel, like earlier moves by Elvis Costello and the Pixies, among others.

But the protesters didn’t take into account Lydon’s contrary personality – after all he used to be a punk. Speaking this week to BBC’s Music 6 program, Lydon said that instead of boycotting Israel, he’s planning on creating his own brand of anarchy in the UK during his visit here.

“Of course, there are all sorts of terrible politics going on down there but there is just about all over the world,” Lydon said. “You cannot separate yourself from your audience because of the political powers-that-be. I mean, I’m anti-government—I have been all my life no matter where I go—and I shall be making that loud and clearly proud once I’m in Israel.”

Lydon dismissed calls for him to stay away, saying that his presence in Israel will be his own form of protest.

“We’ve received a lot of hate mail, as it happens, [That] going to Israel is some kind of political faux pas. I say, ‘Don’t be so ignorant – it’s John speaking here and I’m going there to cause trouble and I will do it musically.’”

Well, that’s nothing compared to this next quote. (hat tip: Kathy)

They are complaints, e-mailed to his manager, John “Rambo” Stevens, who lives in Arkansas, complaining that PiL will shortly be performing in Israel. One, from a fan called Lawrence Casin, declares: “I will destroy all my albums and paraphernalia that I have collected over the years if you bastards play that hell hole.”

Most musicians, particularly those who have been around for 30 years, wouldn’t let hate mail upset them. They probably wouldn’t even read it. But John’s anger is genuine. He wants me to record it, for posterity. “I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews,” he tells me. “If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”

Which goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover.

Because Johnny Rotten has just shown he understands the Middle East way better than most.

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