This is 
the story of 
Jonny Rotten

John Lydon may well have been Britain’s angriest young man. He is also one of our favourite redheads, here is an excerpt from his book Anger is an Energy as featured in our Gingerella zine. 

He was accused of treason for singing an original version of ‘God Save The Queen’ in 1977. He turned down an MBE, and he refused to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when he, and fellow Sex Pistols were inducted into the museum calling it “a piss stain”. John Lydon may well have been Britain’s angriest young man.

His green hair and riotous fashion sense first attracted the attention of Malcolm McLaren 
when young John was invited to lead the punk band, Sex Pistols, into anarchic history. Although they only produced four singles and the one album, Never Mind the Bollocks, the Sex Pistols left a lot more than a piss stain on popular music. 

John’s songs still command our attention and 
the repertoire of his long-standing band, Public Image Ltd (PIL), includes the eponymous title 
of his recent biography Anger is An Energy. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Anger is an energy. It really bloody is. It’s possibly the most powerful one-liner I’ve ever come up with.  When I was writing the Public Image Ltd song ‘Rise’, I didn’t quite realise the emotional impact that it would have on me, or anyone who’s ever heard it since.

I wrote it in an almost throwaway fashion, off the top of my head, pretty much when I was about to sing the whole song for the first time. It’s a tough, spontaneous idea.

Rise looked at the context of South Africa under apartheid. I’d been watching these horrendous news reports on CNN, and so lines like ‘they put a hotwire to my head, because of the things I did 
and said’, are a reference to the torture techniques that the apartheid government was using out 
there. Insufferable.

So it’s saying, ‘there is always hope’, and that 
you don’t always have to resort to violence to resolve an issue. Anger doesn’t necessarily 
equate directly to violence. Violence very rarely resolves anything. 

In South Africa, they eventually found a relatively peaceful way out. Using that supposedly negative energy called anger, it can take just one positive move to change things for the better.

When I came to record the song properly, the producer and I were arguing all the time, as we always tend to do, but sometimes the arguing actually helps; it feeds in.

Anger is an energy. Unstoppable

When I sing it onstage nowadays, it’s very emotional for me, because there’s such a connection with 
the audience. I’ll get these melodramatic responses, that people are bang in empathy with the actual statement, and the point and the purpose of the song. They fully understand it, and they share it back with me. Now, that takes your breath away. Often, 
I can forget my place in the song. I’m so impressed listening to the audience singing it, that they take over. For me, that’s complete success: something really generous has been understood by everybody in the building.

Anger is the root core of why I write songs

 
Photographed by Ray Stevenson/Rex USA -— 1976
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