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John Lydon - Rotten: No Irish. No Blacks. No Dogs book review

Sex Pistols’ old testament

It’s hard not to notice that this reprint of 1994’s Rotten comes in the wake of Lydon’s more recent and, one might suppose, more complete Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored. So what’s the point in reading it? You might well ask.

Rotten and Anger are two very different propositions linked by a single crucial similarity. While Anger prides itself on being a prolonged ‘pub rant’ that insists, with metaphorical finger in your chest, that Lydon’s truth and Lydon’s truth alone will out, No Irish examines Rotten the Sex Pistol and the surprisingly squalid Finsbury Park upbringing that created Rotten the Sex Pistol.

With the assistance of other voices – Chrissie Hynde, Billy Idol, Paul Cook and Steve Jones – it presents a 360-degree pen-portrait of a man who was (across ’77’s anarchic UK, at least) punk incarnate. The unifying factor that deems both memoirs essential is Lydon’s extraordinary voice, as powerful, engaging, snippy and fascinating in print as it is in person.

Like it or not, Lydon’s a national treasure, a glorious irritant, a compulsively honest voice you can trust, if not always agree with. So read his rotten book. Read them both, in fact.