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

Sex Pistols’ old testament

John Lydon Rotten: No Irish. No Blacks. No Dogs book cover

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.

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.