It was a gig that’s shaped part of Huddersfield’s history and culture … the Sex Pistols playing for the last ever time in the UK on Christmas Day 1977.

Now John Lydon – better known back then as Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten – is back in Huddersfield when he brings his I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right tour to Huddersfield Town Hall on Wednesday, May 29.

It’s a no-holds barred night when the audience can ask John anything … and that gig at Ivanhoe’s is sure to feature prominently. There are just a few tickets left for the Huddersfield show and John will then be in Leeds on Saturday, June 1.

John Lydon is not a man who appreciates being censored.

The legendary frontman and lyricist of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd has caused his fair share of political earthquakes during a unique and extraordinary career.

From the mischievous glint which still twinkles brightly in his eyes you sense he’s relished every single moment. And still does.

The man they call Johnny Rotten has been dubbed many things. A revolutionary, an icon, a provocateur and an immortal, he became a poster boy for the cultural revolution which transformed music for good.

And he’s not finished yet. This year he’s heading back on the road for a fresh leg of his acclaimed spoken word show I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right.

He promises to ‘tell it how it is’ during the audience Q&A sessions when he promises that absolutely nothing will be off limits. This is John Lydon, live and untamed.

I think too many people tell me what I think and not enough ask me,” he says. “I always find it’s far more fun just telling the truth than being a miserable bleedin’ philosopher.

“This is a format which suits me down to the ground to be honest because if there’s one thing you can guarantee, it’s that I’m never gonna run out of words.

“I’ve basically spent my whole life being censored. So this is me, honest and unscripted. It’s my thoughts, in my lingo, right or wrong, straight from the horse’s mouth.”

A lot of incredibly turbulent water has passed under the bridge since the last leg of John’s spoken word tour.

He’s lost two of the most important people in his life – his beloved wife of more than 40 years, Nora, and his long-time tour manager Johnny ‘Rambo’ Stevens. He also had a crack at Eurovision.

“I just can’t get over the loss of Nora, I don’t think I ever will,” says John, who cared full-time for his wife in her later years as she battled Alzheimer’s.

“It’s hard at night and I don’t want to throw myself into creating more music right now which would just be a series of ‘woe is me’ misery songs. That’s not the right thing to do.”

The reason he threw his hat into the Eurovision ring last year in a failed bid to represent Ireland was entirely down to Nora.

The poignant and personal song, Hawaii, was inspired by one of the couple’s favourite holidays and was, in his words, ‘as close to accurately portraying the situation’ as he could get.

“I’m very glad I was able to perform the song on Irish TV so I could show it to Nora before she died,” he said. “It might not have been chosen, but it did put a big smile on her face and she was very proud of me.

“But I’ll never sing that song again because it’s just too heartbreaking. I just can’t go there; it was so deeply personal.”

John says his head was ‘full of cotton wool’ when his wife died, but happy memories from their 40-plus years together are starting to come back now.

“And then I lost Rambo, my all-time best mate and manager,” he said. “There never has been and never will be anyone remotely like him. He lived life to the full and enriched the lives of so many.

“I’ll talk about Rambo on stage and keep fresh in people’s memories how very important he was to the success of us as a band.

“It’s not just the people contributing musically, there are so many other areas that need taking care of. Rambo did all of that. Now it’s all on my shoulders but I’m rubbish at business and all this computers stuff. I want to recognise the massive role which Rambo played for all those years.”

Life has thrown its fair share of curve balls in John’s direction over the years.

The son of working-class emigrants from Ireland and the eldest of four brothers, he grew up in the shadow of Arsenal FC’s Highbury stadium, regularly having to care for his siblings due to his mother’s ill health.

The family lived in a small flat where they shared an outdoor toilet with the public.

At the age of seven John contracted spinal meningitis and spent a year in hospital. He suffered from hallucinations and severe memory loss that lasted several years. It was the first step towards the birth of Johnny Rotten.

He was kicked out of school at 15 for dying his hair green and was soon on the scene of London nightclubs with the likes of Sid Vicious and Jah Wobble.

By 1975 he was hanging around SEX, the fetish clothing shop launched by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, meeting the people who would go on to form the Sex Pistols.

His scintillating vocal delivery and forthright lyrics – matched with the band’s power and energy – soon saw the Pistols build up a word-of-mouth following.

John looks back on those times with great fondness but admits that the rift with his former Pistols bandmates, which ended up in court in a bitter dispute over licensing of the back catalogue, can never be healed.

He sums it up like this: “My body and mind is the Sex Pistols but my heart and soul is PiL.”

John remains a mischievous maverick who continues pushing back the boundaries and who relishes the opportunity to challenge and thrive.

“I make music because I love it,” he said. “I’ve got an enormous record collection and every now and then recognise a gap in something I’d really like to hear and that will be the seed for the next album I’ll make.

“When I lose interest in music I will stop. I don’t force it. We’re well known taking long intervals between projects, but I think that benefits the work itself.”

As a writer John has published two best-selling volumes of memoirs: the hard-hitting Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs and the ridiculously entertaining and uncompromising Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored.

But he credits his appearance on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here in 2004 as the moment the majority of people got chance to discover what he was really like.

“I won’t just sit around and watch the world fall down around me,” he said. “I have to be doing things that are useful.”

This is why he’s relishing the chance to get back on stage for a show he describes as “unlike anything else I’ve done.”

He says: “I do sometimes find the weight of live performance shockingly overwhelming.

“I’m a self-inflicted pain and misery kind of character with a smiley face. Every time I go on stage I’m terrified. I get physically ill before a PiL gig. Once I’m on it’s different level – the real me comes out.

“But the fears and phobias are the very things that power me on to do what I do.

“This show is a little bit different though. Of course I’m still a bit fearful – after all I’m walking into a room and facing thousands of people I don’t know.

“But I like to think I’ve always been able to converse fluently in a down to earth way, not waxing lyrical with a load of toff talk.

“Once the ice is broken it paves the way for a bloody good chat and a good time to be had by all. The thing I love about this show is that I don’t know exactly what I’m going to be doing from one venue to the next.

“You turn up to lots of shows which are very rehearsed and formatted – but that’s never been my way in life.

“I like that ‘in at the deep end’ approach; that’s how to learn to swim. That’s what the Sex Pistols was. There was no game plan, no greedy ambitions which is why it was so excellent – ahead of its time, or maybe miles behind, depending on your point of view.

“This show’s the same. I’ll go on, on a wing and a prayer, and see what happens. Do what feels right. And whatever questions I’m asked I’ll give an honest answer.

“That’s usually the recipe for a fantastic evening – it’s like going into an atmospheric old pub for the first time and discovering that everyone in there is a mate.”

So this show is all speech and no music, then?

“Well, not completely,” John says. “I’ve been known to break out into a bit of karaoke on occasion and start an ABBA singalong and no two nights turn out the same way.

“This time I’m thinking I might go down the Alvin Stardust route – I think some of his classics need dusting off. Who doesn’t love a bit of My Coo-Ca-Choo?

“This is what life should be, throwing point and purpose out the window and just enjoying it. Do what you feel.

“Everything is a gift. It’s just that sometimes it can take time to find that out.”

To buy tickets for the Huddersfield show click HERE

He’ll also be at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall on Saturday, June 1 and for tickets go HERE

Compiled by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting. 


What’s On in Huddersfield in May 2024 with concerts, shows, music, street food and great vibes