John Lydon is addled with stage fright and anxiety that was worse at the peak of his Sex Pistols pomp.
The punk veteran, 66, frets about letting down his fans performing in his band PiL and says his fears gave him the empathy to write the Pistols’ savage lyrics.
Lydon admitted: “I always panic”, before adding the “stage fright, rack of nerves, whatever you want to call it” is starting to bubble up again as he prepares to go on the road with PiL.
He said he is riddled with “the worry that I will let people down, forget where I am and mug it all up”.
When asked what his anxiety was like the 1970s with the Sex Pistols, the ‘Never Mind The B*******’ singer added: “Even worse then! It was all totally new to me. But over the years I’ve realised you need to go through it, because you’re charging the batteries up so you can go out and put your head on the guillotine and prepare to be sacrificed. You can’t disguise yourself out there. No, no, no... it’s bare bones, broken heart stuff.
“You couldn’t write the songs I do without having some consideration for your fellow human beings. The media at the time viewed my stuff as foul-mouthed this, that and the other... no, no, no, no, it’s all from a point of empathy.”
He went on about his lyrics for PiL being brutally emotional: “PiL is where the real stuff is. I went into real emotions and the songs became ever so personal, between band and audience.
“It was about reaching out for the truth... and that’s a hard thing. With PiL, there are songs about the death of my mother, my father... these are tragedies that are really hard to cope with live.”
While Lydon is touring the UK, his brother and sister-in-law will be looking after his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife Nora Forster, 79, for whom he has been a carer at their home in Los Angeles since her 2018 diagnosis.
He said he is especially conscious of feeling of “isolation” and loneliness” – which he brands “the evilest emotion of them all”.
Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, added in an interview with The Guardian about how his own experience of memory loss after he had meningitis aged seven has helped him to understand Forster’s needs: “I know that fear of isolation. I know what it’s like to be completely frightened and not know where you are.
“And so I know how to deal with it. What frightened me was strangers coming up wanting to hug me. That was terrifying, made the whole thing much more painful. No. I just look in her eyes and she’ll find me when she’s ready and that will bring us back.
“Don’t be telling them to do this, do that, and don’t ask questions… let them work it out. Never let anyone think they’re alone – it’s the evilest emotion of them all.”
Lydon hit out at director Danny Boyle, 65, in the interview, and his ex-Pistols bandmates Steve Jones, 66, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock, both 65, over their work on the filmmaker’s Disney miniseries ‘Pistol’.
Based Jones’s memoir ‘Lonely Boy’, Lydon said he wasn’t consulted about the show and lost a legal battle over control of the band’s music in the show.
He raged about his former bandmates allowing use of the Pistols’ music in the series: “It’s dead against everything we once stood for. The only thing you’ve got of value in your life, and you’re going to cheapen that because you want an extra fiver? Not much of a human being there.
“It’s disgusting, really. How can you be truthful when you don’t involve the main frontman who wrote those songs and had to take the hidings and kickings and public admonishments?”
Lydon added he is now sympathetic to the Queen “as a person” despite once spitting “She ain’t no human being” in the Pistols’ 1977 track ‘God Save the Queen’.