What I do know, having hung out with him for an afternoon, is that he's still always spoiling for a fight. As we're about to say our goodbyes, he pulls a sheaf of faxes out of his pocket. They are complaints, e-mailed to his manager, John "Rambo" Stevens, who lives in Arkansas, complaining that PiL will shortly be performing in Israel. One, from a fan called Lawrence Casin, declares: "I will destroy all my albums and paraphernalia that I have collected over the years if you bastards play that hell hole."That's funny. It wasn't that long ago that Rotten was saying that non-appearance in Israel was a betrayal of the fans. Now apparently Palestinians deserve ethnic cleansing, occupation, relentless aggression, slaughter of innocents, segregation and occupation because of the absence of democracy in Arab and Muslim states, where that is the case. This is the "they suck" argument that people will recognise from Gabriel Ash's list of classic Israel apologetics. I wonder if Rotten would be so "spoiling for a fight" if he wasn't being paid to perform for the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.
Most musicians, particularly those who have been around for 30 years, wouldn't let hate mail upset them. They probably wouldn't even read it. But John's anger is genuine. He wants me to record it, for posterity. "I really resent the presumption that I'm going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews," he tells me. "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."
July 17, 2010
There's a piece on Johnny Rotten in today's Independent. You have to get to the end to find what an ignorant racist he has become over the decades since supporting the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. I remember a National Front supporter in a pub back in the seventies praising a report in the National Front newspaper at the time describing Rotten as a "white n-word" for supporting black liberation in South Africa but not "white liberation" (aka fascism) in the UK. Well now Rotten may have had a change of heart. Check out this interview in The Independent: