Johnny Rotten’s Memoir Seethes With Anger—And Charm
by Legs McNeil The former Sex Pistol’s memoir ‘Anger Is an Energy’ proves that he still knows how to howl and rant, but who knew he was such a beguiling storyteller?(Original at Daily Beast)
We all know, or think we know, what Johnny Rotten hates.
He’s the anti-Christ, right?
He hates everything!
Which to me, after the initial explosion of the Sex Pistols, always made Rotten kind of boring.
“Yeah, yeah, everything sucks; the world is full of liars and cheats, you grew up in some shitty London flat, everyone was on the dole, no one understands you—and enough already! Jeez-Louise, we all know anger is a great inspiration for creativity, but isn’t there anything worthwhile out there?
“As a co-founder of an independent zine of the same name, Legs documented the likes of The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Dead Boys in their heydays. We caught up with Legs to discuss being at the forefront of the avant-garde nearly four decades ago, and the legacy of the culture he helped to define.”
Story and drawings by Legs McNeil.
Originally published in the Nov 78 issue of Hit Parader
“Ah, summer in New York,” I sighed, swatting giant flies that were dive bombing my head as I sat sipping my first beer of the day at Manny’s pool hall. It was a scorcher of a day, temperatures rising to about 102 and it was so humid you had to cut the air with a chain saw in order to get a hunk to breathe. It was so hot, Manny, owner and proprietor of the dive pool hall across from my private detective office, a big black Jamaican, had a block of ice perched on his fat stomach. He grunted. It was an explanatory grunt. He explained that he keeps the ice on his stomach to keep the case or so of beer he’d already consumed this morning cold in his stomach while he was waiting to digest it.
I opened another beer thinking what a primitive genius Manny was, when just then a short male, Caucasian, about 30 or 35, bursts into the pool hall exposing piercing sunlight into the dimly lit bar. The intruder sort of resembled a rat and talked just as fast. “Where’s Leg’s McNeil? Is he in here, huh? Come on, I don’t got all day, what uh?” the mystery man shot out with a cockney accent. I tried to answer but he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.
My ex-finance told me, when she was breaking up with me, “I don’t care about your opinions; I don’t care what you think….”
That almost killed me. If she wanted to finish me off, she knew exactly how to slice it. There is nothing more stinging then to tell a writer his or her opinions no longer matter. I’d become obsolete, at least in her eyes, and in mine too– but then everyone on the punk scene kept dying and websites from The Daily Beast to Spin kept calling my for my reactions, memories—and my opinions.
Ironic, isn’t it? To be among one of the last voices who remembers how much fun it all was—and then to try and translate all those gorgeous moments into mere words?