“How does this happen to a person? He was a working-class Irish lad growing up in London. He's been vocally anti-imperial. His f---ing autobiography is called No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Is it money? Is it age? He's been an eejit for a while, but this is bad.”
This is Blindboy talking about John Lydon, and the resurfaced 2018 photo of the former Sex Pistol which has been pinballing around Twitter: the one with the portly former anarchist antichrist wearing a red Make America Great Again t-shirt. Oh dear.
Obviously, we should not be surprised — Lydon has made a career out of offending people, but now he is offending Us, not Them. Or is supporting Donald Trump the epitome of punk? After all, Sid Vicious was fond of a red swastika t-shirt.
The difference is that Vicious has been dead since 1979, unlike the 64-year-old Lydon, very much alive in relative Californian splendour where he has lived since the 1980s. Lydon is old enough to know better, but like Morrissey, another working-class icon of Irish parentage, he’s gone to the dark side.
Not as catastrophically as Morrissey, but gone all the same. Why?
It's always a blow when icons turn out to be idiots. (I say idiots, only because the actual word is unprintable). Especially music icons, the ones who imprint themselves upon your brain during your initial love affair with live music — my first ever gig was The Smiths, twice in 1984, in Cork. It left me lovestruck.
The building blocks of teen identity are made of music — which makes it all the more shocking when someone you liked, or idolised, or followed from gig to gig, spouts abhorrence in late middle age.
Their repugnant views are not on par with, say, Nick Cave joining the Nazi party or Kate Bush cannibalising small children, but still. Lurching to the right is not something we welcome from our erstwhile heroes — when Bowie, the hero of them all, slipped on fascist banana skin in the Seventies, causing all kinds of filthy poison to dribble from his thin white mouth, at least he had the decency to be temporarily insane from drugs. He got over himself, and was reinstated. Lydon and Morrissey have no such excuse.
Today — right now — the heroes live in football, rather than music. The light that never goes outshines from 22-year-old Marcus Rashford, using his voice in the fight against child poverty and how black lives matter in Boris Johnson’s Britain, best summed up in an exchange that may make your eyes wet: “I wish @MarcusRashford was my friend,” tweeted a young fan. Rashford’s instant response? “I am, bro.”
Or Gary Lineker, much the same age as Lydon and Morrissey, opening his home to refugees. Choosing love, not hate. Making humanity great again.