John Lydon told an Oxford audience that all religion is “vile, poisonous and idiotic” and spoke of his exposure to paedophile priests as a young boy.
The former Sex Pistols and current PiL front man was speaking to an audience of around 300 at Oxford University’s Sheldonian theatre on Monday evening (December 8). It was his final public appearance to promote his 2014 autobiography, Anger Is An Energy.
During the talk, the punk icon took a swipe at Mick Jagger for his “embarrassing” performance at Glastonbury last year. Discussing his musical future, Lydon said he’d give up music “only if I got bored with it, and as long as there’s human being in the world, I’m not going to get bored”.
When interlocutor David Freeman asked if there was an age limit on performing, he replied: “No, only if you’re Mick Jagger. Did anybody see last year’s Glastonbury? I mean come on Mick… it’s not about age here, its about the show off bullshit… I wanted the Stones to give us the juice, the stuff that really put them there in the first place.”
He added: “But no, it’s Mick in ladies’ tights and his testicles are frocked and he’s running around like a speed freak and then there’s the band looking incredibly embarrassed and wearing the awful, I call them Tommy Hilfiger kind of colours, like Cliff Richard-on-holiday wear. And if I turn into that… then you’re all welcome.”
Asked about a possible future for the Sex Pistols however, Lydon replied, “Oh no, that’s finished. I mean have you seen us? I mean We’ve all put on weight but Mr Jones here [guitarist Steve Jones] is coming it at 500 pounds! And I did the butter advert!”
On a more serious note, Lydon also said in his talk that he was put off singing because of his mistrust of priests. “My early childhood, as far as singing goes, was spent deliberately not knowing how to sing, because I was raised a Catholic, and yeah, those priests were at it. So what you would do is everything in your heart and soul not to be co-opted into the choir because that meant the priests had direct access to you. And once that happened to you there weren’t nothing you could tell your mum and dad, because it would be mortal sin to accuse a priest of any wrong doing.”
He continued: “All religion to me is vile and poisonous and idiotic. They spend all their time trying to make you believe things that can’t possibly be true. Sounds a lot like the Tory party.”
Lydon also lashed out at Simon Cowell and Bob Geldof, calling Cowell “our worst enemy” and saying Geldof was “open to corruption”.
The appearance was Lydon’s last in promotion of the book. The message of the autobiography, he told the audience, is that “self pity is for arseholes”.