A Night in Wimborne with John Lydon

I have to admit that I didn’t really know too much about John Lydon when I booked tickets to see him on his UK-speaking tour. However, when I find out he was coming to Wimborne in Dorset I knew that it was too good of an opportunity to miss even if meant I had set off at half-five after work!

John was in town touring to promote his new book I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right (named from the popular PiL song Rise).

Though small in stature, the Tivoli Theatre is big in character – a grand old Art Deco palace that has seen the great and the good cross through its doors over the decades. A real treat to see it lit up in all its refinery on a cold wet night!

By the time I had parked up, the show had almost started. Spilling out of the front doors were a sea of people, many looking as if they had just walked off the set of Sid & Nancy: in their tartan leggings, well-worn leather jackets, faded and Pistols t-shirts. Those not adorning Punk regalia were dressed for a wedding reception or for a particularly long lunch at the clubhouse. I guess Mr. Rotten attracts all sorts!

As I made my way to my seat, I realised that this was a sell-out show with only a handful of empty seats left. Now only a few minutes left until the man himself would appear, the atmosphere was completely buzzing!

On the small stage were just two chairs, two microphones, and a small table. Nothing more was needed – what a great opener!

When John finally appeared from behind the red curtain he was treated to the most thunderous of applauses, almost receiving a standing ovation before he’d said a word!

From the moment he stepped on stage the man treated the audience like old friends popping around for a chat. This laidback informal approach was a real relief to me as I’d been to similar book events over the years, many by musicians, where the whole thing ends up feeling like one big PR exercise performed to a paying audience.

For me, if I pay to hear someone speak, I want them to engaging and entertaining, honest and without the bullshit. Every sentence doesn’t need to be a perfect soundbite or feel like a TED Talk, just from the heart is all that matters. Which is why John Lydon was worth every penny!

Over roughly two hours, John spoke about his life and career, starting off as a kid in a rough North London neighborhood, to the highs and lows of I’m A Celebrity

Whatever you think of John, good or bad, it is clear that he has led an interesting, diverse, and exciting career as a musician, and more recently, as a public figure.

To close the show, John answered questions from the audience (written on special-made cards in the lobby) on subjects that ranged from pickled eggs, the current state of punk, to obscure cover versions and the natural world! I won’t divulge the details as I think that would take away some of the intimacy of the show but rest assured that everyone with a question went home happy!

As a grand finale, John ended the show with a sing-along of Rise.

Let me tell you it was quite the experience to be part of a chorus of three hundred people all singing the same song: all emotionally invested in the words. A very moving end to the show – an experience I’ll never forget.

I think I’ll end this blog entry with my favourite question of the night:

Way back in 1977, did you ever think you’d end up saying the immortal words “Hello Wimborne!’

Places Where I’ve Been – Berwick Street, Soho

Nestled among the lurid sex shops and fine eateries of Soho lies Berwick Street – a veritable oasis (no pun intended) of world-class record shops that most music fans would die for.

Berwick Street will be instantly recogniseable to many fans of a certain Manchester band who conquered the world for a brief moment in the 90s.

Yes, this is where the album cover photograph for (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was taken – a simple but nontheless striking shot that would line the bedroom walls of countless teenagers during the heady days of Britpop.

Though many of the record shops are no more, Berwick Street is a very interesting places to visit, now immortalised forever as part of music history.

Places Where I’ve Been – 23 Heddon Street

As someone generally not a fan of crowds, walking through Central London on the eve of a highly-anticipated football match was quite the experience – it’s perhaps the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing a flashmob in the flesh!

Still, I wasn’t in the Capital to see a show or any of the eye-wateringly expensive trademarks, sorry I mean landmarks!

No, I was on my way to 23 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street, to pay homage to one the 20th century’s greatest artists, David Bowie.

It was here in a doorway that Bowie, as alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, posed for the album cover photograph for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars – arguably one of the defining records of the 70s.

For me, this was David Bowie at his absolute best: glam, sexy, flamboyant, cool, fake and otherwordly.

As a truly evocative piece of art, the album cover always makes me think of a London that was exciting, raw and dangerous – long before the gentrification and hipster-dom we see today.

I loved the bohemian idea of London in the late 60’s and early 70’s, where struggling artists could rent a victorian terrace for a pittance, writing verse on the peeling wallpaper and composing protest songs in the bath.

However, today Heddon Steet is unrecognisable from that iconic photograph; gone is that sense of urban decay and grime that must have made London such a dangerous and seductive place to be in the 70s. In it’s place is a row of identical-looking restaurants, who judging by the prices on their menus, cater exclusively to wealthy foreign tourists and businessmen with unrestricted access to the company credit card.

Give me that fantasy of Old London any day…

Still, just to be able to stand on the same spot as one of your heroes is a sensation that I never get tired of, no matter how remote.

One can only hope that that a Ziggy Burger isn’t on the menu!

Places Where I’ve Been – 22 Gladstone Avenue

On Thursday 27th May, I took the train to Feltham, West London, to visit 22 Gladstone Avenue – the childhood home of Freddie Bulsara, later to find fame as one Freddie Mercury.

It was a sweltering afternoon by the time that I reached Feltham train station from my home in West Dorset, made only worse by the swarming crowds enjoying the newly relaxed travel restrictions.

Using my phone to navigate, I took a left at the train station, crossed the overhead bridge and made a diversion through the nearby Glebelands playing fields.

A few minutes later and I had reached surburban heights of Gladstone Avenue – a seemingly neverending row of identical semi-detached houses as far as they eye can see. Tere at number 22 was my destination!

There on the opposite side of the road I stopped for a few minutes to think about the life of the young man who once lived here. The boy who would later compose arguably the greatest Pop song of all time, who would lead an era-defining concert and after his tragic death, live in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.

I took a few snaps and then I was on my way back home, thankful to have paid my respects to one of my my musical heroes.