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John Lydon first took to the stage as Johnny Rotten, frontman of the Sex Pistols, almost 50 years ago - but his upcoming appearance at Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre is something a bit different. His UK touring show, I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right, offers an honest and uncensored glimpse into the life of a legend. Here, Lydon not only explains what the audience can expect from the evening but also talks about his loves and his losses - and last year’s surprise Eurovision bid

John Lydon is not a man who appreciates being censored. The legendary frontman and lyricist of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd has caused his fair share of political earthquakes during a unique and extraordinary career.

The man they call Johnny Rotten has been dubbed many things. A revolutionary, an icon, a provocateur and an immortal, he became a poster boy for the cultural revolution which transformed music for good.

And he’s not finished yet. This year he’s heading back out on the road for a fresh leg of his acclaimed spoken-word show, I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right.

Promising to ‘tell it how it is’ during the audience Q&A sessions, absolutely nothing will be off limits. This is John Lydon, live and untamed.

“This is a format which suits me down to the ground, to be honest,”he says, “because if there’s one thing you can guarantee, it’s that I’m never gonna run out of words! I’ve basically spent my whole life being censored. So this is me; honest and unscripted. It’s my thoughts, in my lingo, right or wrong, straight from the horse’s mouth.”

A lot of incredibly turbulent water has passed under the bridge since the last leg of Lydon’s spoken-word tour.

He’s lost two of the most important people in his life; his beloved wife of more than 40 years, Nora, and his long-time tour manager, Johnny ‘Rambo’ Stevens. He also had a crack at Eurovision.

“I just can’t get over the loss of Nora; I don’t think I ever will,” says Lydon, who cared full-time for his wife in her later years as she battled Alzheimer’s.

“It’s hard at night, and I don’t want to throw myself into creating more music right now which would just be a series of ‘woe is me’ misery songs. That’s not the right thing to do.”

The reason he threw his hat into the Eurovision ring last year, in a failed bid to represent Ireland, was entirely down to Nora.

The poignant and personal song, Hawaii, was inspired by one of the couple’s favourite holidays and was, in his words, ‘as close to accurately portraying the situation’ as he could get.

“I’m very glad I was able to perform the song on Irish TV so I could show it to Nora before she died. It might not have been chosen, but it did put a big smile on her face, and she was very proud of me.

“But I’ll never sing that song again, because it’s just too heartbreaking. I just can’t go there; it was so deeply personal.”

“And then I lost Rambo, my all-time best mate and manager. There never has been, and never will be, anyone remotely like him. He lived life to the full and enriched the lives of so many.”

Life has thrown its fair share of curve balls in Lydon’s direction over the years.

The son of working-class emigrants from Ireland and the eldest of four brothers, he grew up in the shadow of Arsenal FC’s Highbury stadium, regularly having to care for his siblings due to his mother’s ill health.

At the age of seven, Lydon contracted spinal meningitis and spent a year in hospital. He suffered from hallucinations and severe memory loss that lasted several years. It was the first step towards the birth of Johnny Rotten.

He was kicked out of school at 15 for dying his hair green, and was soon on the London nightclub scene with the likes of Sid Vicious and Jah Wobble.

By 1975, he was hanging around SEX, the fetish clothing shop launched by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, meeting the people who would go on to form the Sex Pistols.

His scintillating vocal delivery and forthright lyrics - matched with the band’s power and energy - soon saw the Pistols build up a word-of-mouth following.

Lydon looks back on those times with great fondness, but admits that the rift with his ‘sneaky rat’ former Pistols bandmates, which ended up in court in a bitter dispute over licensing of the back catalogue, can never be healed.

Relishing the opportunity to challenge and thrive, John Lydon remains a mischievous maverick who continues pushing back the boundaries.

“I make music because I love it. I’ve got an enormous record collection and every now and then recognise a gap in something I’d really like to hear - that will then be the seed for the next album I’ll make.

“When I lose interest in music, I will stop. I don’t force it. We’re well known for taking long intervals between projects, but I think that benefits the work itself.”

As a writer, Lydon has published two best-selling volumes of memoir: the excoriating Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, and the ridiculously entertaining and uncompromising Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored. But he credits his 2004 appearance on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! as the moment the majority of people got the chance to discover what he was really like. Which is why he’s relishing the chance to get back on stage for a show he describes as ‘unlike anything else I’ve done’.

“I like to think I’ve always been able to converse fluently in a down-to-earth way; not waxing lyrical with a load of toff talk. Once the ice is broken, it paves the way for a bloody good chat, and a good time to be had by all.

“The thing I love about this show is that I don’t know exactly what I’m going to be doing from one venue to the next. I like that ‘in at the deep end’ approach; that’s how to learn to swim. That’s what the Sex Pistols was. There was no game plan, no greedy ambitions, which is why it was so excellent - ahead of its time, or maybe miles behind, depending on your point of view.

“This show’s the same. I’ll go on, on a wing and a prayer, and see what happens; do what feels right. And whatever questions I’m asked, I will give an honest answer.

“That’s usually the recipe for a fantastic evening - it’s like going into an atmospheric old pub for the first time and discovering that everyone in there is a mate.”

So this show is all speech and no music, then?

“Well, not completely. I’ve been known to break out into a bit of karaoke on occasion and start an Abba singalong, and no two nights turn out the same way.

“This time I’m thinking I might go down the Alvin Stardust route - I think some of his classics need dusting off, don’t you? Who doesn’t love a bit of My Coo-Ca-Choo?”

He smiles. “This is what life should be, throwing point and purpose out the window and just enjoying it. Do what you feel.

“Everything is a gift. It’s just that sometimes it can take time to find that out.”

John Lydon: I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right visits Palace Theatre, Redditch, Wednesday 8 May; Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, Thursday 9 May; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, on Friday 10 May; Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, Saturday 11 May; Tamworth Assembly Rooms, Sunday 12 May & Walsall Arts Centre, Saturday 25 May

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