While we were flying back from Chicago, news spread hard and fast about a spat between outspoken post-punk kid Kele Okereke and outspoken punk-punk grandaddy Johnny Rotten, occurring Saturday night in Barcelona. Honestly that would be enough to make it newsworthy in blogland, but it’s Okereke’s claims of what motivated the attack that make it a different kind of concerning.
In an official statement released by the Okereke, who is of Nigerian descent, the singer says he approached Lydon backstage and asked him about the possibility of a reunion for Public Image Ltd, the band Lydon formed following the Sex Pistols demise in 1978. In Okereke’s words, Lydon became “intimidating and aggressive while his entourage responded with a racist tirade, including the statement, ‘your problem is your black attitude’.” An assault allegedly ensued in which three people attacked Okereke.
Several other bands witnessed the incident, with Foals’ singer Yannis Philippakis and Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson intervening on the Bloc Party singer’s behalf. “It’s not an issue of the physical assault, even though it was an unprovoked attack,” said Okereke. “It is the fact that race was brought into the matter so readily. Someone as respected and as intelligent as Lydon should know better than to bring race into the equation, or socialise with and encourage those who hold such narrow-minded attitudes.” He added: “I am disappointed that someone I held with such high regard turns out to be such a bigot.”
Here’s a portion of Lydon’s statement in response (also via Guardian):
I feel very sorry for a man that needs to lie about what was a perfect evening … trouble was brought us, resulting in those causing the trouble being physically removed by festival security … If they need publicity so badly this is the allegation universe they run into.
After the show John Rotten and management remained behind to sign autographs, which we did for four solid hours without incident and had a great time talking to other Spanish bands, this seems to have sparked jealousy in certain bands. We are in the middle of a wonderful tour, after 30 years we are achieving a true unity in our audience. They are multi-varied, all ages, all races, creeds and colours. When you are at a festival with bands who are jealous fools, lies and confusion usually follow.
And this bit is probably meant for Kele:
Grow up and learn to be a true man … It’s a shame that the wonderful world of the media is riddled with nonsense like this.
Given all the bands that witnessed the altercation, I imagine there will be some sort of public corroboration (or denial) of Kele’s claims at some point. Keep you posted.