John Lydon Looks Back on the Childhood Coma That Taught Him ‘Anger Is an Energy’
The title of John Lydon's memoir, Anger Is an Energy: My Life Uncensored, takes its inspiration from a lyric written for his band Public Image Limited — but it also has its roots in a transformative real-life experience from his childhood.
As Lydon writes in the book, he suffered a scary brush with meningitis when he was 7, which left him in a coma for months — and when he awoke, he essentially had to start over as a person.
"When I [came] out of the coma, I had no memory or recollection of who or what I was," writes Lydon. "I couldn't control my own body and I couldn't talk. I did not recognize my own mom and dad. I did not know I had a name. I did not know I belonged to anybody or anything. I was completely and utterly alone."
As a method of stimulating brain recovery, doctors recommended that his family try to keep his energy up by making him uncomfortable or angry, "because that would help promote the memories and get the brain back. And so, hence, 'anger is an energy.'"
As Lydon tells ABC News Radio, the loneliness he felt after coming out of his coma drove him to take comfort in books, which led to a deep appreciation for art of all kinds. "I spent the rest of my life, right up to this current day, loving human beings, loving being around humans and loving what humans do," he explained. "And, hence, my absolute love of music, books, TV, films, anything — everything."
Lydon's near-death experience, followed by his new thirst for human expression, made him an ideal mouthpiece for the punk revolution when he joined the Sex Pistols — which, in turn, helped prepare him for his later work with Public Image Limited. "It was a beautiful place for me to write songs I really, really, really wanted to, that dealt with all the institutions and attitudes that had suppressed me," he says now. "It was a wonderful boot camp, a training ground that set me really well up for the future, which I didn't know at the time would be Public Image Limited, where I could really delve into the emotional side of not only myself but my fellow human beings."
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