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Punks, Tawnys, and Phils

Published February 27, 2023

Back around Groundhog Day, we ran a round inspired by that little rascal, Punxsutawney Phil. It was all about punks, Tawnys, and Phils. Get it? Well, here’s something we learned about a punk.

Johnny Rotten, the snarling, spiky, snaggle-toothed Sex Pistols frontman might not be shouting out the lyrics to “Anarchy in the U.K.” anymore, but he hasn’t totally mellowed with age either. He does seem to have stopped spitting on people, he’s more likely to answer to John Lydon, and he occasionally pops up on reality shows like The Masked Singer and I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, but he’s still about as cuddly as a sharps box. (During an episode of the latter, for example, he called the viewing audience something that we’re not allowed to type out.) 

All that said, we’re not sure that anyone expected him to show up with a song like “Hawaii.” Lydon wrote the achingly beautiful track for his wife, Nora Forster, who has Alzheimer’s. Lydon has been her full-time caregiver since her diagnosis several years ago. “The song, it tells you not to ask lots of questions and to be happy for them,” he said, tearing up during an appearance on British talk show This Morning. “It’s a love song, with huge tragedy in it, and the message that love does conquer all.” 

Perhaps even more surprising than the song’s tender lyrics (“All journeys end/ Some begin again/ And we’re here you and me/ Hawaii, remember me”) and poignant backstory is the fact that he hopes it will become Ireland’s entry for this year’s Eurovision song contest. (Although Lydon was born in London, his parents were both Irish and he has an Irish passport.) 

“I’m doing it to highlight the sheer torture of what Alzheimer’s is,” he told The Guardian. “It gets swept under the carpet, but in highlighting it, hopefully we get a stage nearer to a cure.” 

On Friday, he and his band, Public Image Ltd, will face off against five other Euro-contenders during an episode of The Late Late Show on Irish broadcaster RTÉ. According to the BBC, Ireland’s nominee will be chosen by a national jury, an international jury, and call-in votes from the public. 

Even if Lydon’s track is chosen — and Eurovision oddsmakers think there’s a slim chance of that happening — he may not be thrilled about it. “It’s absolutely awful, the songs,” he told RTÉ about Eurovision. “The whole thing of it is disgusting to me. I’m a songwriter, I perform live, and these shows just come across as so dreadfully phony to me. But look, we’re giving it a chance to break out of that mold.”