Former Sex Pistol is hoping his song will represent Ireland in the song contest in May... but he faces stiff competition
He’s been performing for 50-odd years but Johnny Lydon is feeling nervous ahead of tonight’s Late Late Show Eurosong Special.
And with good reason: Hawaii – the song he is hoping to bring to Liverpool in May – is loaded with meaning. It is a love letter to his wife of 44 years Nora Forster, who is living with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I get terrified. Terrified of getting it wrong… of letting people down. Mostly of letting Nora down,” the former frontman of The Sex Pistols said.
Lydon met his wife in Vivienne Westwood’s, Sex, in 1975. He has been Nora’s full-time carer since 2018. As he spoke about the song and his relationship with his wife at RTÉ’s Eurosong press launch yesterday he was, at times, overcome with emotion.
“I am even shaking now thinking about this because it means the world to me,” he said. “The saddest thing of all is to watch the slow, slow deterioration and demise of someone you have loved for 45 years.”
He added: “These are our last few years of coherence together, and I miss her like mad. My only communication with her at the moment is on iPad, but it is lovely to talk to her that way.
“I miss my missus.”
He hopes the song will raise awareness of the disease.
“I wrote a song that I want to be absolutely poignant about the catastrophe my wife is going through. I think I have succeeded. I’m not sure but here we are with a larger audience to share that with.”
Many were surprised when RTÉ announced that Lydon (67) and his band, Public Image Ltd, would be one of the contenders to represent Ireland in the 2023 Eurovision.
On the surface, the ultra-camp song contest seems to have little in common with his punk-rock anti-Establishment persona. And he has been not terribly complimentary of the contest. “The songs, the whole thing, is disgusting to me,” he said on radio last month.
But yesterday he claimed those comments were made in jest. “I had a laugh and suddenly that is turned into something wrong,” he said.
“It was something I watched when I was young with my parents. I remember Johnny Logan… I remember Sandie Shaw… Eurovision is as good as any other way of listening to music.
“I don’t have any prejudices about things like that.”
Lydon’s mother, Eileen, was from the Cork village of Carrigrohane and his father, John, from Tuam, Co Galway. “My mum and dad would be ever so chuffed, so in many ways they are with me right now.”
Tonight, he and five other acts – ADGY, Leila Jane, K Muni & ND, Wild Youth, and CONNOLLY – will compete to represent Ireland in Liverpool. Hopefully, we will fare better than we have in recent years.
Since coming last in 2013, with Ryan Dolan’s Only Love Survives, we have qualified for the final just once. That was when Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together placed 16th in 2018.
This year, 19-year-old Jennifer Connolly is the bookies’ favourite with her song Midnight Summer Night.
“This will be my first proper gig,” the student of music production said.
“I have performed at the odd family wedding but never like this… I am taking a deep dive.
“I wrote the song when I was 17, in the middle of the pandemic – so it’s about that kind of distorted view of time.”
The decision on who will represent Ireland in May will be made through a combination of public vote, a national jury and – a relatively new feature, this – an international jury.
Searching for a successful Eurovision bop on the Late Late Show has not always guaranteed success.
Indeed, RTÉ executive producer and long-time chief of Ireland’s Eurovision delegation Michael Kealy, thinks RTÉ should invest more financially in the song contest. He would like a national song contest similar to Sweden’s Melodifestivalen.
“I would love to see a stand-alone Eurovision show,” he said. “It is great having it on the Late Late and Ryan (Tubridy) is a really big supporter of the Eurovision. But I think it would benefit from a stand-alone show, like they do in Scandinavia.
“I think it’s only getting bigger and that should be reflected in what we do.”
This week, the excitement among the acts in the Late Late Show studio was palpable. Kofi Appiah, of rap act K Muni & ND, said he’d decided to enter their song, Down in the Rain, when he was on the RTÉ website trying to get Late Late Toy Show tickets for his siblings.
“As a joke I thought, let me enter and see how it goes because I know rap music doesn’t really get played much on the Eurovision,” K Muni said. “Two months after I got a call saying we had been selected.”
Marty Whelan buzzed about the studio and described the contest as wonderful and “daft” while Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy referred to the eclectic group of singers as a “musical selection box”.
Both seemed confident that this year we may be more fortunate at the song contest. “It’s time to party again,” Tubridy said. “It is time to bring it back home.”
The Late Late Show Eurosong Special, Friday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm