Sex Pistol co-founder and guitarist Steve Jones has brought out his candid and entertaining autobiography called Lonely Boy and I interviewed him for work about it.
He spoke to me for about half an hour on the phone from his home in LA and there wasn’t space to include everything he said so here’s the full transcript.
It covers writing the book, the good times, the bad times, Donald Trump, Prince Harry and the so-called Brex Pistols.
Why write the book now?
I dunno. Everyone has had a go, I thought it was time.
It is coincidence that everyone is celebrating 40 years of punk this year?
It’s a happy coincidence. When I started it a year and a half ago I wasn’t thinking of the 40th anniversary. I don’t really know what that means anyway. I don’t know where the 40 years comes from – 1976 was when we were playing the 100 Club, Nevermind The Bollocks was out the next year, I dunno…
You’re very candid about yourself. Was it difficult to commit some of it to paper? I’m thinking about the peeping Tom stuff, the women, the nicking things…
I definitely thought about it but I think that’s what makes it interesting. Yeah, people are gonna look at you a certain way but I thought it was good to get it out. I think it’s important. I know I’m not the only one who had a weird upbringing, other people might relate to it, not that I was doing it for that [Jones was sexually abused by his stepdad].
I thought it was good to get the real story as opposed to some bullshit nice clean version of it. There are a lot of people who want to perceive image of themselves and would never go that deep – for me it’s, So what? What’s the worse that’s going to happen?
Other than it being the name of a Pistols song, why call it Lonely Boy?
Because that’s basically what I am, I’ve always been alone. I’m still a loner. The whole thing about the book is being alone and doing things alone and feeling alone. It seemed the perfect title.
People might hear that and feel sorry for you…
It’s not about feeling sorry for me, it’s just the reality. My life took twists and turns that made me a person who lives alone. I’m not saying I’m unhappy, I’m happy most of the time. I know a lot of people who are married who are miserable
You nicked a lot of stuff. What’s the story with David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust stage gear?
I was a big fan of Bowie and the Spiders From Mars and I went to see them at the Hammersmith Odeon as it was then. After the first night, they left all the gear set up because they were doing two nights.
I just parked my minivan round the back, snuck in there and the bloke on the fourth or fifth row who was meant to be looking after the kit had fallen akip and so I nicked a bunch of gear and split.
That’s what I used to do on a daily basis. I was a kleptomaniac – just trying to nick things all the time, I couldn’t help, whether I needed it or not.
What was the best thing about being a Sex Pistol?
Taking a left turn with music as opposed to sticking to what was going on at the time. It was a revolutionary kind of thing. Considering we only had one album… it was good for a little while. We were all pretty naïve and fearless. When you’re older, you try to work everything out first and end up doing nothing.
Was there a point when you realised you were at the forefront of a big change musically and culturally?
It was a lot happening really fast, a lot to absorb. There was one gig in Islington, at the Screen On The Green, where my eyes opened and I realised, here we are we’re playing in this place, everyone is a fan and it’s new and exciting. It just felt like something was happening.
That was short-lived though – it kind of went downhill after that. When Sid joined, after the Grundy thing [when the band swore on TV to great controversy], it seemed a bit drab and it was all about newspapers.
Did you ever realise the Pistols would still be talked about after 40 years?
No. There was a period after we broke up when all those early 80s bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet were going on we couldn’t get arrested. But then it turned around later and all of a sudden it became a bigger deal.
Did you get with Sid Vicious?
I liked Sid. Unfortunately, there was the smack and him thinking he had to act a certain way, as we all did. I think he could have been a star but he didn’t get an apprenticeship, he was just slung in the deep end.
At heart he was good guy, he had a sweet soul but he didn’t have long enough to get past all the silly stuff with the drugs.
How do you feel about Malcolm McLaren? Did he take over your band?
There was always bullshit talk that we were a boy band or whatever but that bollocks. He liked to portray himself as the puppet master but a lot of the things we did were on a whim.
He did have a big part in the band but not as big as he thought he did. If he was such a great manager, he would have had a lot of success with other bands
Did you make any money out of being in the Pistols?
Nothing originally. The only time we did was with a reunion tour in 96. I never even had a bank account or a driving licence or anything. It didn’t seem to matter and I didn’t have the savvy to ask. I’m not that kind of business-minded guy
Was money made? Did it just go somewhere else?
Yeah, money was made. Malcolm put a lot of it into the Great Rock And Roll Swindle movie where it should have gone into our pockets. Malcolm was dodgy but dodgy in a good way
How do John Lydon and Iggy Pop compare as frontmen? You’ve played with both.
I used to like writing with Iggy Pop, he’s fun. Johnny is a bit difficult but I’m not taking anything away from Rotten, back in the day he was The Man. He looked great, wrote fantastic lyrics as a 19-year-old – no one has written songs like Anarchy in The UK and God Save The Queen. You’ve got tip your hat to him. As far as nowadays, I don’t even speak to him.
What did you make of Malcolm and Vivienne Westwood’s son, Joe Corre, burning £5million of punk memorabilia in protest at its ‘commercialisation’?
I see where Joe is coming from but I don’t think people give two shits about a publicity stunt like this. It will be forgotten in a blink of an eye.
Where’s the oddest place you’ve heard a Pistols song?
I dunno. I wonder if The Queen has heard it. I would imagine her grandkids have heard it and said, Listen to this, Grandma. Harry’s the lunatic, right? I bet he’s heard it and played it to his grandma.
Have you heard of the Brex Pistols?
That’s the MPs, right? I don’t really keep up with England other than Brexit. I’ve been living here 35 years. Are they all bad dudes?
It was Nigel Farage and his associates – they called themselves that after meeting Donald Trump.
Never mind the ballots, eh?
Do you take an interest in Trump and what’s going on over there?
Oh, man, it’s a weird one. Everyone thought she [Hillary Clinton] was gonna walk away with it. Everyone is coating him off but I say give him a shot see what he’s like. She was definitely a wrong ‘un. It would have been four more years of the same old shit. You never know, this lunatic might do some good.
Lonely Boy is out now.