Their mission was to “destroy” anything and everything in their path.
Along the way, the Sex Pistols—Steve Jones, Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, Glen Matlock, and later, Sid Vicious—revolutionized rock and roll, stripping it down to its most primal and guttural elements and injecting rage and disharmony and purpose, consequently inspiring entire generations of future hellraisers and mutant musical genres.
Formed in London in 1975 from the mad visions of Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols didn’t just rewrite musical history, they burned it down and spawned, kicking and screaming, an entirely new breed that sought to tear down and decimate any and all of the establishment and challenge pretty much any and all societal norms. This bastard hybrid was called punk rock.
They did this in merely two and a half years and with only one album, 1977’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, though its four singles—“Anarchy in the U.K.,” “God Save the Queen,” “Pretty Vacant” and “Holidays in the Sun”—might have well been musical atomic bombs, the former two perceived as direct attacks to the command of the English Crown itself.
The Sex Pistols—with Rotten on vocals, Jones on guitar, Cook on drums and Matlock, later replaced by Vicious, on bass—became synonymous with chaos and controversy. Gigs that weren’t outright banned ended in absolute mayhem. So did pretty much any of their public appearances. Their songs ignited outcry, sparked radio blackouts, and literally made the band a group of outlaws.
By 1979 the Sex Pistols were broken up—Rotten infamously announcing the band’s breakup in a newspaper article in January 1978—and Sid Vicious was dead of a heroin overdose shortly after being released from Rikers Island on charges he’d killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen at the Chelsea Hotel the previous year.
Steve Jones, the Sex Pistols’ legendary guitarist, has told interviewers he should be dead, too, and the band’s insane lightning bolt of an existence is testament to that (it’s a miracle any of them survived, actually).
The host of an incredible rock radio show called “Jonesy’s Jukebox,” on 95.5 KLOS out of Los Angeles, this punk pioneer has recently penned a book chronicling some of the band’s countless exploits, titled Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, and its associated tour is an opportunity for fans of any musical genre to hear some of these priceless tales from the mouth of one of punk’s original fire-starters.
Here’s a quick one from Lonely Boy… about when Jones, posing as a roadie, stole a vanload of gear from David Bowie following a Ziggy Stardust gig at the Hammersmith Odeon:
I’m not sure which of the two closing nights I struck on… Either way, after the gig, I had my minivan outside and I just went in and got as much stuff off the stage as I could fit in the back: Trevor Bolder’s Sun bass amp was one of my best trophies, as well as a few cymbals and this little Electro Voice microphone that still had a smudge of Bowie’s lipstick on it.
Bizarrely, his January 18 appearance at Huntington’s Book Revue falls on the exact date, 39 years ago, that Rotten announced the band’s demise.
Legendary Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones will be signing copies of Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, on January 18 at 7 p.m. For more information, and future guests, visit bookrevue.com The event is Free with purchase of book.