The Upshot: A rock memoir joins the crowded Pistols and punk shelf, and it was well worth the wait.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
When those graying punk rockers raise their fists at younger bands and scold them for selling out, they always point to the late ‘70s genre founders, bands like The Clash, The Damned, The Buzzcocks and inevitably, The Sex Pistols, to make their point. They talk about punk rock as the great equalizer – where there was no separation of fans from bands; anyone could play punk music regardless of skill level and they didn’t need big money record deals to do so. They lived, as the argument goes, just to play their form of loud, sloppy, screw-the-man rock to like-minded listeners and that, my friend, is what mattered.
Those arguments have been trotted out time and time again over the past four decades, so it’s even more gratifying to hear Steve Jones – guitarist and co-founder of The Sex Pistols, a giant in the world of British Punk Rock – pretty much address those arguments with a snarled “fuck off” in Lonely Boy, his memoir. Tackling those two fallacies about halfway into his book, there was no pride in playing sloppy (though he does admit throughout that the Pistol’s second bassist, Sid Vicious, could barely hold his bass, let alone play it). As any student of Never Mind the Bollocks will tell you, Jones was a great guitar player (and thanks to speed he spent hour upon hour practicing); and like his longtime friend and fellow bandmate, drummer Paul Cook, he put a lot of effort into writing and playing the music.
He also bristles at the assumption that selling out is bad. If someone is willing to pay you a lot of money to play your music, take it! As he describes throughout the book, he, Cook and others in the band grew up poor and didn’t plan to stay that way.
Lonely Boy is a fascinating read, in part because Jones is a brilliant story-teller, but also because he’s got plenty of stories to tell. He has no problem delving into personal demons, like his long battle with drugs and in frank, matter-of-fact terms talks about an incident of sexual abuse from his stepfather. Though hard to read, Jones chalks it up to just an act by an old pervert that didn’t scar him.
In lighter tones, Jones also details the long list of famous musicians he stole from when he was still an unknown with a penchant for kleptomania. Instruments were a big target for Jonesy and he showed no mercy, even to the bands he was into the most growing up, taking, by his own admission, a guitar off of Mott The Hoople’s Ariel Bender and one off a member of 10 cc’s, a bass amp from David Bowie’s band, cymbals from Woody Woodmansy (also with Bowie’s band) and a leather jacket from Keith Richards – though in Jones’ defense, he believes Richards may have nicked the jacket from Mick Jagger first.
As anyone who’s listened to Jones long-running radio show (Jonesy’s Jukebox) knows, he can be wildly entertaining. It should come as no surprise then that his memoir is just as compelling. It’s been a long time coming, considering how many books have been devoted to Jones and his former bandmates over the years, but Lonely Boy was well worth the wait.