Johnny Rotten ‘total dick’, Sex Pistols’ former guitarist tells High Court

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Former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones has told the High Court he thinks Johnny Rotten is “a total dick” in a bitter dispute over the use of the punk band’s songs in an upcoming television series.

Mr Jones and the band’s former drummer Paul Cook are suing the Sex Pistols’ former lead singer, real name John Lydon, to allow their songs to be used in Pistol, which is directed by Danny Boyle and is due to air next year.

The six-part series, which is being made by Disney, is based on a 2016 memoir by Mr Jones called Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.

Mr Jones and Mr Cook argue that, under the terms of a band agreement made in 1998, decisions regarding licensing requests could be determined on a “majority rules basis”.

But Mr Lydon, who has previously told The Sunday Times he thinks the series is the “most disrespectful s*** I’ve ever had to endure”, argues the licences cannot be granted without his consent.

Giving evidence from California on Friday afternoon, Mr Jones was read extracts of his book in which he described Mr Lydon as “the annoying little brat with the great bone structure who’s always asking for more”.

The group Sex Pistols, signing a new recording contract with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace in London, (l/r) Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, bass player Sid Vicious and the group’s manager Malcolm McLaren (Archive/PA)
The group Sex Pistols, signing a new recording contract with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace in London, (l/r) Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, bass player Sid Vicious and the group’s manager Malcolm McLaren (Archive/PA)

Mark Cunningham QC, representing Mr Lydon, put it to Mr Jones that the passage was “evidence of your resenting the prominence of Mr Lydon”.

Mr Jones replied: “I think there’s a lot of bands who resent each other.”

Mr Cunningham asked: “Do you dislike Mr Rotten (Lydon), the annoying little brat?”

Mr Jones said: “I guess so, yes.”

Mr Cunningham then referred to another passage of Mr Jones’ book in which he described Mr Lydon as a “total dick”, before saying that “every now and then he does something you have to commend him for”.

The barrister asked Mr Jones: “Your view of him is that he is a total dick, correct?”

He replied: “Yes.”

The Sex Pistols were formed in 1975 and disbanded in 1978, but have performed live shows together a number of times since then, most recently in 2008.

Mr Jones said in the course of his evidence on Friday that he had not spoken to Mr Lydon since 2008.

He also told the court: “I just want him to get on board with this (the TV show) and have some faith.

“This is not about slagging anyone off in this TV series at all.”

John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) (Yui Mok/PA)
John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Jones also accepted that he was one of the executive producers of Pistol, but added: “I ain’t doing a lot.”

The band’s former guitarist also told the court: “If the shoe was on the other foot, we wouldn’t be in this position right now.

“If there was a TV show that Danny Boyle wanted (Mr Lydon) to do, none of us would have a problem.”

He added: “Mr Lydon is not interested in this TV show, he wants to stop it.”

In his witness statement, Mr Jones said Mr Lydon’s manager “blocked” a 2018 request from the makers of the Netflix TV show The Crown to use the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen in an episode of the series.

“I was a big fan of the show and excited that our music was going to feature in it, so I was very upset when I found out that John’s manager had blocked it,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Lydon is said to have objected to the request to use the song over “historical inaccuracies in the episode in question”, which dealt with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

Mr Jones also said he, Mr Cook and his manager discussed using the band’s “majority rules” agreement to “force through” the song being used in The Crown, but by then “the opportunity had gone”.

Mr Cunningham suggested to Mr Jones that, after that incident, “it was obvious to you that you had to get John (Lydon) sorted out in relation to Pistol – didn’t you see that?”

Mr Jones replied: “No.”

Mr Cunningham also suggested that the existence of TV show was “concealed” from Mr Lydon, which Mr Jones denied.

Edmund Cullen QC, representing Mr Jones and Mr Cook, has previously told the court that his client’s claim is against Mr Lydon alone.

He said in written submissions that original band member Glen Matlock, who was replaced by Sid Vicious in 1977, and the representatives of the estate of Sid Vicious, who died in February 1979, support their position.

The trial will hear live evidence from Mr Jones’ manager Anita Camarata in person at the Rolls Building in London on Monday.

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