photo & text by nacrowe
what i found most compelling about LONELY BOY: TALES FROM A SEX PISTOL (DA CAPO, 2017) by legendary SEX PISTOLS guitarist and punk icon STEVE JONES, was not his rehashing of his libido or knack for stealing (although both are quite impressive) or even his heroin abuse and long arduous battle thereafter to attain his sobriety, it was his dispassionate dispelling of the mythology surrounding PUNK ROCK that caught my imagination.
PUNK ROCK is a unique genre in that despite its reputation for being anti-establishment and for breaking rules and crossing lines, it is actually quite conservative. hearing him JONES tell the story of how the SEX PISTOLS got on and by extension PUNK ROCK as a whole is beyond interesting and is eerily reminiscent of the conceit behind LIFE OF BRIAN by MONTY PYTHON. that film almost exclusively is an examination of the power and evolution of ritual. JONES at times is almost gleeful in disparaging PUNK orthodoxy relative to notions of the DIY ETHIC, anti-commercialism, being "in it" for the music and not women, not signing to major labels, etc. for him that is all bullshit that was created by outsiders. outsiders being rock critics at BRITISH publications and fans that followed them post GRUNDY INTERVIEW and post-notoriety. the rituals of "lobbing" and "pogo-ing" and the fashion aspect of it where all stuff that got ahead of the bad and took on a life of its own which was separate from their initial intent, which was largely an insular matter.
its hard to think of a more long-lasting cultural phenomenon than PUNK ROCK. its ethos has infiltrate every youth movement since. for me it is compelling that JONES isnt afraid of showcasing what a lout he was as a youth and how his choices then wouldnt jove with modern notions of what the genre is supposed to exhibit. and why should he?
its also important to look at his womanizing, drug abuse and general laddish behavior in context given his terrible upbringing and sexual abuse by his stepfather growing up. by no means does this excuse his behavior, but i can sympathize with its impact on JONES' psyche and how it contributed to his worldview from a formative youth onward. sadly this type of event is not uncommon. i commend him for being so honest about such a touchy subject as child sexual abuse, took really courage and i respect him for that. this biography is largely a telling of how that damage informed his life and creative output. again, what bravery.
when i see the SEX PISTOLS now in hindsight given all that has passed since then, i interpret their music as a primal scream against that hierarchy and the underbelly rising to the top despite society's (and the music industry's) best efforts to the contrary. the fact that their sound and image was co-opted, sanitized, repackaged and market thereafter is only a testament to its lasting cultural potency.
this is a book well worth looking into if you are interested in PUNK ROCK, POST-PUNK or ENGLAND under MARGARET THATCHER. could not recommend it more strongly.