"Pistol" tells the story of Steve Jones. With a touch of Showbiz.

LONDON — For Steve Jones, live has always been best. The Sex Pistols guitarist is known for rejecting what he describes as fancy “Beatl...


LONDON — For Steve Jones, live has always been best. The Sex Pistols guitarist is known for rejecting what he describes as fancy “Beatles chords” in favor of a no-frills sound, and for drunken lines on UK prime time television.

This approach is prominent in his 2016 book, “Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol.” In the introduction, he writes, “I won’t get out of this rose smell,” before detailing his late teens’ rampant kleptomania and sex addictions. There are also details of the sexual abuse committed by his stepfather, his descent into addiction after the group’s collapse, and the near-illiteracy that plagued him until well into his adult life. .

The book forms the basis of “Gun,” a six-part series directed by Danny Boyle and arriving Tuesday on FX/Hulu. The show stars Toby Wallace as Jones and Anson Boon as Sex Pistols lead singer John Lydon, known as Johnny Rotten.

In the series, the tensions are not lacking between the exceptional and the ordinary, and dramatic license often trumps fidelity to Jones’ experience. Preparations were strained too with Lydon lose a case to the rest of the band about using the Pistols’ music in the show.

In a recent phone interview, Jones opened up about what he would do if he met Lydon, how his story was changed to fit a TV format, and the impact of band manager Malcolm McLaren. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What prompted you to write the memoir?

There was just a lot of stuff I wanted out, even the dodgy stuff. It was weird at first, but I got so much feedback – from men, young men, who went through a lot of similar trauma as kids. I didn’t know that this sort of thing happened often. Most guys don’t tell anyone, they take it to their grave, and it’s very unhealthy to do that. You can’t take this stuff with you, you have to move on.

In the book, you say you didn’t mind playing second fiddle to Lydon, but when Sid Vicious joined the Pistols, you played third fiddle. How does it feel to be the dominant voice in “Pistol” now?

I mean, it’s okay. I’m a team player, I don’t really like being the center of attention. I’d rather play guitar than sing, I’ve always had that approach. I’m not too fond of all the spotlight at this stage of the game, at 66. But it is what it is.

But surely it was a consideration when Danny Boyle approached you, that you would be put in the spotlight?

Yes of course. But Boyle liked that it came from my perspective. He said I was like the Sex Pistols engine room and liked coming from that angle as opposed to the obvious angle.

Through Lydon’s eyes?

Exactly. That’s normally how it goes. I had the chance to tell my story, based on my book. But you have to remember that this is not a documentary. It is a series in six episodes.

“Lonely Boy” is a fairly candid tale that asks for little forgiveness. How much do you think that comes across in “Pistol”?

Like I said, it’s based on my book. You have to show it a little, you have to make it interesting – even the relationship between me and Chrissie Hynde, “the love interest”. She looked at it the other day, and she was surprised: she said, “I didn’t know I was like this.”

“Gun” presents this as a recurring relationship. Is that how it happened?

I knew Chrissie, we hung out a bit at first, she wanted to be a musician, and I kind of rejected her, so that’s totally true. But she was shocked when she saw him last week.

But I think it’s a good story. Even though it wasn’t that long, my relationship with her, I just think the way it’s written makes it interesting. If you’re a train spotter, you’re going to hate this, because it’s not in the timeline, but whatever.

Another unexpected narrative is how Malcolm McLaren (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) are introduced as parental figures. What was your relationship with them both?

They had a flat in Clapham, and I used to go there and stay there. They had Ben and Joe [Westwood’s children], but Ben didn’t stay long, so I slept in one of the bunk beds with Joe. I was just hanging out with them at Cranks, the vegetarian restaurant on Carnaby Street. I used to drive Malcolm to tailors in the East End because he couldn’t drive.

[Meeting them] was a real turning point for me, and that’s where my loyalty lay. Malcolm showed me another side of life – this whole avant-garde Chelsea ‘toffs’ scene. And I loved it. I wasn’t going well in the direction I was going, so I’m still grateful to him and Viv for that. Even if you couldn’t trust him, I didn’t care.

Early in your relationship, McLaren helped you avoid jail time. Paying off that debt seems to justify many of your actions in “Pistol.” Has it taken a toll on your relationship?

That was just part of it. In fact, I liked hanging out with him. One minute he was talking like a toff, and the next like a cop. In all honesty, he really made it all happen, and he doesn’t get enough credit for it. I don’t think it would have happened without him.

Did it bother you that Lydon didn’t want to be involved in “Pistol”?

We wanted him to be involved. It would have been nice if he had been on board. If the shoe was on the other foot, we would all have been thrilled, if it had been his book and Danny Boyle wanted to do something similar. At this stage of the game, we are adults, I do not know why he is not interested. But it’s normal for his personality that he doesn’t want to be involved. Maybe he’ll watch it secretly and laugh.

Does the “gun” broke the camel’s back in your relationship with Lydon?

I don’t know, I didn’t think about it. It’s not like we’re hanging out anyway. I live in LA, he lives in LA, I’ve been here 35 years, and he came right after me, and we never wanted to date. The last time I saw him was in 2008, when we did a lot of European gigs. We don’t need to date, that’s fine with me, we don’t need to be friends. But I have respect for him, absolutely.

What would you do if you met him in stores?

I would probably run and hide behind the baked beans.

Danny Boyle said “Gun” imagine “entering the world of ‘The Crown’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ with your friends and shouting your songs and your fury at all they stand for.” When did you realize you had the power to make things happen?

The Grundy thing [a notorious interview of the Sex Pistols by Bill Grundy on British TV in 1976] took him to another sphere. The power came from having a tag, then giving us the boot, getting a tag, getting the boot back. We were calling him on our terms, which was unheard of at the time.

The Grundy case was the beginning of the end. As for making more music, the creative side was out the window. The way I looked at it, then it became the leather jacket brigade everywhere. It became mainstream, it lost its originality. Before Grundy, you had the Clash, the Buzzcocks, a bunch of bands that were very creative in their own way.

The end of “Pistol” ties things together pretty neatly. Are you satisfied with the end of the series?

I liked the way it ended. There were a few different endings that I didn’t like; [this one] left you kind of feel good instead of not being corny about it.

What were the other endings?

There was one where the actors were asked about their experiences, and one of those “Where are they now?” kind of endings, which was horrible to be honest with you. I’m so glad Danny dropped that one.

This, however, leaves out the third part of your book, the fallout of the Pistols and your rather tragic personal consequences. Did you agree with that?

It could have continued, but it would have started to get boring afterwards. You don’t want to fall asleep listening to what I did after the Pistols.

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Newsrust - US Top News: "Pistol" tells the story of Steve Jones. With a touch of Showbiz.
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