In October, it will be 40 years since the Sex Pistols released its landmark album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. The release was a watershed moment in U.K. punk, and for many the album became the template for which all future punk would be defined. Its creators have lived for years in infamy, and some have even lasted to tell the tale. We’ve heard from original bassist Glen Matlock in I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol, which was released in the ’90s and subsequently reissued and updated. John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) has released two books, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs and, more recently, Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored. Drummer Paul Cook has not published a memoir and, of course, Sid Vicious met an untimely end back in 1979. But until now we have not heard from Steve Jones.
Jones hosts his own radio program, Jonesy’s Jukebox in Los Angeles, and has shared some stories through that medium. But he has not compiled his life story until now. With Lonely Boy, Jones tells the entirety of his tale from childhood to the present. His Sex Pistols years are chronicled but are not given any more or less space than anything else. Lonely Boy is the complete autobiography: unfailingly honest, presented warts and all.
What makes Lonely Boy special is its emphasis on Jones’ early years, with a window into what led him to form the Sex Pistols. He digs deep into his past, unearthing the effects of abuse and a broken family. Jones is introspective and matter-of-fact about his early years, not using his hardships as an excuse, but rather letting them provide a context for his later choices. Music captivated him from an early age, when he loved Roxy Music, the New York Dolls, and, of all people, Rod Stewart. He details a compulsion to steal that started young and continued further into his later life than he’d probably wish to admit.
Jones frames his time with the Sex Pistols as a crash-and-burn sort of endeavor. But in presenting the band’s history, he effectively demystifies them. The band, which for so many years has lived largely in lore, is humanized here. We get to see the people behind the group, the struggles that came with becoming a symbol for punk youth, and the effects of having to live up to that image.
From the Sex Pistols, Jones spirals into addiction. But his years after the band are not devoid of interesting notes. For those who might not have kept up with Jones’ post-Pistols exploits, he discusses later musical highlights like his work with Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, and lowlights like an unfortunate incident at Elvis’ grave. After a hazy stretch of years, Jones gets clean, 13 years to the date after Never Mind The Bollocks was released.
Lonely Boy is an eminently readable autobiography. Jones holds nothing back, his scars on display for all to see. Where his memory fails, he is honest about it. Where multiple viewpoints can be had, he is sure to make clear that his remembrance is his own and presented as such. Sex Pistols fan or not, Lonely Boy is an entertaining read that leaves no stone unturned.