The guitarist from the iconic band the Sex Pistols joins us to discuss his recent memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol.
Guitarist Steve Jones
Tavis: Pleased to welcome Steve Jones to this program. The rock legend is the cofounder of the Sex Pistols that is now telling his story finally in a new memoir. It’s called “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol”. Mr. Jones, an honor to have you on this program, sir.
Steve Jones: Thanks for having us.
Tavis: You and I were just discussing a bit before we came on the air. It is a bit of–you know, everybody says it–but it is true, I think, in your case when one reads your book that music really saved your life. You were getting into a lot of trouble as a kid.
Jones: Yeah, and that saved my life too. You know, I had a horrible stepfather. Can I say it on the air? He fiddled me? He fiddled me one time, but it was enough to kind of spin me out. And after that happened, I would just be addicted to stealing, peeping tomming, whatever it was, and that was my mechanism of dealing with that, you know.
Then, of course, I was always into music. Music was a big thing and then, you know, drugs and alcohol. But I was constantly–not that that was the main reason that I did that, but it definitely steered me and I didn’t feel safe. So I just wanted to go every day to kind of cover up the pain. The way I did that was from stealing. It wasn’t even about stuff. It was about just going on a mission every day.
You know, the thought of like going in the park and looking at some ducks didn’t appeal. I had to do something and that was the way I went really all through my life until I got clean and sober, that drive to fix in some form or another.
Tavis: The music did what for you? When you listen to it? When you play it? Music is what for you?
Jones: Well, it’s everything. I mean, regardless of my upbringing, I have that gene where I love music and I love good music, I think what’s good music. One of the big sons–and it was all genres too.
Tavis: Sure, sure.
Jones: You know, when I was 10, I was at a Fun Fair and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” was playing and I was obsessed with it. There was something about the sound. I’m like 10 years old and I just sat, you know, in a Fun Fair, one of them rides hoping that it was going to be playing around. I wait there three hours to want to hear that song again. It never did and it closed.
But the fact that I was that obsessed with various songs and, like I said, it didn’t have to be any genre. It was what I considered classy music, you know.
Tavis: When you say good music, I hear you and that wasn’t lost on me, Steve. When you say you listen to and like good music, at least good music as you see it, what’s good music for you? My friend, Quincy Jones, always says, “There are only two types of music, good and bad.” But what’s good for you?
Jones: Well, everyone’s got their–you know, music’s music. Maybe there isn’t good and bad. It’s whatever appeals to you, you know, but there’s snobbery in music. When some people like something, I’m like, “That is terrible”, you know. But for me growing up as a kid, I was very into Ska, which was called Bluebeat at the time.
I was a skinhead when I was 12 years old, not the later ones. These are ones–I used to have a lot of friends and we all used to listen to Ska, Motown. That was the stuff I used to listen to. Then when I got into my teens, I got into Glam Rock like David Bowie and Rod Stewart and The Faces.
That was like my big inspiration all time. When you’re 14, you know, you’re very–what you call it–that kind of sets the stage for stuff that I would like. Kind of like was the next step was what punk was. I couldn’t play, you know, and I thought I was playing like David Bowie.
Tavis: In your mind, you were [laugh].
Jones: In my mind, I was [laugh]. But what came out was kind of like…
Tavis: Yeah, it’s kind of like, yeah [laugh]. Well, you know what? You can’t diss what you did because this album is 40 years old., I should mention this LP belongs to my director, Jonathan X. He’s had it, obviously, for a long time.
This album is 40 years old and what’s amazing about this is it is the only album you fans know that the Sex Pistols ever did. And it only took this one album to then get them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So I ask, Mr. Jones, how does one do one record and end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Jones: I have no idea. I have no idea. You know, we didn’t plan–nothing was planned when you’re 19 and stupid. You don’t know what you’re doing. But we knew what we were doing as far as what we wanted to convey. You know, you never know. You never know what you’re doing. Then next week after, anything, anything can happen.
Tavis: 40 years later, though, you may have not known what you were doing then, but, obviously, it worked and people loved it and still love it 40 years later. So you might not have known what you were doing then, Steve, but when you hear this now, 40 years later, what do you hear? Were you too hard on yourself then?
Jones: I appreciate that it’s a good album and we spent a lot of time on it. That was like my best period in the band was recording that album. It wasn’t doing shows. You know, we picked a really good record producer because punk, a lot of people thought you just go in the studio and go blah-blah and it’s done, but we didn’t.
We spent a lot of time to get that right. And the producer, Chris Thomas, who was a well-known producer at the time, spent a lot of time with me. I’d only been playing like a year. I was limited, but we kind of pulled it off.
Tavis: Well, you did more than pull it off because you’d only been playing a year when you did this album and yet you went on to become a good enough guitarist. The Rolling Stone lists you as one of the 100 best guitarists of all time. So I’d say you turned the corner at some point.
Jones: 97, I just got in the door [laugh].
Tavis: But you made the list, man. You made the list.
Jones: I said, “If I’m 101, no one would know.”
Tavis: If you’re 101, nobody would know [laugh]. You made the list. That’s a huge honor, huge honor. What made you decide at this point–I suspect there’s something symbiotic about this being 40 years old and you finally decide to open up.
But why open up at this point, number one, Steve? And number two, I’m glad you did because there’s no reason to do it if you’re not going to be, but why be so honest, so transparent?
Jones: That’s who I am. I’m always that guy, the honest guy, you know, and I don’t really like hiding behind–it’s too much stuff in the world where it’s hiding behind, not the truth. And I think it’s refreshing to really just let it all out.
I mean, you might alienate some people. They might not like you the same when they find out stuff about you, but for me, it’s the only way to go. Truth is the only way, whether it’s right or wrong.
Tavis: As an adult, and you detail it so beautifully in the book, so earnestly, how did you survive the lonely times? How do you survive those lonely boy times?
Jones: Well, I still have it. I’m still lonely. You know, I have moments, but I’m terrible with relationships. So I prefer just to keep by myself, you know. I can’t have relationships.
Tavis: Have you figured out why?
Jones: Man, I like my stuff in order. I don’t like people moving my stuff around. You’re a Virgo. You know that.
Tavis: Yeah. My mom’s over there in the corner laughing, I’m sure. She’s visiting today and she knows me so well. So I’m sure she’s laughing when you said that. Don’t touch my stuff. I like my stuff in a certain order.
Jones: Plus, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with relationships and having kids, but most of my friends or most people I know about, they get married, they have kids, they break up and it’s a nightmare, you know. So I prefer–it’s not that I prefer to be alone. I don’t really have the option because as soon as I have a relationship or I get feelings for someone, the little light switches off and it’s like it’s over.
Tavis: So what brings you joy? Where do you find the joy in your life?
Jones: I like nature. I like being in nature a lot. That’s what I’m more attracted to these days, being good to other people. I never used to be that. You know, kind of helping others gives me more joy. Helping, you know, younger people, not opportunist, but just scenarios, you see. Just be nice to someone. I get off on that. That kind of keeps me going.
Tavis: You still growing? You still learning?
Jones: Yeah, yeah.
Tavis: You enjoying the radio gig?
Tavis: You got a lot of fans, man. You got a lot of fans on that radio program.
Jones: It’s doing all right.
Tavis: No, you’re doing better than all right, brother. You are doing better than all right. His name, of course, is Steve Jones. He’s finally opening up and telling his story 40 years later, 40 years after this one album from the Sex Pistols, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”, got them in the Hall of Fame.
His book is called–there you see it on the screen–“Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol”. Steve Jones, good to have you on the program, sir, and thank you for being so open and honest.
Jones: All right, mate. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
Tavis: All right, mate. That’s our show for tonight…
Jones: I love the way you say bollocks.
Tavis: You like that?
Jones: Yeah, you say it good.
Tavis: I try to. I’ve been practicing that for a few days. That’s our show for tonight [laugh]. Goodnight from L.A., thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.
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