The Sex Pistols' straight talking guitarist

Steve Jones is the straight talking guitarist for The Sex Pistols. When he talks, you listen.

Our album couldn’t be like what people think: ‘Oh, you just go in and go crash-bang-wallop and that’s what punk’s all about’. We never looked at it that way, it was all about making it sound good. Like, if you listen to the first Clash album, to me, even though the songs are good, the drums sound like a packet of crisps, because they used the guy who was their sound guy who went on the road, who’d never ever recorded anything. And I get it - there’s nothing wrong with that - but unfortunately then you get someone who’s inexperienced and it doesn’t sound that great. We picked a proper producer - Chris Thomas, who has done a lot of great, mainstream records. It was important to get the right guy.

Record labels are just banks now, really. They basically just give you some money, you deliver something, and they try and sell it; they give you money and they try and make it back. Some people are more creative than others, but they’re just banks. My philosophy is you get as much dough as you can out of them.

Of course image is important; you’ve gotta look at something. Can you imagine Elvis Presley if he didn’t look the way he did when he was sixteen/seventeen, and he just looked like some old Joe in a pair of jeans? It wouldn’t have been the same. We were always image conscious - we weren’t the normal kids that you saw after the glam thing. Me and Cooky started dressing different, and when we first met John he looked the same. We just looked like we all fit together. None of us had to do any major overhauls to all look like each other.

You’ve gotta have an ego if you’re going to get on a stage and play music. You can’t be some little mouse up there. You’ve gotta have some bravado otherwise it won’t work. Of course people get out of control. That’s where we suffered, because it happened so quickly. I didn’t know how to handle it, and my first instinct was to run away.

Malcolm McLaren wasn’t a good manager as far as our finances go. He was managing himself in that department. It was our own fault, only because we didn’t think of getting our own lawyer - we used his lawyer. So my advice to anyone out there is don’t sign anything and get your own lawyer. And don’t sign anything without a lawyer looking at it - that’s where a lot of young people mess up because they’re eager to get success and they just sign anything, which is a mistake.

Just be aware. There’s a lot of bullshiters out there. And if you have any talent, they’ll try and get on your coattails and take advantage of it. Just have your guard up, and don’t think anyone is doing a favour for you. People don’t do favours for you unless they want something.

‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ 35th anniversary super deluxe boxset is out now.

Interview: Simon Harper


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