Even though most people know him for his affable demeanour, Steve Jones is also a highly accomplished musician. With the bite of his guitar, he provided Sex Pistols with the muscle necessary to rise to become the band of a generation. His gritty tone and no-nonsense riffs have influenced countless subsequent guitarists, and his place in the pantheon of rock cannot be questioned.
You could even go as far as to say that Jones was the group’s most significant member because of his guitar-playing quality. He was there at the band’s formation, before the days of Johnny Rotten, and was there at its demise, and without his riffs, Sex Pistols would not have been the nihilistic behemoth that polarised society so greatly. In many ways, he was Iggy and The Stooges’ Raw Power personified, and his licks are stellar.
Yes, purists will argue that frontman Johnny Rotten and his distinct persona certifies him as the group’s defining member, or original bassist Glen Matlock qualifies for the top spot because he penned the majority of their songs. However, these arguments flounder when you put Jones in the picture. He had a massive hand in establishing their unwavering musical spirit.
Jones gave us some of the most iconic riffs in the entirety of punk. It’s genuinely remarkable to heed that without him, there would be no Fugazi, Black Flag, Nirvana or even Jesus and the Mary Chain, and these are just a handful. By proxy, his style lives on in a range of disparate genres, from pop to hardcore. From Olivia Rodrigo to Chubby and the Gang, Jones’ influence permeates the contemporary culture, a testament to the quality of his work.
Another notable facet of Jones’ career is that his extra-musical life was like no other. He has an important story to tell, and his book, Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand one of punk’s most complex figures more comprehensively. Whether it be the tales of him stealing from David Bowie’s band or otherwise, Jones always lived life on the edge.
One of the most interesting parts of his career was his relationship with future Pretenders frontwoman, Chrissie Hynde, who has a prominent role in Danny Boyle’s new TV series Pistol, which is based on Jones’ book. Although Hynde is an important character in the series, it greatly exaggerates her role in the story of the Sex Pistols
However, during a new interview on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, Jones revealed that some parts of the TV series are correct, such as the fact that Hynde faced widespread sexism in the punk scene, and that personally, despite that the two engaged in a sexual relationship, he initially overlooked her musical skill.
“We wouldn’t even think about having a woman in the Sex Pistols,” he said. “My purpose was Chrissy. Most of it was literally just sexual. I wasn’t interested in her being a musician. I was just a savage. I just wanted to fuck everything that moved…. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what a great songwriter.”
Possibly influenced by the fact that her peers dismissed her during the days of punk, Jones then claimed that when Hynde watched Pistol at the Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook’s house, she was blown away. Jones explained: “She couldn’t believe how much she was in it.”
Watch the trailer for Pistol below.