Steve Jones is an underrated guitarist. Providing the six-string bite of the Sex Pistols, his punchy tone and straightforward riffs influenced scores of guitarists moving forward. One would go as far as to posit that Jones is the most significant member of Sex Pistols because of this factor alone. Not only was he there at its formation and its demise, but without his riffs, the band would never have enjoyed the raucous ride that they did. He gave them their raw power.
Yes, purists will argue that frontman Johnny Rotten and his distinct, ratty voice and unhinged stage presence qualifies him as the group’s defining member, or that original bassist Glen Matlock qualifies for executor because he wrote the majority of their songs. However, these arguments struggle when you put Jones in the picture. He had a massive hand in establishing their musical spirit.
Jones’ legacy as a guitarist cannot be stated enough. The simplicity of his riffs is essentially to blame for the fact that he often gets overlooked. Not a flashy guitarist like the prog-warlocks that punk was revolting against, nor a technically gifted one like some of his peers, but this makes his efforts even more stellar. He managed to craft a tone that would go on to give a voice to angry teenagers everywhere. He took the style of The New York Dolls (and guitar), and repackaged it for the new era.
Jones gave us some of the most iconic riffs in the entirety of punk. It’s crazy to think that without him, there would be no Fugazi, Black Flag, Nirvana or Jesus and the Mary Chain, to name but a few. By proxy, his style lives on in a range of disparate genres, from pop to hardcore.
A self-taught player, Jones is best known for his use of Gibson Les Paul guitars. It is claimed that he’d only been playing for a matter of three months before the first Pistols show — and that the help of amphetamines known as ‘black beauties’ helped him to focus on learning the six-string in such a short space of time. The most iconic guitar he owns is the Gibson Les Paul custom with the sticker, which Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren acquired from Sylvain Sylvain after his brief stint as the manager of The New York Dolls.
It seems as if, that in the early days, equipment had a funny way of finding its way to Jones’ possession. Per an account in the 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury, Jones had stolen equipment from a truck parked behind the historic Hammersmith Odeon, London. This occurred when David Bowie was playing his classic farewell concert as Ziggy Stardust in 1973. According to the documentary and Jones’ other accounts, Jones and a group of friends posed as road-crew members and stole amplifiers, amongst other equipment.
In 2016, on Jonesy’s Jukebox, Jones made his apology to former Bowie drummer Mick Woodmansey, from whom he stole some cymbals, and producer Tony Visconti, who was missing a pair of mics afterwards. It seems as if, no one in the band or their crew even noticed the theft until a while later. Woodmansey explained that he knew bits of gear went missing on the tours but never knew where. Well, Jones provided him with his answer. Nonetheless, we’d wager that Jones and his friends weren’t the only people to steal from Bowie.
Watch Jonesy make his confession below.