The Sex Pistols have always openly discussed that their main reason for reuniting was for the financial package on offer, rather than a desperate want to share the stage with one another again. Each surviving member of the band continually managed their fractious relationships, and the animosity between them has only soared since their split.
John Lydon has made his name on being a difficult customer, and his bandmates weren’t excluded from his hostile wrath. Lydon’s authenticity is what made him become the poster boy for a pissed-off generation. Still, the singer has never had an off switch, which understandably makes him incredibly challenging company.
There was an uncomfortable power dynamic problem as soon as Lydon joined the band. He wasn’t a founder of the group, but when he became their uncompromising lead singer, he asserted control, which was much to the irritation of guitarist Steve Jones, who was never on the same wavelength.
While the right amount of money could always persuade the group to reform once again, it does seem unlikely, especially after their confrontational lawsuit last year, one cooked up by Jones and drummer Paul Cook against Lydon.
The battle arrived after Lydon attempted to veto Danny Boyle‘s ability to use music by the Sex Pistols in an upcoming series about the band, and their true feelings about each other all unravelled in front of the court. The singer’s attempt to resolve the situation wasn’t helped by his appearance on Good Morning Britain, where he called his former bandmates “filthy liars”.
In 2016, Jones released his tell-all autobiography entitled Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol, and he was forced to defend comments he made about Lydon under oath. Mark Cunningham QC, who represented Lydon, asked Jones if he still believed the singer was a “total dick” and an “annoying little brat”, to which the guitarist replied, “I guess so, yes”.
Elsewhere in the book, Jones recounted how there was “a bit of antagonism between me and [Lydon] from the off”. In truth, the Sex Pistols aren’t an anomaly in this case and as he said himself in court, “There’s a lot of bands who resent each other”.
Of course, it wouldn’t have suited their image if they were this functioning machine. Their flaws only made people further believe in The Sex Pistols. There was a sense of inevitability about the band’s downfall, and nobody was surprised when they spectacularly capitulated.
Their final lacklustre reunion in 2008 was the final nail in the coffin for Jones. He only agreed to take part in the run on the strict condition that the time he spent with Lydon would be minimal. However, it is much easier to stay away from one another in theory than in reality. He later described Lydon as a “nightmare” throughout the tour. The guitarist even contemplated faking an injury during their set at the Isle of Wight Festival, which he planned would rule him out of the other dates.
Although they are on different pages as people, their dysfunctional formula worked, and they changed the tide of culture together. As much as Jones doesn’t like Lydon as a person, that doesn’t take anything away from his involvement in making The Sex Pistols imperial, and even the guitarist heralds him as “one of the greatest lead singers of all time”.