LONDON – Former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones said Friday that he dislikes former bandmate John Lydon and hasn’t spoken to him since 2008 but denied that a TV series about the band would make the singer once known as Johnny Rotten look bad.
Jones and drummer Peter Cook are suing Lydon at Britain’s High Court for the right to license the band’s music for the Danny Boyle-directed series “Pistol,” which is based on Jones’ memoir “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol.”
Testifying in the legal dispute among the bandmates, Jones disclosed that he was stung when Lydon’s manager blocked an offer to use the Sex Pistols’ punk anthem “God Save the Queen” in another series, award-winner “The Crown.”
Lydon has slammed the Disney-backed “Pistol” as “disrespectful” and is refusing to grant permission for the songs to be included. He contends that music licenses can’t be granted without his consent, but Jones and Cook say licensing requests can be decided by a majority of band members.
The fractious relationship among the bandmates is at issue in the case. At a hearing on Friday, Lydon’s lawyer, Mark Cunningham, took Jones through extracts from the guitarist's book, including a passage describing Lydon as an “annoying little brat.”
“There’s a lot of praise in the book as well,” Jones said. He denied the lawyer’s suggestion that he resented the prominence and profile of Lydon, the best-known member of the Sex Pistols.
Asked if he dislikes Lydon, Jones said: “I guess so, yes.” He said the two had not spoken since 2008, the year of the band's last reunion tour.
Jones, who appeared as a witness by video link from Los Angeles, said there was nothing unusual about acrimony among bandmates.
“I think there’s a lot of bands who resent each other,” said the musician, who wore a suit, tie and glasses for the court appearance.
Jones said he was “upset” when Lydon's manager scuttled a chance to include “God Save the Queen” in Netflix royal drama “The Crown."
“I was a big fan of the show and excited that our music was going to feature in it, so I was very upset when I found out that John’s manager had blocked it,” Jones said in a written witness statement.
The band’s original bassist, Glen Matlock, and the estate of Matlock’s replacement, Sid Vicious, support the position of Cook and Jones in the court case. Vicious died in 1979 at age 21.
During the court hearing, Jones disputed Lydon’s view that “Pistol” was hostile to him. He said his hope was that Lydon would “get on board with this and have some faith.”
“This is not about slagging anyone off in this TV series at all,” he said. “It isn’t our intention to make him look bad."
Formed in London in 1975, the Sex Pistols energized and scandalized the British music scene with songs such as “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the U.K.” The band split up in 1978 after releasing one album, but surviving members have reunited for several concerts over the years.
“Pistol” is being made for Disney subsidiary FX and is directed by Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
The court case is due to continue next week.