Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol by Steve Jones – Review
By Victoria Holdsworth
Lonely Boy starts with an admission from the author: “I’m not going to come out of this whole thing smelling like roses”. Yet without Steve Jones, there would have been no Sex Pistols.
His autobiography paints a grim picture of 70s working class life in London. There are no secrets left unturned in this book, as he lays his entire life bare for all to read. He wants to be honest with the reader, and after the first few chapters – should you make it through the gritty reality that was his early childhood – there is nothing he could tell you that you would not believe.
Born in 1955 to a neglectful single mother, Jones didn’t meet his biological father until he was in his 50s. He did however gain a stepfather. Jones tells of the sexual abuse that he suffered at this man’s hands, and the haunting consequences. From a very young age, he was very much on his own, so he did whatever he could to try and make a better life for himself – even if sometimes those means were not entirely legal.
Eventually Jones was sent to a reform school, in which he actually preferred the confinements. Labelled as dyslexic and/or having ADHD, the author goes on to explain how he was a prolific thief by the time he was 11. Some of the his offences are so brazen they are beyond belief, even by today’s standards. Tales of theft, perversions, predatory sexual behaviour, burglary – even climbing the chimney tower at Battersea power station – all weave into the first three to four chapters of his life story.
His tales of trouble continue, but there are some light moments for him as he grows up. There is a really sweet interlude as he talks about how he wishes Diana Dors was his mum, and how he first got into music and fashion from a young age, all fuelling his imagination for what was to come.
It was his love of these things that eventually led him to Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood, who encouraged him, alongside the many other misfits who flocked to their shop, Let it Rock. This saved him from a potential life of crime spent in remand centres and prison. It is clear the Jones has an enormous affection for McClaren and Westwood, which explains why he stuck with them when the Pistols disbanded, despite McClaren quite clearly robbing him blind.
Whilst this may have been the birth of British punk, the chapters that deal with this part of Jones’s life are page turning gold dust. From life on the Kings Road, through the early years of the Sex Pistols up until his voluntary deportation to New York and then Los Angeles, he tells tales of alcohol, heroin and sex addiction. “This is the good stuff you just don’t get from the guy from Nickelback” says Jones.
The years that followed the Pistols, are somewhat vague for Jones, with no mention of The Professionals, Jones’ most important band in the years immediately following the Sex Pistols’ demise. This might be understandable given the amount of drugs that he had in his system during this time frame. He admits that his memory isn’t what it used to be, seemingly missing huge chunks out of his life, due to blackouts.
One thing he does remember however is all the equipment he stole from Keith Richards, David Bowie and Mott the Hoople. These and other hilarious anecdotes pepper the book, even in the parts when Jones becomes, depressed, a junkie, and then, even more depressingly, an L.A. self-help practitioner into transcendental meditation.
Today, Jones describes himself as “a semi-retired sexual deviant who doesn’t really act out so much anymore” but is completely unapologetic for the life that he has carved out for himself.
Now described as LA’s best loved rock ‘n’ roll punk radio personality, Steve Jones has settled as a self-proclaimed punk statesman and is revered amongst the masses,. However, he hasn’t really ‘spilled all the beans’ especially where Lydon is concerned – but then again, the Sex Pistols were only a small part of his eventful life.
With a refreshing, non-vindictive approach to his past, Jones is revealed as an enthralling, engaging human being. The story is harrowing, hilarious, and often touching, but above all, Lonely Boy is exhilarating and disarmingly life-affirming.
It is one of the best autobiographies I have ever read.
‘Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol’ by Steve Jones is published by Windmill Books, £9.99 paperback