I grew up during a shit era of music where all that was on offer was nu-metal, boy/girl bands or Eminem. When I was 15 I bought a ‘Punk’ edition of NME or some-such mainstream music magazine and down the rabbit hole I went. Never Mind the Bollocks was the first punk album I ever brought and I completely fell in love with their music and Johnny Rotten.
But there’s more to the Sex Pistols than Rotten and Vicious. I can’t talk, I only followed Lydon’s post-Pistol career. I loved his books and am a huge PiL fan. Apart from knowing Steve Jones as the Sex Pistols guitarist, the only other place I ever saw him was in the TV series Californication (Seasons Six & Seven). I loved his character in the show and wondered what his life post-Pistols was like. Then I kind of forgot about him until I saw this book was due to be published.
Rotten and Vicious have always been the most notorious members of the band, but as Jones says in the book, there really would be no band if it weren’t for certain events in his life. Although the book is about the Sex Pistols, it’s also about a boy growing up during a shitty period in England with a shitty upbringing and finding his escape in music. As well as how one copes with coming down from the high of being in one of the world’s most controversial and important bands.
We all want to hear the stories of the sex, drugs and rock n roll, but I find myself far more interested in a person’s back-story and their life after fame. And this book delivered more than I was expecting in the way of personal insight.
Lonely Boy is essentially about Jones’ childhood, life in Britain, and his descent into crime and peeping tom compulsions. Jones also covers some tough issues of abuse and talks about how this really changed his life and set him on a bad path. In a way he reminds me a lot of Henry Rollins. Both suffered abuse at the hands of others, had divorce/absent fathers and are both incapable of having long term relationships. I thought this was going to be a “try and top this crazy thing” type of book so when Steve analyses himself and the choices he has made and the situations that lead him there, even though I haven’t lived a single day of excess to the extent that he has, I found myself considering my own experiences, and how listening to music was a relief and comfort for me. You don’t even need to know who he is or what his music sounds like to read this book. It’s likable purely on the level of one human baring their soul to another and the universal power of music.
The book isn’t a tell-all gossip-fest nor a vehicle for Jones to assassinate Rotten’s character, of course there’s digs here and there, as there would be when such egos are involved. He also talks fondly of McClaren who was a type of father figure to Jones who helped give him a hand up when he was homeless. If my review is making you feel like this is going to be tales of emo-ness and self-discovery, then fear not! There’s lots of tales of decadence and excess but always the gentlemen, Jones only names those who are dead.
A far greater read than I expected. I read it in about 9 hours and could not put the damn thing down. I also couldn’t help read the entire book in Steve’s accent too. I like to use the line “you fucking rotter!”, so am sure the audio version will be a blast. Highly recommended for fans of the Pistols and celebrity memoirs/music in general.