"I will deny all knowledge if questioned about this": revisiting the day that a Sex Pistol urinated on Elvis Presley's grave

Steve Jones and Elvis Presley
(Image credit: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage for The Recording Academy | Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Whatever listeners to Steve Jones' much-praised  Jonesy's Jukebox show were expecting when they tuned in to the second episode of the programme in its new daytime slot on Los Angeles classic rock station 95.5 KLOS FM in November 2015, it probably wasn't a breezy anecdote about the former Sex Pistols' guitarist pissing on Elvis' grave. To be fair, Jones' production team clearly weren't expecting this confession either, and even as he enjoyed seeing their panicked expressions in the control booth, Jones considered that it may, perhaps, have been sensible for him to save airing this story for another time. Not that 'sensible' and Steve Jones were ever particularly comfortable bedfellows.

In truth, Jones couldn't be 100 per cent sure that he had relieved himself on The King's final resting place at Graceland as, to quote The Fast Show's Rowley Birkin QC, he was very, very drunk at the time: ""I will deny all knowledge if questioned about this under oath" he says. But by the time The Professionals, his post-Pistols band with Paul Cook, Paul Myers, and Ray McVeigh embarked on their second American tour in the spring of 1982, it was all too clear to all concerned that their race was already run. Their chances of success in the US had been scuppered by bad fortunate and worse judgement: their first American tour, in late 1981, came to a juddering, terrifying stop when Cook, Myers, and McVeigh were injured in a car crash in Minnesota from which they were lucky to escape with their lives, and Cook's subsequent decision to turn down an offer to support old pals The Clash on the basis that Joe Strummer's once band used to support the Pistols was woefully misjudged. His decision not to accompany Steve Jones on a tourist tour of Graceland was a better one.

Given that the chapter in which Jones writes about his visit to Elvis' Memphis home in his autobiography Lonely Boy is titled 'I Pissed On Elvis' Grave', the guitarist is unusually coy as to the specifics. "Let us say hypothetically that such an incident might have taken place, while not making an absolute commitment to the fact that it did," he writes, a wonderful get-out-of-jail card.

"If it had happened, it would probably have been in the daytime," he continues, "and the perpetrator would've definitely have had a drink... The reason I am being so discreet about all this is, first, because I do actually love Elvis, and second, because there is a bit of form when it comes to these liquid offerings of affection and respect from visiting British rock royalty to their American hosts being misunderstood. Remember Ozzy at the Alamo?"

Soberly reflecting on the incident from a distance in Lonely Boy, Jones viewed it as a symbolic act.

"If there's a clearer way of showing that your rock 'n' roll race is kind of run for the moment than (possibly) pissing on the King's lasting resting place, then I for one don't know what it is," he muses. "The way I was going, things could have been a lot worse - at least I didn't shit on it."

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.