It’s customary when celebrating 1977 to focus on its reputation as the year of punk, which of course it was, but its actual impact was way more limited than received wisdom would have us believe.
The impetus that tabloid controversy gave to the Sex Pistols and the movement they had largely spawned was significant, but in terms of actual record sales, the impact of Damned Damned Damned, The Clash, and even Never Mind The Bollocks… Here’s The Sex Pistols was relatively slight.
Here, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones looks but at the year punk broke.
1977: how was it for you?
Well, I guess it appeared on the outside we were having a good time. Yeah, it was exciting.
What were your ambitions for the band going into 1977?
There was no ambitions. I was just having a laugh. Coming from a fucked-up upbringing it was just a perfect outlet for me, which is what I wanted to do as a kid. I remember I was in Banstead Hall, an approved school in the country, and they used to let us watch Top Of The Pops. And seeing Roxy Music for the first time doing Virginia Plain and Hawkwind doing Silver Machine, I knew that that’s what I wanted to be. Not for fame or anything, I was just drawn to music at a very early age.
What’s your best memory of 1977?
One of the best moments is the Bill Grundy incident. That was 1976? Oh, fuck me! See, what do I know? ’77 was when we were doing the album, right? I have fond memories of doing the album. When I was doing Never Mind The Bollocks I put a lot of fucking hours in. I was totally taking it seriously.
How did you feel when the album was initially banned?
We thought, “This is cool.” Because we’re causing such a ruckus for nothing, really. I think Malcolm McLaren deserves more credit than he gets. I know he waffled on about how he did this, that and the other, but he did have a big part in it and I think he needs credit.
What was it like being in the eye of the hurricane?
At first it was very exciting. It just changed the whole game overnight, really. Any band would have cut their right arm off for that to happen to them. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the attention. It all changed really when Sid [Vicious, bassist] joined, for me. That’s when it got weird and dark and not fun. There was an element of fun before Sid joined the band.
What music were you listening to in 1977?
So you were listening to classic rock at the time you were playing in the Pistols?
Yeah, for sure. I used to go home to my flat with a couple of tarts, have the heroin and the coke – the whole rock’n’roll fantasy bit. I was in heaven.
Did you envy the success of bands like Queen or Fleetwood Mac?
Yeah. Who don’t want to be rich? Who don’t want a big flash car? But it weren’t an option for us, because it would have been like, “Oh, you’re a bunch of fuckin’ phonies.”
Did you like any of the other punk bands that were around?
Did you go to many gigs?
I used to frequent [Camden club, now Koko] the Music Machine. It was great. You’d just show up and get laid.
Were drugs a problem back then?
I didn’t have a problem in 1977. I was enjoying myself with the drugs and alcohol. It hadn’t got to a point where it was a drag. By the end of 1977 it was starting to unravel for the Sex Pistols. It wasn’t a good time near the end there. The whole dynamics changed with Sid and that fuckin’ bird [Sid's girlfriend, Nancy Spungen]. It was dark. I can’t think of any other word than that. It was just dark. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was not a fun time for me.
Do you consider the Pistols a great band, or a notorious band?
I think we were a great band, because I think we played great, even in these reunions. I think we’re a great band live. There’s a chemistry thing that happens. Besides all the fuckin’ hype, John’s original lyrics and his vocal style back then, it was totally unique, but still rocked, for sure.
What would the Steve Jones of 1977 think of the Jones of 2012?
He’d probably think he’s a fat, old, pompous cunt. The good thing is I’m not stuck in 1977. I am who I am and I’m fucking proud of who I am and what I’ve made of myself, considering where I’ve come from.
Looking back now, do you think the Sex Pistols changed anything?
Put it this way: what do you think would have happened if we didn’t come along? A lot of people took music and imagery in another direction, and that was because of the Sex Pistols.
Are you happy with your legacy?
I’ve done alright. I live in Beverly Hills. We’ll always be one of those bands where the new generation want to know what was going on at a certain time, like The Doors, The Beatles. Even though we really only had one album, we’ll always be them guys.
This feature originally appeared in Classic Rock 173, in June 2012. Steve Jones' long-running radio show Jonesy's Jukebox is available on 99.5 KLOS in Southern Califiornia and online everywhere (opens in new tab).