John Lydon calls forthcoming Sex Pistols drama ‘destructive’ and ‘extremely negative’

Anson Boon (left) as John Lydon in the forthcoming TV biopic Pistol (Image credit: MWE/GC Images)

Former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon has spoken out once again to criticise the forthcoming TV biopic based on guitarist Steve Jones’ autobiography Lonely Boy.

“It is so destructive to what the band is,” Lydon says in his statement, “and so I fear that the whole project might be extremely negative.”

Earlier this month, Lydon lost a court case brought by his former bandmates Steve Jones and Paul Cook after he sought to veto the use of any original Sex Pistols music in the drama, Pistol, which is being directed and executive-produced by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle. Lydon's lawyer had claimed the drama portrayed the singer in “a hostile and unflattering light”: the singer had previously called Pistol “disrespectful shit.”

In challenging Lydon’s attempted veto, Jones and Cook argued that the group members had an agreement that decisions over music licensing would be taken on a “majority rule basis”, and claimed they had the support of former bandmate Glen Matlock and the estate of the late Sid Vicious in their claim. In his ruling on August 23, Sir Anthony Mann found that Cook and Jones were entitled to invoke this majority voting rule against the singer, under the terms of a band member agreement (BMA).

A new statement on the singer’s website reads:

“In January this year, days before a worldwide press announcement, John Lydon was told of the proposed use of Sex Pistols recordings in a six part television series based upon a book written by Steve Jones. The project had been years in the making. Despite this, John Lydon was given just a few hours’ notice of what was to be announced.

Understandably, John, as the creative force of the Sex Pistols wanted to know how he was going to be portrayed and his musical works were going to be used to lend credibility to the series. Despite asking for details of the script or screenplay, John still does not know these details.”

“I am the lead singer and songwriter, front man, image, the lot, you name it,” says Lydon. “I put it there. How is that not relevant? It is dumbfounding to me. It is so destructive to what the band is and so I fear that the whole project might be extremely negative.

“How can anyone think that this can proceed without consulting me and deal with my personal life in this, and my issues in this, without any meaningful contact with me before the project is announced to the world. I don’t think there are even words that I can put forward to explain quite how disingenuous this is. As I said in the lyrics of ‘The Order of Death’, This is what you want, this is what you get…”

“John Lydon did not ask for the recent proceedings,” his website statement continues. “He was asked to allow the Sex Pistols works to be used without any prior consultation or involvement in the project. He took a stand on principle for what he sees as the integrity of the Sex Pistols legacy and fought for what he believed and continues to believe was right.

“For more than 23 years the Sex Pistols have operated on the basis of unanimous decision making. The Disney production is the first time that the unanimous approach has been ignored.

“It is disappointing that a High Court judge has decided that John Lydon is bound by an undated agreement signed in 1998, which imposes on the Sex Pistols a majority rule arrangement in place of the unanimous decision making process that has been followed for 23 years. Looking forward, there is great uncertainty about what the majority rule approach might do to water down and distort the true history and legacy of the Sex Pistols. Time will tell.

“Whatever Disney does, it is doing it without John’s involvement or creative approval. John is powerless to prevent any distortion of the true history of the Sex Pistols and whatever results will be at the wish of the majority only.”

Lydon is undertaking a huge UK spoken word tour from September 7 through to November 13.

No transmission date has yet been set for Pistol, which has been adapted for television by writers Craig Pearce (Strictly BallroomThe Great Gatsby) and Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People), who also worked with Boyle on the staging of the theatrical opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics.

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