Lonely Boy by Steve Jones review

Artful dodging ex-Pistol’s unflinching autobiography

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Subtitled Tales From A Sex Pistol and co-written with Ben Thompson, Lonely Boy might be eminently readable and engagingly light in tone (narrated as it is in, often hilarious, pub raconteur vernacular), but its content is sometimes surprisingly dark.

Aside from applying his undeniable musical muscle to the scalpel-sharp iconoclastic wit of John Lydon in the Pistols’ enduring blueprint for UK punk, Steve Jones has been a prolific kleptomaniac, an insatiable sex addict, a junkie reduced to touting a stack of stolen Heart promo shots around the streets of NYC’s Alphabet City to fund his next fix: “Filthy fucking vermin, I was.”

So what possible catalyst could motivate a cheeky, inquisitive kid toward an unbroken succession of sordid, self-destructive lifestyle choices? The answer is only depressing in its obviousness. Steve Jones suffered serial sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather from the age of 10. And then there was ‘the nonce in the underpass’. From this point onwards, Steve’s life took a serious nose-dive.

Due to an absentee father, he’d spent his earliest years living in the happy security of his grandparents’ house. But when his mother married and moved Steve in with her new man, nothing would ever be the same again. His education suffered, leaving him barely literate until relatively recently. His constant thieving saw him regularly incarcerated (discovering music, especially The Faces, provided ultimate salvation, but in the short term he tried to get close to his idols by stealing from them – Keith Richards’s crombie, David Bowie’s microphones). There were drugs, multifarious sexual encounters – still incapable of maintaining a ‘normal’ relationship he’s resigned himself to life as a ‘semi-retired sexual deviant’, and then there’s the Pistols.

Thankfully, he hasn’t bothered to check the ‘accepted’ history from Wiki, and just told it as he remembers it. And it’s brilliant. Brutally honest, laugh-out-loud funny, there’s absolutely no old flannel, the unrepentant Jones simply cannot be any more arsed with diplomacy than he can be with glossing over any personal shortcomings.

As Bill Grundy once found, to his cost, Jones maintains an ability to swear to an Olympic standard, and his style of yarn-spinning is utterly captivating.

Perhaps I’ve been biased by a 40-year devotion to the Pistols, but having just turned its final page, Lonely Boy only seems like the best book since The Bible.