Let’s get one thing straight right from the start: rather than pulling his full weight as guitar and vocal frontman, Steve Jones merely strops his strings in a trio of guest star cameos here. This is news that’ll doubtless cause a widespread raising of eyebrows within the global punk community. Not that jukeboxer Jonesy can’t be arsed to tear himself away from LA radio fame, but because the crib-note version of rock history tells us The Professionals were dynamic duo Steve Jones and Paul Cook, rebranded in the wake of the Sex Pistols tsunami, and without the iconic guitarist on board, what’s left? Punk Ringo?
As is often the case, the airbrushing shorthand of rock 101 ill-serves actuality, and any punk specialist worth their salt will tell you The Professionals amounted to way more than a notional post-Pistol whim of Cook and Jones. Among the smack ’n’ mayhem, of which there was much, were a band of no little potential, and their core (Cook, sometimes Jones, stalwart ex-Subway Sect bassist Paul Myers) are back for a second crack. With a little help from their friends.
Upfront, manfully accepting the dual challenge of replicating Jones’s magnetically alluring yob charm and seismic humbucking bollocks, is Tom Spencer, whose fierce, deliberate vocal masculinity occasionally overshoots the runway of mere machismo into the chest-beating Animalistic arena of the Anti Nowhere League, but there’s always room for a choking fug of testosterone in a band fronted briefly by Ray Winstone.
Obviously, adequate though Tom’s riffing is, one all-singing strummer could never serve up the matchless testicular fortitude of Jones and absent wingman Ray McVeigh. So Paul Cook – amenable chap that he is – opened his bulging address book and, with minimal persuasion, coaxed Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, The Cult’s Billy Duffy, ex-Clash Mick Jones, ex-Ant Marco Pirroni and, fresh from working a little live magic, ex-3 Colours Red socialite Chris McCormack, to conjure up a requisitely throbbing scrotum-full of ballsiness.
And they all deliver. In spades. This clearly represents a dream gig for the recruits and one they clearly relish. All tap into their inner Steve Jones, especially the man himself (though Collen shines by staying truest to his signature style) and with Cook and Myers rock solid in the engine room, production crucially tight and material strong, the results are simply spectacular.