Sex, drugs, and Punk Rock. And then a radio show. And now a memoir.
Steve Jones, former "Sex Pistols" guitarist and host of KLOS's Jonesy's Jukebox has lived through legendary highs and life-threatening lows. His troubled childhood, his turbulent career, and his struggles with addiction are all laid bare in his new memoir, "Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol".
Take Two's Alex Cohen sat down with Steve Jones for look into his epic journey from the streets of London to the radio airwaves.
A fascination with fame from childhood
In the opening chapter, Jones describes following a film actor down the street and the significance fame had to him as a child.
I think it was more about getting out of the dump that I lived in and my rotten upbringing. To me, he represented a different, better life... But looking at him, knowing that he was in the movie, and he literally just walked passed my street which like a real, kind of rough, dodgy neighborhood and it was like Peter Pan.... It could have been anyone who was famous walking by there and I would have follow him. It was almost like I needed to follow him to get away. A metaphor for where I was living in the dump and a horrible upbringing with my horrible stepfather and my mum who really didn't want to have a child. It was like an outlet.
"The guy with the prong"
Before he was a legendary Punk Rock musician and radio host, Steve Jones worked in a sausage factory. He uses sausage making as a metaphor for his life in the music industry. But instead of being the sausage sucked into the works, Jones says he was "the guy with the prong".
From day one, he never took any orders from anyone. We wrote our songs, we got a record deal eventually with EMI. We released one single, Anarchy in the UK. For the first time in maybe forever in Rock and Roll where the tables got turned where we were basically calling the shots. It was revolutionary for a couple of years and then it call kind of fell back into the usual old, you'll do this, you'll do that.
The best times are before you're famous
Instead of the the high of fame, Steve Jones remembers the times before the Sex Pistols reached celebrity most fondly.
The great moments to me are before anyone knows you. You're all together as a team, a gang, whatever you want to call it. You've got nothing to lose. No one knows you. And you create from the purist sense. There's no success. There's no money. And you don't even have any fans at his point. You're turning people into your fans. Driving up and down the M1, playing at working man's clubs, playing at strip clubs, playing at some artsy-fartsy avant-garde party— that to me was the best time. It was so naive and new and fresh. And people's reaction when you'd play. To see people's reactions, it was like, you'd blow people's minds. But then, we all became famous. To me, that was like the beginning of the end.
Steve Jones is no stranger to addiction. Through his life, he faced down a variety of addictive demons. He talks about the complex road to recovery.
Even prior to finding out what drugs and alcohol was, I was addicted to Peeping Toming. It was a fix. And that was normal to steal. I never looked at it as an addiction. Looking back in hindsight, anything that I did prior to drugs and alcohol, I was doing it in the same form where I had to do it every day. It was a buzz. It was like a release inside. It's all the same. Whether it's sex, drugs, shopping, eating. I do it all obsessively. That's just the way my head's wired. I can't do it any other way. It's a lot better these days although food is like the last frontier for me.
Hosting Jonsey's Jukebox
Jonsey's Jukebox started on Indie 101.3 but after the station went of the air in 2009, the critically acclaimed show found a home at KLOS. Steve Jones talks about building the show from its raw origins into what it is today.
I still don't really know what I'm doing to be honest with you. I mean I do... the train wreck's a bit more controlled than it used to be.
One thing I always say when I go to a radio station is, I want to play what I want to play and I want to say what I want to say. That's what I said at Indie. I said it at KLOS. And they kind of let me do it. ‘But we need to put some of our songs on’ and I'm like, no, that's work. This is fun. And that fun has to come across. Otherwise, it doesn't sound like Jonsey's Jukebox. I mean that's basically it.
Quotes edited for clarity