Guitar World August 1996

Steve Jones's Les Paul Custom

By Alan Di Perna

Steve JonesSteve Jones

Back in the Middle Ages, hucksters went around Europe selling pieces of "the True Cross" to pious suckers. It's been said that if all these pieces were ever brought together in the one place, there'd be enough wood to rebuild Noah's Ark. It's much the same story, apparently, with the Seventies Les Paul that Steve Jones played in the Sex Pistols, which can be heard on the epochal Never Mind the Bollocks album.

"So many people think they've got the original one," says Pistols vocalist Johnny Rotten, "including P.I.L. guitarist John McGeoch. I haven't got the heart to tell him."

"In fact," Jones grins, I think the one you actually had in your magazine ["Collectors Choice," March '92] …"

Oh, no! A forgery?

"Yeah," Jones shrugs. "I sold it to some guy in Texas. I said, 'Yeah man, it's the original. I'll sell it to you real cheap.'"

But the one depicted here, Jones insists, is the real McCoy. Somehow this is less than one hundred percent reassuring, coming as it does from the man who stole Bob Marley's Twin Reverb to use on Bollocks. But then Steve has rarely paid for the instruments he's played. This cream beauty was originally owned by New York Dollars guitarist Syl Sylvain and was given to Jones by Sex Pistols ex-manager Malcolm McLaren.

"Malcolm was managing the Dolls for a while," Jones explains. "And when he finished managing them, he brought this guitar back to England with him. I guess they owed him money or something and gave it to him as payment. It had a Bigsby bar, but I took it off because the thing kept going out of tune."

Steve flips the instrument over to reveal a tell-tale mark: a small crack on the back of the neck, near the heel. "It's been broken a couple of times," he says.

Then there are the peeling, vintage Forties girlie stickers that give the instrument its tacky je ne sais quoi. "There were a couple on there when I got the guitar off Syl," Steve says. "A couple of them came off when I had this guitar coated, and I put a couple of others on."

Jones parted company with the guitar - he says he can't remember exactly how - during a drug-addled period after the Pistols split up. Asked how he got it back, Jones stares resolutely at his footwear.

"Oh, I can't tell you….kind of a long story. I have to be very quiet about this guitar. 'Cause I still like selling other ones as originals."

(Thanks to Julianne Clone)

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