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Publisher: William Heinemann
Published 17 November 2016 (UK)

It's been a story long anticipated; Steve's perspective on the Sex Pistols.

Aged 61 - yes, 61! - Steve finally has his say. It may seem like he's kept us waiting, but I'm glad he has. Steve is often regarded as the Pistol who really didn't care, but that's not strictly true. He does care, and the length of time now elapsed since the Sex Pistols has allowed him to be open and truthful about all aspects of his time in the band, both back in the day and during the reunions. This might seem strange coming from a self-confessed deviant with whom crime was his major partner for much of his first 30 years, but if there's one thing this book teaches you, it's well, don't judge a book by its cover.....

The book is not a day-by-day commentary on the Sex Pistols - Steve didn't keep a diary. Lonely Boy is the life story of a boy caught up in the centre of a musical upheaval he helped create.

But, let's forget the Sex Pistols to start with. Steve was a kid born into a chaotic life, one in which love was hard to find but neglect wasn't. Happy memories such as his grandfather's nicotine rag, are few. Unhappy memories are easier to find, especially once his step-father came on the scene. Treated as a nuisance and even sexually abused by the new man in his mum's life, Steve's MO was soon set: a need to escape his home life. The sexual urges he perceived to be normal in a boy his age was something else he was keen to explore "...all the shit I started getting into - thieving, drinking, drugs, with birds - was basically about trying to leave that sense of discomfort behind."

Some of Steve's teenage antics, both sexual and criminal, are breathtaking in endeavour and danger. They are plentiful too, protected only by his "cloak of invisibility". Confessions are offered on all fronts throughout the book, Ariel Bender from Mott the Hoople being just one! Steve is still amazed that his mates stood by him while he shagged their girlfriends, although he notes wryly it does get brought up now and again by Paul Cook (known affectionately as Cookie throughout). On occasion he did feel he wasn't without charity in this department, and "took one for the team", shagging "that horrible bird" Nancy. His only regret would appear to be that he didn't have Siouxsie, although he did come close.

It's sometimes said that music can save you, well in Steve's case it did, although it would come to almost kill him further down the line. You do wonder what would have happened to young Steve if he hadn't latched onto music, or the music onto him; hearing 'Purple Haze' and 'The Dock of the Bay' being two pivotal wake-up moments. Although Steve came out with the classic Pistols quote "we're not into music, we're into chaos" in 1976 which became a punk manifesto, he admits that for himself and Paul it was always about the music. They were both massive Roxy Music fans, but loved rock in general, taking in Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Kinks, and The Faces. Their focus on the music (Steve never bothered much listening to lyrics) would put them at odds with some of the Sid Vicious outrage that would follow, although again Steve admits to being guilty of going along with a lot of the post-Grundy shock tactics. The Bill Grundy episode was the watershed moment for Steve, after which he firmly believes everything changed for the Sex Pistols, and not for the better.

Steve's bullshit free view of the Pistols is refreshing. Without him, there would be no Sex Pistols. It's not a boast, it is true. The band developed because of and in spite of his chaotic life. This wasn't a project, it just happened. Along with his best mate Paul and the pair's willingness to graft when it mattered, what unfolded would lead along a path neither could have imagined. Steve still looks back on Malcolm McLaren warmly, acknowledging the important part he played in his life. Even so, he has no sympathy that McLaren made nothing out of the band, after all, he squandered all the band's money on making the Swindle film, ensuring no one other than Richard Branson made money from the Sex Pistols. The reunions were meant to address this. Steve, by and large, enjoyed the 1996 tour, which was "...our time to get some appreciation from the punters. Plus we could play better with Matlock... so people who got into us later got a bit of a bonus". However, following the 2008 tour which left a bitter taste, only a vast amount of money would tempt Steve back to being a Sex Pistol.

Steve JonesThroughout, Steve steers away from excuses. Nor does he fish for sympathy. He knows what he did, and is at times remorseful, at other times not. As he points out was the case with Sid, he was responsible for his own actions and resultant consequences. No one made them behave the way they did. There's no preaching on show either; this includes drugs. He admits that without speed to help him focus he would never have mastered the guitar. His later descent into heroin addiction is bleak enough to tell its own story - there's no need to offer advice. The void left following the Pistols' demise coupled with an addictive personality meant he was susceptible to anything that could fill it.

It may all sound grim, but the book is far from dark, thanks to a wry sense of humour and a non-vindictive approach to his past and the personalities that inhabit it. He just says what he feels.

The book's title 'Lonely Boy' isn't just a nod to a track from the The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle, it is the feeling that underpins his life to this very day; his inability to form a proper relationship with a woman the most obvious of its manifestations. Steve Jones in 2016 may be a million miles away from the teen tearaway, super-stud guitarist in the notorious Sex Pistols, but in many ways he is still the same. Lonely Boy is the life story of a man still moving forward, away from the turbulent childhood that shaped him. A life of which the Sex Pistols were just a part.

Steve has walked an exciting and often treacherous path from a dank Shepherds Bush to a sun drenched LA. He's 26 years sober and enjoys a life in which he feels settled. It's been a struggle, but by the time you reach the end of the book, there is no doubt he's earned it. No one can begrudge him that. Steve Jones has always said just what he felt like - as Grundy would have testified - and 40 years later this personalty trait has given us more than a rock 'n' roll autobiography. It's given us an enthralling, engaging human story. It can be harrowing, hilarious, and often touching, but above all, Lonely Boy is life-affirming. Thank you, Steve Jones.

Review by Phil Singleton (November 2016)


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