Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol – By Steve Jones and Ben Thompson (Da Capo)


I approached Steve Jones’ autobiography with a small sense of trepidation – did I really need or even want another retread through Sex Pistols history? There’s been so many books and documentaries on the band that their story feels fully told, with no room left for surprise in a subsequent retelling. Luckily, guitarist Steve Jones has had a pretty fascinating life in and out of the band, and even if the public’s never-ending interest in the Sex Pistols is the reason this book exists in the first place, there’s a lot more to it than just that. In fact, the sections on Jones’ childhood are the most interesting part of Lonely Boy. These were years filled with family drama, sexual abuse, ADHD and dyslexia, all of which Jones with the anger and confusion that exploded out of him in his guitar playing and hedonistic lifestyle. The book also gives a glimpse into the grim future that might have awaited Jones had he not discovered music – he was an accomplished thief in his teens, often stealing equipment from well-known bands with surprising ease. He even suggests that David Bowie’s 1972 Ziggy Stardust documentary looks so awful because he and his friends stole a bunch of essential camera equipment before filming began. Stealing, like so many things in life, became a compulsion for Jones. Of course, he wasn’t always successful at it either, and he began to build up a pretty impressive rap sheet, so it’s probably a good thing that music gave him a way out. Old habits are hard to break though, and after the Pistols’ broke-up he found himself pilfering purses on the streets of New York in the early-’80s just to get by. I wish he delved a little deeper into these lean years, since New York was such a crazy and dangerous place at the time – especially in the Lower East Side, where he took up among the burgeoning New York Hardcore scene – but, given that he was in the throes of a serious heroin addiction, I imagine his memory of events isn’t great more than thirty-five years later. The story has a happy ending, with Jones, now 61 years old, living in Los Angeles and hosting a successful radio show, Jonesy’s Jukebox, where he entertains listeners with candid interviews and free-form playlists. Lonely Boy proves what his radio listeners already knew – he’s got more than his share of amazing stories, and an ability to tell them with wit and a survivor’s perspective, all of which make the book almost impossible to put down. In fact, I happily devoured the whole thing on a L.A.-to-New York flight, where it all but made time fly.