March 21, 2017

Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones

“€œOn the Grundy show, though,”€ Jones immediately continues, “€œthe boot was on the other foot.”€

Ah, yes. Thames Television presenter Bill Grundy’s shambolic, booze-fueled swearing contest with the Sex Pistols on Dec. 1, 1976, marked the moment millions of Britons first heard about the group, and this thing called “€œpunk.”€

This instant-classic TV segment has inspired (admittedly dreadful) songs and been lovingly re-created by Saturday Night Live, and with LEGO.

Contrary to the way the world had worked up until that very moment, the incident made the Pistols”€™ careers, and ruined that of veteran broadcaster Grundy, who”€™d goaded a very drunk Jones into cursing on live afternoon TV (and seemed a bit tipsy himself).

Today, viewers would still demand Grundy’s dismissal, but not for the swearing so much as for doing something that not even the “€œshocked and appalled”€ British “€œred tabs”€ considered creepy enough for comment at the time:

Flirting with a teenage girl.

Namely, the aforementioned Siouxsie Sioux, then a colorfully clothed Pistols fan, press-ganged into being some on-set human scenery.

Jones remembers the establishment journalists of the time as “€œarseholes [who] got up to all kinds of fucking bollocks behind the scenes and then covered up for each other.”€ And here was Grundy, letting the mask slip for one fatal second.

Grundy’s leering question to Siouxsie”€””€œWe”€™ll meet afterwards, shall we?”€”€”got Jones”€™ back up:

Jones: You dirty sod. You dirty old man.

Grundy: Well keep going, chief, keep going. Go on. You”€™ve got another five seconds. Say something outrageous.

Jones: You dirty bastard.

Grundy: Go on, again.

Jones: You dirty fucker.

Grundy: What a clever boy.

Jones: What a fucking rotter.

Jones reprints the transcript in Lonely Boy, and maintains that those few minutes, which shot the Pistols to international infamy, simultaneously destroyed them”€”made them an overnight failure, if you will. They went from being a music group to a media spectacle. Contrary to snotty hippie propaganda, the Sex Pistols did know how to play their instruments”€”they weren”€™t prepared for the rest of it. Especially Jones.

This book is the closest to a genuine celebrity “€œtell-all”€ I”€™ve ever read (see “€œThe 30 Craziest Stories from Steve Jones”€™ Sex Pistols Book”€). But Jones mostly tells on himself. It’s unflattering as hell, yet that very frankness earns him back any respect he might lose in the telling.

But come to find out, Lonely Boy isn”€™t quite “€œwarts and all.”€ Warts? Sure, enough to warrant an appointment or three with a good dermatologist. But the “€œall”€? Jones told Esquire “€œthere was plenty of “€˜weird shit we took out.”€™”€

Yeah, that’s a book I don”€™t want to read. Lonely Boy will do nicely.

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