By Steve Jones w/ Ben Thompson
De Capo Press 2017

A review by Alexander Laurence

There have been a lot of books coming out about rock music and specifically punk rock. I have read recent ones about the LA Punk scene, The Cure, and The Replacements, and others. They all seem to look back wistfully to forty years ago with the perspective of being clean and sober, and maybe free of any sordid details of sex and drugs. There have been a number of Sex Pistols books and documentaries; there are a few about Sid Vicious alone. The story of the Sex Pistols has been told and mis-told several times. Maybe this book is the first one that explains where it all came from, not from someone’s ego, or imagination, but from West London, retold by the only real member of the band.

We start in Shepherd’s Bush in the 1960s. There is an episode where Jones and all the neighborhood kids recognize Jack Wild and follow him around town. He recalls that he was into the skinhead movement, which was itself a continuation of the mod thing. Jones was born in 1955, at the birth of rock and roll. His parents were teds. Jones never knew his father, Don Jarvis. Although his childhood wasn’t horrible, he imagined having different parents when watching television. He grew up in Hammersmith with his grandparents and uncles.

Everything was great until his mother hooked up with a guy. There was poverty and a stepfather to deal with. He felt unwelcome in his new haunts, which he compares to Eraserhead. Jones deals with a few local pedophiles. Some young girl pulls her pants. Jones develops a taste for theft, pornography, and being a peeping tom, at age ten. When his mother goes to the hospital for a week, he is violated by his stepfather. Jones soon hears “Purple Haze” from a window, and meets fellow Sex Pistol Paul Cook at school. Things are looking up.

Jones loses his virginity with some girl at Battersea Park. He becomes a sex addict at 13. At the time he hadn’t tasted alcohol or tried drugs. He soon becomes a peeping tom and kleptomaniac. He steals cars all day and discovers glam rock. Jones becomes a massive fan of Rod Stewart and The Faces. As Jones becomes more estranged from his parents, his life meets up with the path of Malcolm McLaren.

Since Jones has stolen so much gear over the years, it makes sense that he and Cook should form a band. With the support of Malcolm and the punk scene that is developing, we have the seeds of The Sex Pistols. Jones was once a street urchin, and now he is in the center of the new wave. What follows is much of the Sex Pistols’ history, from Denmark Street to Winterland. All of Jones’ sex history and missed opportunities are remembered. His drug addiction and post-Pistols life are remarked upon. Till we get to his present day life in Los Angeles, as a radio personality on KLOS. Very moving stuff.