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John Lydon responds to loss in court over Sex Pistols band agreement

By | Published on Wednesday 1 September 2021

John Lydon

John Lydon has responded to last week’s court decision that ruled he can’t block the use of Sex Pistols music in ‘Pistol’, a new drama series based on the memoir of his former bandmate Steve Jones. “Disappointed” with that ruling, Lydon says he fears what impact it might have on the legacy of the band, while adding that he is “powerless” to stop any distortion of the truth in ‘Pistol’.

The big court bust up between Lydon and his former bandmates centred on whether or not any one member of the Sex Pistols can veto a sync deal. If so, Lydon could block the band’s music from being used in ‘Pistol’, which would – presumably – have quite a negative impact on a programme all about the Sex Pistols.

Jones, backed by fellow bandmate Paul Cook, said that an old band agreement meant that sync deals could be issued if a majority of band members agreed. Lydon argued that the band had always operated on the assumption that unanimous consent was required for such deals. However, the high court confirmed the old band agreement was nevertheless still in force, depriving Lydon of any veto right.

In the new statement on his website, Lydon gives his side of the story, running through the events that ran up to the legal battle, and then repeating the arguments he and his team presented in court.

“In January this year”, the statement says, “days before a worldwide press announcement, John Lydon was told of the proposed use of Sex Pistols recordings in a six part television series based upon a book written by Steve Jones. The project had been years in the making. Despite this, John Lydon was given just a few hours’ notice of what was to be announced”.

This meant, the statement goes on, that his band’s music would be used “to lend credibility” to ‘Pistol’, a Danny Boyle directed series being made for the Disney-owned US TV channel FX. “Understandably”, it adds, “John, as the creative force of the Sex Pistols, wanted to know how he was going to be portrayed … despite asking for details of the script or screenplay, John still does not know these details”.

Moving onto the legal battle, the statement continues: “John Lydon did not ask for the recent proceedings. He was asked to allow the Sex Pistols works to be used without any prior consultation or involvement in the project. He took a stand on principle for what he sees as the integrity of the Sex Pistols legacy and fought for what he believed and continues to believe was right”.

“For more than 23 years the Sex Pistols have operated on the basis of unanimous decision making”, it adds. “The Disney production is the first time that the unanimous approach has been ignored. It is disappointing that a high court judge has decided that John Lydon is bound by an undated agreement signed in 1998, which imposes on the Sex Pistols a majority rule arrangement in place of the unanimous decision making process that has been followed for 23 years”.

On the potential bigger impact of the ruling, the statement concludes: “Looking forward, there is great uncertainty about what the majority rule approach might do to water down and distort the true history and legacy of the Sex Pistols. Time will tell. Whatever Disney does, it is doing it without John’s involvement or creative approval. John is powerless to prevent any distortion of the true history of the Sex Pistols and whatever results will be at the wish of the majority only”.

Lydon himself states: “I am the lead singer and songwriter, frontman, image, the lot, you name it. I put it there. How is that not relevant? It is dumbfounding to me. It is so destructive to what the band is and so I fear that the whole project might be extremely negative”.

“How can anyone think that this can proceed without consulting me, and deal with my personal life in this, and my issues in this, without any meaningful contact with me before the project is announced to the world?”, he goes on. “I don’t think there are even words that I can put forward to explain quite how disingenuous this is. As I said in the lyrics of ‘The Order Of Death’, ‘This is what you want, this is what you get'”.

If anyone has any further questions for Lydon on any of this, his statement also points out that he’s about to embark on a Q&A tour of UK theatres, and you’re welcome to ask them there.