And Finally Artist News Legal Media

Sex Pistols continue battle over TV series in war of statements

By | Published on Wednesday 8 September 2021

John Lydon

If you thought that the dispute between John Lydon and the rest of the Sex Pistols was over now that the High Court has ruled on it, well, I’m not sure you’ve been paying much attention to John Lydon over the years.

With the dispute now entering a ‘battle of the statements’ phase – albeit with the statements largely reiterating what was said in court – Steve Jones and Paul Cook have put down their feelings in writing, while Lydon has moved on to breakfast TV.

The big court bust up between Lydon and his former bandmates centred, of course, 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’, a new TV series based on Jones’ memoir. Such a block would – presumably – have quite a negative impact on a programme all about the Sex Pistols.

In the legal battle, Jones – backed by 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 that the old band agreement – which did include a majority rule clause – was nevertheless still in force, depriving Lydon of any veto right.

Following the ruling, Lydon issued a statement on his website, claiming that – despite the fact that he was “the creative force of the Sex Pistols” – he “was asked to allow the Sex Pistols works to be used without any prior consultation or involvement in the [‘Pistol’] project”. Therefore 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”.

With the 1998 agreement in force, his statement said that there is now “great uncertainty about what the majority rule approach might do to water down and distort the true history and legacy of the Sex Pistols”. He also said that it leaves him “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”.

Now, in their own statement responding to Lydon’s, Jones and Cook say: “Despite John Lydon’s comments on his website, we reiterate that he was informed of the ‘Pistol’ TV series, offered meetings with the director and to be involved in the show months before principal photography began. He refused these offers and we were saddened he would not engage and at least have a conversation with the director Danny Boyle and co-showrunner Craig Pearce”.

“And while John’s contribution is rightly acknowledged, his claims to be the only band member of consequence are hard to take”, the statement continues. “Steve, Paul and Glen started the band and it was completed when John joined. All songs on the band’s seminal ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ album were written by Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and [Lydon] except ‘Holidays In The Sun’ and ‘Bodies’ which were penned by Cook, Jones, [Lydon] and Vicious. In addition, ‘Pistol’ is based on Steve Jones’ book ‘Lonely Boy'”.

“John Lydon sold his rights to control the use of these songs in the 1990s in return for money”, it goes on. “The majority rule agreement existed as a result – so no outside party could dictate the use of the band’s music. And to have a mechanism in place if one member was unfairly blocking the decision making process – which is what happened in this instance”.

“The rest of the band and many others involved in the punk scene of the time are all involved in the ‘Pistol’ TV series”, it concludes. “Danny Boyle, has worked with The Pistols previously and is a highly respected Oscar winning filmmaker. He understands the band and experienced the time that made them”.

So, stern words. However, Lydon has already moved on. Not moved on from this dispute, though. Obviously! Just moved on from putting things down in writing. Yesterday morning he appeared on ‘Good Morning Britain’, where he branded Jones and Cook “filthy liars”.

“They kept the whole operation a secret behind my back and then slung a nasty little email to us on 4 Jan of this year saying they demanded my permission [to use the band’s music]”, he claimed.

“The obvious question for me is permission for what? And bam, there it is. A few days later spread out all over the internet about what a lovely documentary this is going to be on punk, using pictures of me and my wife Nora. They know she’s ill, this is not nice of them to do that.And then they forced me into a court case, right? They sue me for not giving them permission – but I didn’t actually deny permission. I merely asked a question”.

Concluding his rant, he asked another question: “How are you gonna do a documentary on punk without – hate to be pretentious about this – without Mr Rotten?”

It’s probably worth noting that ‘Pistol’ is a drama, not a documentary. Mere details though. Whatever, having lost the court battle to make ‘Pistol’ a less appealing show, Lydon now seems to be trying to discredit it in the court of public opinion. Time will tell if he’s right to assume the series will be rubbish.

Speaking of John Lydon, court and TV, I suddenly remembered something this week. I can’t believe I didn’t remember it sooner. But as a special treat to you for reading this far, here’s Lydon in happier times when he appeared on ‘Judge Judy’: