Born in 1955, Steve Jones weathered a troubled childhood shaped by family strains and petty theft, before being saved by music. In 1975 he became one of the founding members of the groundbreaking English punk rock band the Sex Pistols. Following the group's demise in 1978, Jones went on to form several other groups and become a popular studio musician as well as host of a critically praised radio program.
Musician. The influential guitarist for the Sex Pistols, Steve Jones was born in London, England, on September 3, 1955. The son of an amateur boxer, Jones was just two years old when his father left the family, the start of what would be a difficult childhood for the future musician.
His mother eventually remarried, but Jones' relationship with his stepfather became strained as he grew older. At the age of 16 Jones was kicked out of the house. His life, he'd later recall, very well could have been fated to become one of crime and imprisonment. By his middle teens he'd already established a penchant for theft, resulting in an 18-month stay in reform school.
Music, he has said, is the thing that saved him. By the early 1970s, Jones had started learning guitar and co-founded a band, The Strand, with future Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. Around this time he'd also started frequenting a popular London clothing shop, called Sex, which was run by Malcolm McLaren and his partner, fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood.
The burgeoning punk scene fascinated McLaren, who loved pushing cultural buttons and was fresh from an adventurous, somewhat disastrous run as the in-your-face manager of the New York Dolls, a pioneering glam-rock band.
After the Dolls split up in the early 1970s, McLaren returned to London, intent on creating a new band to manage. He found it in the form of Jones, Cook, bassist Glen Matlock and singer John Lydon, who came together in 1975 to form the Sex Pistols.
The Sex Pistols
Over the next three years, the Sex Pistols would come to epitomize English punk. With now-classics like “Anarchy in the U.K.” (the group's first hit single), “God Save the Queen” and “Holidays in the Sun,” the group brought together a unique blend of fury and violence that incited both hatred and deep reverence.
“God Save the Queen,” in particular, proved to be especially offensive to a country that prided itself on its manners. Released in 1977, the same year as Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee, the song rose to number two on the British charts. The year 1977 also saw the group release its one and only full-length album, Never Mind the Bollocks…Here's the Sex Pistols, which quickly climbed to number one.
Jones' guitar, a Gibson Les Paul, greatly amplified the Pistols' sound and fury, offering a complementary and energetic accompaniment to Lydon's furious voice.
Famously, Jones didn't exactly give up his thieving ways during the Pistols' early days. As legend has it, and as Jones himself has intimated, he stole from a variety of rock stars and legends as the Pistols made their way to the top and met some of the very musicians they'd long admired. It's said he swiped microphones from David Bowie, a few guitars from Rod Stewart, even a fur coat from the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood.
Following the release of the Pistols' album, the band, which had replaced Matlock with Lydon's old friend Sid Vicious, headed to America for a series of concert dates. But the tour quickly collapsed, as did the group, when Lydon abruptly walked off the stage in the middle of a show at Winterland in San Francisco in January 1978. Essentially, the Pistols were through, but Cook and Jones kept things going a bit longer with a series of additional singles that were used in McLaren's film account of the band, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980), which was directed by the group's longtime friend Julien Temple.
With the Pistols' end came personal problems for Jones. Drug issues consumed his life, including an addiction to heroin. He cleaned himself up in 1987.
Still, even during this stretch, Jones didn't completely cut himself off from his musical interests. After working to back up several songs for Joan Jett in 1979, Jones teamed up with Cook again the following year to form a new group called the Professionals. The band put out two albums before breaking up in 1982. Jones quickly regrouped and got back in the band-forming business with a new-wave group, Chequered Past. That too was short-lived and split up following the release of its only album, in 1984.
In the 1980s, Jones moved to Los Angeles, where he became a popular session musician for a variety of acts, including Iggy Pop, Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, and Bob Dylan.
In the early 1990s Jones stepped back onto the stage with a new band, Neurotic Outsiders.
In addition to his recording and performance work, Jones has also dabbled in acting, and for several years he's hosted a popular FM music show, Jonesy's Jukebox, on an L.A.-based indie station.
In 1996, to the delight of Sex Pistols fans, Jones reunited with Lydon, Cook and Matlock for a tour, followed by a new album, 1997's Filthy Lucre Live. The Filth and the Fury, a documentary about the band, directed by Temple, debuted in 2000.
Jones resides in Los Angeles.
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