Sex Pistols probably ‘gone for good’, band’s former drummer tells High Court

The Sex Pistols are probably “gone for good” as a result of a legal dispute over the use of their songs in a forthcoming television series, the punk band’s former drummer has told the High Court.

Paul Cook and the band’s former guitarist, Steve Jones, are suing the Sex Pistols’ former lead singer Johnny Rotten, real name John Lydon, to allow their songs to be used in Pistol, which is directed by Danny Boyle and due to air next year.

The six-part series, which is being made by Disney, is based on a 2016 memoir by Mr Jones called Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.

Sex Pistols court case
Paul Cook arrives at the Rolls Building at the High Court in London with his wife Jeni (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Jones and Mr Cook argue that, under the terms of a band agreement made in 1998, decisions regarding licensing requests can be determined on a “majority rules basis”.

But Mr Lydon, who has previously told the Sunday Times he thinks the series is the “most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure”, argues that licences cannot be granted without his consent.

Giving evidence on his 65th birthday at the Rolls Building in London on Tuesday, Mr Cook accepted that the band is probably finished as a result of the court case.

Mark Cunningham QC, representing Mr Lydon, suggested to Mr Cook that the Sex Pistols were “gone for good” after he and Mr Jones took legal action.

Mr Cook replied: “Probably.”

He told the court that he and the other members of the band had “always wanted to work harmoniously”, but felt they had to take Mr Lydon to court so the group’s songs could be used in the TV show.

Sex Pistols court case
Paul Cook said John Lydon ‘can be a difficult character’ (Yui Mok/PA)

In his witness statement, Mr Cook said Mr Lydon “can be a difficult character and always likes to feel that he has control”.

He added that he had never used the “majority rules agreement” before because “I thought that our relationship with John would get worse when we used it”.

“Maybe Steve (Jones) and I have been too nice to John over the years in trying to maintain good relations and that we should have been tougher,” he said.

“I am unhappy that he would behave like this over an important personal project for Steve, particularly as we have always backed his personal projects.”

Mr Cunningham said to Mr Cook: “You don’t much care how John cares about the Pistol project.”

Mr Cook replied: “No, you’re wrong.”

Asked if Mr Lydon was happy about the project, Mr Cook said: “It doesn’t seem like it.”

John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) (Yui Mok/PA)
John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten (Yui Mok/PA)

He also denied “concealing” the TV show from Mr Lydon, telling the court: “He had plenty of time to get on board.”

At the end of his evidence, Mr Cook joked that he could “think of a lot better places” to be on his birthday than a courtroom.

Original band member Glen Matlock, who was replaced by Sid Vicious, real name John Simon Ritchie, in 1977, said he had refused a licence request for the use of Anarchy In The UK on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in 2006.

He said the celebrity chef had put “my local Thai restaurant out of business”, so he “took a small bit of pleasure in saying no” to that request.

The group Sex Pistols, signing a new recording contract with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace in London, (l/r) Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, bass player Sid Vicious and the group’s manager Malcolm McLaren (Archive/PA)
The Sex Pistols sign a new recording contract with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace – (L to R) Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, bass player Sid Vicious and the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren (PA)

The Sex Pistols were formed in 1975 and disbanded in 1978, but have performed live shows together a number of times since then, most recently in 2008.

In evidence on Friday, Mr Jones told the court that he thinks Mr Lydon is “a total dick”, but added: “This is not about slagging anyone off in this TV series at all.”

Edmund Cullen QC, representing Mr Jones and Mr Cook, has previously told the court that his client’s claim is against Mr Lydon alone.

He said in written submissions that Mr Matlock and the representatives of the estate of Mr Ritchie, who died in February 1979, support their position.

The trial is expected to hear live evidence from Mr Lydon later this week.