Former SEX PISTOLS frontman John Lydon has blasted the agreement he and his bandmates made in 1998, saying it was "like a total trap or prison" and likening it to "slave labor".
Two members of the SEX PISTOLS are suing Lydon over the right to use the band's songs in the upcoming biopic miniseries about the U.K. punk legends.
"Pistol" is a six-episode series about SEX PISTOLS guitarist Steve Jones. It is based on Jones's 2018 memoir "Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol" and it is being helmed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle, who serves as executive producer and director.
Jones and former SEX PISTOLS drummer Paul Cook have argued in court that the agreement thet signed with Lydon means decisions regarding licensing requests can be determined on a "majority rules basis."
Lydon's lawyer, Mark Cunningham, said in written arguments that Jones's memoir portrayed him "in a hostile and unflattering light," referring to Lydon at one point as an "annoying little brat with the great bone structure who's always asking for more." Jones denied this was the case, telling the court the dispute was "not about slagging anyone off in this TV series."
Appearing in court in London on Wednesday, Lydon said: "I care very much about this band and its reputation and its quality control and I will always have a say if I think anything is being done to harm or damage [it].
"I don't want anything I'm involved in to victimize any one of us. It would destroy the whole point and purpose of the band and so I don't understand the [bandmember agreement]... I don't remember signing it."
He added: "You can't let your history be rewritten for us by a complete stranger with no interest in it. This is my life here. This is my history. I didn't write these songs [for them] to be given off to nonsense."
According to BBC News, Lydon went on to say that the bandmember agreement had not been applied since it was signed more than 20 years ago and that "all decisions" about the use of SEX PISTOLS music and imagery had been made with "unanimous" agreement.
"I don't understand how Steve and Paul think they have the right to insist that I do something that I so morally heart-and-soul disagree with without any involvement," he said.
"My fear is that they're demanding that I agree to sign over the rights to a drama documentary that I am not allowed any access to.
"I don't think the [bandmember agreement] applies," the 65-year-old said. "I didn't ask for this court case, it was brought to me, so I will naturally defend myself.
"There is no point in me being here or ever was if it is the case that I can just be completely outvoted by the vested interests of all in one management camp."
Earlier this week, Cook told the court that he and the other members of SEX PISTOLS had "always wanted to work harmoniously" but were forced to file a lawsuit against Lydon in order to make it possible for the group's music to be used in the TV show. He added that Lydon "can be a difficult character and always likes to feel that he has control" and explained that the "majority rules agreement" was never used before because "I thought that our relationship with John would get worse when we used it".
"Maybe Steve 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."
This past April, Lydon reacted to publicity shots promoting "Pistol", telling The Sunday Times: "I think that's the most disrespectful shit I've ever had to endure. I mean, they went to the point to hire an actor to play me but what's the actor working on? Certainly not my character. It can't go anywhere else [but court]."
Lydon also claimed that he has never been contacted by Boyle about "Pistol" even though the two had met during preparations for the 2021 London Olympics opening ceremony.
He added: "Sorry, you think you can do this, like walk all over me — it isn't going to happen. Not without a huge, enormous fucking fight. I'm Johnny, you know, and when you interfere with my business, you're going to get the bitter end of my business as a result. It's a disgrace."
A spokesperson for the "Pistol" production told The Sunday Times that Boyle reached out to Lydon's management company about the planned series but "ultimately direct contact was declined."
"Pistol" was created by Craig Pearce and written by Pearce and Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Jones, Boyle and Pearce serve as executive producers alongside Gail Lyon, Anita Camarata, Tracey Seaward, Paul Lee, Hope Hartman and Wiip. The series is produced by FX Productions.
Anchored by Jones's memoir, which offers a fascinating new perspective on one of rock's greatest ever stories, "Pistol" moves from West London's council estates, to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's notorious Kings Road SEX shop, to the international controversy that came with the release of "Never Mind The Bollocks", which is frequently listed as one of the most influential albums of all time. Their single "God Save The Queen" was banned by the BBC and reached No. 1 on the U.K.'s NME chart, but appeared at No. 2 on the official U.K. singles chart, leading to accusations that the song was purposely kept off the top spot. For the only time in chart history, the track was listed as a blank, to avoid offence to the monarchy.
"Pistol" stars Toby Wallace ("Babyteeth", "Acute Misfortune") as Steve Jones, Anson Boon ("Crawl", "1917", "Blackbird") as John Lydon, Louis Partridge ("Enola Holmes", "Medici") as Sid Vicious, Jacob Slater as Paul Cook, Fabien Frankel ("The Serpent", "NYPD Blue") as Glen Matlock, Dylan Llewellyn ("Derry Girls") as Wally Nightingale, Sydney Chandler ("Don't Worry Darling") as Chrissie Hynde, Emma Appleton ("The Witcher", "Traitors") as Nancy Spungen, and Maisie Williams ("Game Of Thrones") as punk icon Jordan.
— Phil Edwards (@Live_for_Films) March 3, 2021
— BetaSeries News (@BetaSeries_News) March 3, 2021
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