SEX PISTOLS frontman John Lydon has expressed his worry and dismay after he lost a legal battle 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 SEX PISTOLS drummer Paul Cook have argued in court that an agreement they signed with Lydon meant decisions regarding licensing requests could be determined on a "majority rules basis."
Lydon, for his part, claimed 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.
However, a judge ruled earlier in the month that the contract was valid and active, and that the majority of the band could overrule any individual member's veto.
In a new statement posted on his official web site, Lydon — better known as his alter ego Johnny Rotten — claims that he only made aware of the announcement of "Pistol" hours before it was made, and he had no idea how the band would be portrayed in it.
"In January this year, 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 statement reads. "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.
"Understandably, John, as the creative force of the SEX PISTOLS wanted to know how he was going to be portrayed and his musical works were going to be used to lend credibility to the series. Despite asking for details of the script or screenplay, John still does not know these details.
"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. 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.
"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.
"In John's words 'I am the lead singer and songwriter, front man, 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. 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…'"
Last month, 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."
In 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 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 offense 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.