Two former members of the Sex Pistols are suing singer Johnny Rotten for the right to use the band’s songs in an upcoming television series about the anarchic punk rock icons. Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook want the songs to appear in Pistol, a television series based on a memoir by Jones.
Rotten, whose real name is John Lydon, has slammed the series as “disrespectful” and is refusing to grant permission for the songs to be included. Edmund Cullen, a lawyer for Jones and Cook, told a judge at the High Court in London on Thursday (July 15) that the former bandmates have a “brittle and fractious” relationship. Cullen argued that under the terms of a 1998 band agreement, decisions regarding licensing requests could be determined on a “majority rules basis.”
Lydon, however, contends that licenses to use the music can’t be granted without his consent. Cullen said both the band’s original bassist, Glen Matlock, and the estate of Matlock’s replacement, Sid Vicious, supported the position of Cook and Jones. Vicious died in 1979 at age 21. Lydon’s lawyer, Mark Cunningham, said in written arguments that Jones’s memoir depicted the singer “in a hostile and unflattering light,” at one point describing Johnny Rotten as “the annoying little brat with the great bone structure who’s always asking for more.”
The court case is due to continue into next week. Formed in London in 1975, the Sex Pistols energized and scandalized the British music scene with songs such as “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the U.K.” The band split up in 1978 after releasing one album, but surviving members have reunited for several concerts since. The TV series Pistol is due to be broadcast next year and is directed by Danny Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire.