Etiquette Anarchy with Steve Jones

The Sex Pistols guitarist sheds light on his past as a thief before diving in to our listener questions on mosh pits, manners, and more.

Photo Credit: Davis Factor

Steve Jones, the founding member of the seminal U.K. punk band Sex Pistols, first talked to us about his new autobiography, “Lonely Boy,” and explained why he thought writing would feel like a scene right out of “A Clockwork Orange.” Now, he’s ready to answer our audience’s etiquette questions with the tough love worthy of a rock star.


Stealing from rock idols

Rico Gagliano: Steve, you’ve been sober for a while now, but in the book, you go into detail about your various addictions as a young man. One of which was stealing stuff. And we don’t wanna glamorize this too much, but it’s just amazing: You once stole gear from David Bowie, after one of his concerts. Tell us about that — even one of your idols wasn’t immune.

Steve Jones: No one got away, man. No one got away. I’m not proud of it, but it was an addiction before I really discovered hard drugs and even booze, to a certain extent, when I started stealing when I was like 12 and whatever it was, 10, I don’t– it really started after my stepfather messed around with [sexually abused] me the one time.

I had to go out every day. I didn’t wanna be at home. I didn’t feel safe there. And I had to go out and try to medicate what happened to me and the way I did that was through stealing.

Rico Gagliano: It kinda got you away from yourself in a way, it got you focused on something else?

Steve Jones: It got me to wake up every day and go somewhere to steal something all the time, I mean, all the time. And this went on for like a couple of years and I’m 14, 15, and I’m a teenager and I’m getting into glam rock. And, you know, some bands had to suffer that, when I had my thieving hands. I couldn’t help it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: What did you take?

Steve Jones: Well, I mean, what’s in the book is not even a tip of the iceberg to what I stole.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Punk was such an extreme movement. And truly hated by a lot of people especially in Britain when you were part of it. The Sex Pistols were literally attacked in the streets after you bashed Queen Elizabeth in the song “God Save the Queen.” Venues banned you from performing. At that time, did you ever consider that this would be a lasting thing that would become a part of international popular culture?

Steve Jones: No, not at all. I mean, it’s very hard when you’re 21 to see the future. I had no idea, but it’s good to have been in a band that has legs, and is respected and was revolutionary. Things could be worse, you could have ended up in like, Warrant or something.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s true.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But “She’s My Cherry Pie” is a classic.

Steve Jones: There you go, there you go.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, Steve, as anyone who reads this book will say, you’re not exactly a paragon of proper behavior. But, we did ask our audience to submit some etiquette questions for you. Are you ready to answer these etiquette questions?

Steve Jones: Yes sir.

Band set change etiquette

Rico Gagliano:┬áHere is something from James in Seattle, Washington. And James writes:L “Steve, suppose you’re the middle band on a night club bill. The opening band got you the gig but they’re taking their time breaking down after their set so your 35- minute set is about to become 20 minutes and the club management doesn’t seem to give a damn. Do you tell the opening band to get off the stage, or just start moving their stuff yourselves?”

Steve Jones: No, I just go into their dressing room and steal their wallets.

Rico Gagliano: James, I guess there’s your answer. Go in-

Steve Jones: Go into the dressing room and pilfer. It’s good.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s pretty tidy advice for you.

Mosh pit manners

Brendan Francis Newnam: This comes from Eric in L.A. and Eric asks: “Is there a code of conduct for a mosh pit?” Seems counter intuitive.

Steve Jones: I have no idea where mosh pits started. It didn’t start in England, the only thing that kind of caught on in England was the pogo. That was American thing, the mosh pit.

Rico Gagliano: Right. For those in the audience who maybe don’t know, the punk ways, what’s the difference?

Steve Jones: Well, pogo was supposedly started by Sid Vicious when he was in the audience when he was a fan. He said he would jump up and down to look over the punters that was in front of him to see what was going on. And then, people thought that was a new dance and it caught on like that. As far as the going round and round in circles and punching people-

Rico Gagliano: That’s the mosh pit, yeah.

Steve Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I’ve seen it when we did a reunion in ’96 when we played the [Los Angeles] Palladium… that was a full on mosh pit. This is what you should do though: you should tie some kind of electrodes to people so when they go round and round they generate some power.

Rico Gagliano: That’s green energy.

Steve Jones: That’s it! Mister green.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. No, forget that hippie idea that there’s some karmic energy being created by everyone doing it together. You need actual energy produced. Steve, you’ve really, you’ve really been in L.A. for a while if that was where your mind went.

Steve Jones: I wanna move up to Northern California. I wanna get into nature more.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, that sounds like Northern California. Maybe Neil Young will let you live in his ranch.

Steve Jones: I know he’s got a bunch of acres there.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, I wanna see that sitcom, “Steve and Neil.”

Steve Jones: That would be nice.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I know, I’d watch it.

Is there a kid-friendly way to chew out an umpire?

Rico Gagliano: Here is something from Bob in Chicago. And Bob writes: “When I’m attending a pro baseball or soccer game and I get angry at an umpire or referee, what is the best way to express my displeasure? Wrinkle, there are probably kids present.”

Steve Jones: Oh, you mean don’t swear because there’s kids around?

Rico Gagliano: Yeah.

Steve Jones: Well you can throw something at them, can’t you?

Rico Gagliano: At the umpire or referee?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Sure, that’s, you’re the person deciding so, Steve, if you think it’s OK to throw something at someone instead of cursing when a child’s present, we’ll take it.

Steve Jones: Yeah, just kill them.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright. But don’t curse while you’re doing it.

Steve Jones: Don’t curse ’cause there’s kids around.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, there’s kids around! Thanks so much for telling our audience how to behave, Steve.

Steve Jones: You got it.

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]