Sex Pistols singer calls TV show ‘nonsense’ in songs dispute

John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, outside the Hight Court Rolls Building in London, where he is giving evidence in a hearing between two former Sex Pistols band members and the band frontman over the use of their songs in a television series, Wednesday July 21, 2021. Drummer Paul Cook and the band’s former guitarist, Steve Jones, are suing the Pistols’ former lead singer to allow their songs to be used in a TV series. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon said Wednesday that he’s “heart and soul” against letting the band’s songs be used in an upcoming television drama about the pioneering punk outfit, dismissing the TV series as “nonsense.”

Lydon, formerly known as Johnny Rotten, is being sued by guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook, who want the songs to feature in “Pistol,” a Disney-backed series based on a memoir by Jones.

Lydon says the songs can’t be licensed without his consent, but Cook and Jones say an agreement dating from 1998 allows a majority decision.

During a hearing at the High Court in London, Lydon said the agreement had never been used and the band had always made decisions about its music and imagery unanimously.

“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.

He said his erstwhile bandmates were demanding “that I agree to sign over the rights to a drama documentary that I am not allowed any access to.”

“To me that smacks of some kind of slave labor,” he said.

“Pistol” is being made for Disney subsidiary FX and is directed by Danny Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

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, and bassist Sid Vicious died the following year. The surviving members have reunited for several concerts, most recently in 2008.

Cook said Tuesday that his and Jones’ legal action against Lydon meant the Sex Pistols were probably “gone for good.”

Lydon has previously claimed Jones painted him in a bad light in his book, and has called the TV series “disrespectful.”

“This is my life here. This is my history,” he said Wednesday. “I didn’t write these songs (for them) to be given off to nonsense.”