Johnny Rotten – Sex Pistols Band Member Agreement Is Like ‘Slave Labor’
The living members of the Sex Pistols are currently in the midst of a legal battle over an upcoming TV series titled Pistol, with singer Johnny Rotten (aka John Lydon) calling the group’s band member agreement that’s being used to push forward the use of their music in the series a form of “slave labor.”
According to NME, Rotten’s testimony started today (July 21) concerning the use of the band’s music in the upcoming series. Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook wanted the series to include the band’s music while Rotten has railed against the usage and the Danny Boyle-directed series as a whole, reiterating in court that he viewed it as “the most disrespectful shit I’ve ever had to endure.” The band’s original bassist Glen Matllock as well as the estate of Sid Vicious have also supported the usage of the music in the series.
With a conflict over the music usage, Jones and Cook cited the group’s “band member agreement” that allowed licensing decisions to be made on a majority basis. Rotten has argued that the music can’t be used without his consent and stated during the proceedings, “The BMA has never been applied to anything we have ever done since 1988.”
“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,” added the singer. The vocalist also went on to state that legal documents “terrify” him and that he “didn’t understand” what the BMA was when he first signed it.
According to the BBC, Lydon was quoted as saying the agreement was “like a total trap or poison,” then likening it to “slave labor.”
“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],” said the singer. “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 BMA… I don’t remember signing it.”
He then 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.”
Earlier this week, Cook stated that he felt the Sex Pistols were “probably gone for good” given the current dispute with Rotten. “I thought that our relationship with John would get worse when we used [the BMA],” Cook said in his witness statement. “Maybe Steve [Jones] 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 added: “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.” The six-part TV series is based upon Jones’ 2016 memoir “Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol.” Rotten’s lawyer claimed that the singer is not thrilled with his portrayal that shows the singer “in a hostile and unflattering light.”
The Pistol series is expected to air on FX in 2022.