Former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten told the High Court that producers on The Crown wanted to show punk protesters throwing bottles at The Queen during her Silver Jubilee procession ‘which simply didn’t happen’.
The ex-lead singer, real name John Lydon, was speaking as part of the ongoing battle with his bandmates – drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones – about the ‘misuse’ of their music in TV shows.
He said he had refused the Netflix show permission to use God Save The Queen after hearing the context it was going to be used in, adding: ‘It was a very perverse interpretation of the history of the Jubilee.’
Mr Cook and Mr Jones are suing the former frontman to allow their songs to be used in TV drama Pistol, being directed by Danny Boyle, which is due to air next year.
The six-part series, which is being made by Disney, is based on a 2016 memoir by Mr Jones called Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.
Mr Jones and Mr Cook argue that, under the terms of a band member agreement (BMA) made in 1998, decisions regarding licensing requests can be determined on a ‘majority rules basis’.
But Mr Lydon, who has previously told the Sunday Times he thinks the series is the ‘most disrespectful s*** I’ve ever had to endure’, argues that licences cannot be granted without his consent.
Former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten told the High Court that producers on The Crown wanted to show punk protesters throwing bottles at The Queen during her Silver Jubilee procession ‘which simply didn’t happen’
In June 1977, on the day of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the Sex Pistols staged a publicity stunt to perform some of their hits, including God Save The Queen, on a boat down the Thames.
But giving evidence at the Rolls Building in London on Wednesday, Mr Lydon said the producers of the popular series, which chronicles the reign of the Queen, wanted to ‘distort the history of the day’.
He explained in his witness statement to the court that the show’s producers wanted to depict him as a ‘political protester’ and to show scenes of protest in front of the Queen, which he said ‘simply didn’t happen’.
He said: ‘The plots of the show, The Crown, with this particular issue was changing the history of the time. Absolutely rewriting it.
‘They wanted some voting scene, something related to me talking about everybody should vote and then tried to turn that into an issue in this drama programme where I would be lining up to vote and that’s not relevant to it at all.
‘The producers agreed to use film footage of the boat trip instead. But the story that they presented with the Queen in despair in her carriage, and all those ugly scenes on the streets of crowds fighting and chucking bottles, whilst others were celebrating the Queen.
‘Nobody was rioting and here is my real serious problem with it. This never happened.
‘This is a lie to history, it’s a lie about history, of the Sex Pistols’ history, and so I am always going to find that as an issue you cannot compromise on.
‘If you allow this to happen you are allowing people to alter and rewrite your history, thus making your real history a lie by the contradiction supporting that and accepting money for that, that’s something I could never be a party to.
Drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones are suing the punk group’s ex-lead singer, real name John Lydon (pictured together on stage in 2008), to allow their songs to be used in TV drama Pistol, which is due to air next year
Mr Lydon, who has previously told the Sunday Times he thinks the series is the ‘most disrespectful s*** I’ve ever had to endure’, argues that licences cannot be granted without his consent
‘I cannot compromise in selling my integrity. I know what’s what and far too often it’s the examples in the press and the media of history being rewritten that causes real damage to the truth.’
He told the court: ‘The show’s original offer was, well, it was a misuse of us completely.’
He also said that the proposed story was a ‘very adverse interpretation of the history of the Jubilee’.
Mr Lydon added: ‘There was no bricks and bottles thrown at the Queen. It’s a lie.’
He said the ‘only demonstration about the royal family that day was the Sex Pistols on a boat trip’, adding that they were ‘singing our lovely songs’ in front of the Houses of Parliament.
He also said the producers could ‘mish-mash history all they want but they can’t do it using my name’.
The former frontman said he did not want the band to be ‘selling our soul just so other people can laugh at our history and take it off us – no money in the world is worth a lie’.
The episode that was eventually broadcast showed the Queen in her carriage with no protests around her.
It comes after Mr Lydon clashed with his bandmates’ lawyers at the High Court earlier in the day as he argued that an agreement to use their songs in a Danny Boyle film ‘smacks of slave labour’.
In an extraordinary exchange, Edmund Cullen QC, representing Mr Jones and Mr Cook, suggested to Mr Lydon his ‘slave labour’ reference was a sign of regret over signing the BMA, before accusing him of giving ‘false evidence’.
The frontman then replied: ‘False evidence? I’m sorry, how? Where?’
Pictured: The Sex Pistols performing live onstage at Baton Rouge’s Kingfisher Club, Louisiana, in 1978
Mr Lydon said the Sex Pistols have so far managed to agree how to conduct their business with ‘unanimity’.
In a witness statement before the court, he said: ‘The BMA has never been applied in anything we have ever done since 1998.
‘It also seems completely unnecessary because there is no point in me being here or ever was if it is the case that I can just be completely outvoted by the vested interests of all in one management camp … and there is no way around that.
‘That is like a total trap or prison and my fear is that they’re 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 labour.’
He added: ‘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.
‘It is infuriating to me. It has always been that with regard to all decisions about the Sex Pistols music and imagery, that they are unanimous.’
Mr Cullen QC, suggested to Mr Lydon that his comments were proof of ‘how deeply you regret having signed the BMA’.
The barrister also said: ‘Given that you regard it as slave labour, you will do whatever it takes to try and get out of it.
‘You will do whatever it takes up to and including giving false evidence.’
Mr Lydon replied: ‘False evidence? I’m sorry, how? Where?’
He also said: ‘I don’t think the BMA applies and so I would resist that. I didn’t ask for this court case, it was brought to me, so I will naturally defend myself.’
Mr Lydon said he cannot understand legal documents and that they ‘terrify’ him, adding: ‘It’s obvious that I didn’t understand what the BMA was.’
He said it has ‘never come up’ before in their years of working together and added: ‘Unanimity is what has made this band as a business tick over.’
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of judge Sir Anthony Mann (right) listening to John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, giving evidence during a hearing in the Rolls Building at the Hight Court, London
Giving evidence at the Rolls Building in London yesterday, Mr Lydon (left) said the Sex Pistols have so far managed to agree how to conduct their business with ‘unanimity’. Pictured right: Paul Cook
The Sex Pistols were formed in 1975 and disbanded in 1978, but have performed live shows together a number of times since then, most recently in 2008.
In evidence on Tuesday, Mr Cook accepted that the Sex Pistols were probably ‘gone for good’ after he and Mr Jones took legal action.
Last week, Mr Jones told the court that he thinks Mr Lydon is ‘a total d***’, but added: ‘This is not about slagging anyone off in this TV series at all.’
Mr Jones and Mr Cook’s barrister Mr Cullen has previously told the court that his clients’ claim is against Mr Lydon alone.
He said in written submissions that original band member Glen Matlock, who was replaced by Sid Vicious, and the representatives of the estate of Sid Vicious, who died in February 1979, support their position.
During further cross-examination by Mr Cullen, Mr Lydon said: ‘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).’
He added: ‘I care very much about this band and I want to maintain its integrity.
‘I don’t want anything I’m involved in to victimise 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.
‘I mean no harm here … I have made considerable amounts of money for them and I would not be doing that if I was doing this for completely selfish points or purposes.’
Mr Lydon also told the court: ‘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.’
The original punk rockers: The rebellious rise of the Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols formed in London in 1975 and comprised fiery frontman Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock and drummer Paul Cook.
They stormed on to the international stage with their blend of coarse lyrics and rebellious attitude.
The band revelled in causing controversy, and shocked viewers with a memorable foul-mouthed TV appearance.
Queen were due to be interviewed by Bill Grundy on the Today show in 1976, but Freddie Mercury developed toothache and had to pull out, so The Sex Pistols were drafted in as a last-minute replacement.
In one of their first appearances to the wider public, the band came on the live show, with their full entourage in tow, and left teatime viewers stunned with their behaviour and language.
When Grundy urged them to ‘say something outrageous’, Jones responded by calling him a ‘dirty b*****d, a ‘dirty f****r’, before adding: ‘What a f*****g rotter.’
The Daily Mirror ran the headline ‘The Filth and the Fury’ the next day – a documentary film under the same title would later be released – and the band were the subject of intense media scrutiny.
The following year, the BBC banned the group’s song ‘God Save the Queen’, released just before the monarch’s Silver Jubilee, from the airwaves for ‘gross bad taste.’
Despite the ban, the song reached No. 1 on the NME charts in the UK, and made it to No. 2 on the official UK Singles Chart as used by the BBC – leading to accusations of a ‘fix’ to prevent it from reaching the top spot.
Earlier in the year, Matlock fell out of favour with the rest of the band and was replaced by Sid Vicious.
The Sex Pistols grew in popularity with their raw, nihilistic tracks and violent performances, and are credited with revolutionising the industry and inspiring huge numbers of punk and alternative rock musicians.
However, during recording of their only studio album, Never Mind the B******s, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Vicious was hospitalised with hepatitis contracted through intravenous drug use.
In 1978, after a turbulent tour of the United States, Rotten announced the band’s break-up, though the three remaining members recorded songs for McLaren’s film version of the Sex Pistols’ story, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.
The following year, Vicious died of a heroin overdose aged just 21, following his arrest for the alleged murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.
Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock briefly reunited for a concert tour in 1996 and a decade later, The Sex Pistols, comprising of the four original members and Vicious as well – were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
However, in typical fashion, the band refused to attend the ceremony and blasted the museum a ‘p**s stain’.
Source: Daily Mail