John Lydon has compared a 1998 music licensing agreement struck by the Sex Pistols to “slave labour”.
The ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ band’s former frontman appeared in court in London on Wednesday (21.07.21) to give evidence after being left furious that their music is to be used in director Danny Boyle’s FX drama series, ‘Pistol’, which is based on ‘Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol’, the memoir of his former bandmate Steve Jones.
Lydon – who already blasted Boyle for allegedly making the programme without his participation or consent – described the 23-year-old agreement as “like a total trap or prison”.
Jones and the group’s ex-drummer Paul Cook are suing Lydon – who was also known by the stage name Johnny Rotten – for trying to stop their music being used, as they claim the BMA (band member agreement) has a clause which means decisions regarding the use of their back catalogue is decided on a “majority rules basis”.
Lydon told the courtroom: “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].
“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.
“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 punk rocker insisted “all decisions” about their music and brand have always been made with a “unanimous” agreement.
He continued: “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.
“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.
“I don’t think the BMA applies.
“I didn’t ask for this court case, it was brought to me, so I will naturally defend myself.
“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.”
Edmund Cullen QC, Jones and Cook’s representative, insisted Lydon must “deeply regret having signed the BMA” for him to refer to it as “slave labour”.
He said: “Given that you regard it as slave labour, you will do whatever it takes to try and get out of it.”
In his witness statement given earlier this week, Cook claimed Lydon “can be a difficult character and always likes to feel that he has control”.
The musician added how: “I thought that our relationship with John would get worse when we used it.
“Maybe Steve and I have been too nice to John over the years in trying to maintain good relations and that we should have been tougher.
“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.”
Lydon had claimed he was excluded from all aspects of the production and was left fuming by publicity pictures of Anson Boon, who will play him.
A spokesperson for ‘Pistol’ insisted they always intended to communicate with the PiL singer before filming began and Boyle had written to him via his management company but to no avail.
The representative said: “[Danny] wished to speak with Mr Lydon personally about the production of Pistol. Ultimately, however, direct contact was declined.”