Sex Pistols’ John Lydon compares disputed band agreement to ‘slave labour’ in court

John has appeared in the High Court again today (Picture: PA)

Amid a bitter court battle with his former bandmates, John Lydon – AKA Johnny Rotten – has said that an agreement between him and his former Sex Pistols bandmates ‘smacks of slave labour’.

The agreement is at the centre of a High Court dispute which has seen the band’s former drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones sue the punk group’s ex-lead singer to allow their songs to be used in TV drama Pistol.

The six-part series is directed by Danny Boyle, starring Game Of Thrones Maisie Williams, and is due to air next year. It’s based on a 2016 memoir by Jones called Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.

Jones and 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’.

However Lydon, who has previously told the Sunday Times he thinks the series is the ‘most disrespectful s**t I’ve ever had to endure’, disputed the notion and argued that licences cannot be granted without his consent.

Giving evidence at the Rolls Building in London on Wednesday, Lydon said the Sex Pistols have so far managed to agree how to conduct their business with ‘unanimity’.

The singer shared a witness statement (Picture: PA)

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.

Steve Jones, John Lydon, Glen Matlock and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols (Picture: PA)

‘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.’

Edmund Cullen QC, representing Jones and Cook, suggested to Lydon that his reference to ‘slave labour’ is a sign 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.’

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.’

Anarchy In The UK rocker 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.’

The Sex Pistols 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, Cook accepted that the Sex Pistols were probably ‘gone for good’ after he and Jones took legal action.

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Last week, Jones told the court that he thinks Lydon is ‘a total d**k’, but added: ‘This is not about slagging anyone off in this TV series at all.’

Jones and Cook’s barrister Cullen has previously told the court that his clients’ claim is against 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.


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