I lived in Denmark Street in 1977 – that’s where we used to rehearse. glen [Matlock] was still in the band, and he came up with the riff for “God Save the Queen”. John wrote the lyrics. Me, Paul Cook and Glen were playing in there, and John was basically sitting in the corner, scribbling words. That’s how it happened. When we recorded it, with Chris Thomas and Bill Price, it was different. Glen was gone by then – the only song he played on was ‘Anarchy in the UK’. And so I ended up playing bass on “God Save the Queen”. I played bass on most of the album, actually. sid [Vicious] played on a few songs, but I just remember them sounding completely different from “Anarchy”.
“Anarchy” was very big and had some interesting guitar sounds, and “God Save the Queen” was pretty dry. But it was great. It was very powerful. I had to give Sid a crash course in how to play bass, which was quite difficult. He looked good – it was a shame, he had this dark cloud above him. I didn’t see him getting old. We had a few years where it was magical – it really was. I didn’t particularly like hanging out with John… Cookie was my buddy. And I really liked hanging out with [Sex Pistols manager Malcolm] McLaren. I like John, but he can turn on you quickly. But I have nothing but respect for him. And of course the statement was… you know.
I never had any connection with the monarchy, to be honest. It meant nothing to me, it still means nothing to me. So for me, it was just a laugh, it was a giggle. I didn’t know that would offend a lot of Brits. They took it personally. It was a stab at the queen. I think John has [attacked], we used to walk around – we didn’t have bodyguards or cars or anything, so we were just a target, John more than the rest of us. Cookie got beaten up by two Teddy boys. It was a great time to be a young man, you know? We were children, really. There was a naivety to it, but also we were very ready to get up and go. That’s what you do when you’re young, 19, 20.
The times have changed. I’m 65, I’m like a monk now. But also, things are always the same. This is how it is designed. I guess you could say it’s getting a little harder – the world at large just isn’t in a good place, and I don’t know how you could reverse this mess.
I don’t know if we have a chance of reaching number 1. It would be funny if we did. Maybe Rod Stewart will drop a quick single and beat us [like he did in 1977 with “Sailing”]. I have other things going on: I started a new podcast, Jones Jukebox. We pulled out a few old ones, there’s one where I interviewed McLaren. I spoke with Danny Boyle [director of new series Pistol] last week and some of the cast members. Danny is awesome, he’s really something else. He was passionate about the project, he wanted to do it more than anyone. I think he’s awesome. He really did his homework, Danny Boyle. Yeah. Nailed it.
As said to Roisin O’Connor. The special reissue of “God Save the Queen” has been released. “Pistol,” based on Jones’ memoir “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol,” is on Disney+