The “Pistols” miniseries energetically tracks the story of the Sex Pistols

22.00 on 4 July 2022

“Our thing is not music, it’s chaos!” From this sensational statement in the columns of the Essential Music Magazine NME, the Sex Pistols issued a creed. They only recorded one album in 1977 before breaking up. But Never mind the Bollocks became legendary with hymns such asAnarchy in Britain and God save the queen. Chaos is the miniseries directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) which shows it with energy and humor.

The invention of punk

A pleasing mess that Malcolm McLaren, the group’s manager, recovers in his own way, trying to shape the four musicians without always succeeding. “As individuals, they were very strange people, explains Danny Boyle. Their value is the influence their music has had on society. » Like the famous slogan “Punks did not die”borrowed from the British group The Exploited, the autobiography of Steve Jones (Lonely Boy – My Life as a Sex Pistolseditions E / P / A), guitarist and founding member of the band, served as the starting point for a portrait of a perspectiveless British youth in the sad mid-1970s. A time that Boyle, of the same generation as him, knows well: “Steve and I come from a similar background, even though my family was far more loving than his. I owe a lot to punk aesthetics and would like to tell that story. »

Back then, we did not have a plan, we just wanted rock’n’roll

An election approved by Steve Jones himself. ‘Danny understands well what happenedtells the 66-year-old musician, who now lives in Los Angeles. At the time, we did not have a plan, we just wanted to play rock’n’roll. We were a rock band with a good image, good lyrics and a good sound. That was when the media fell on us. We have not invented the term “punk”, I do not even know what it means! If you really want to put people in boxes, I would say it’s kids with pointed hair. »

He got involved by talking to screenwriter Craig Pearce (also co-author of the latest Elvis) as well as with comedian Toby Wallace, who plays his role on screen: “He wanted to study my views on becoming a real Londoner. I gave him some tips and some guitar lessons. » Much more strange was his encounter with him who was to play him as a child, the series did not escape the sexual abuse he was subjected to from his stepfather. Another little-known part of his life came to light: his tumultuous relationship with a young American musician who emigrated to London, Chrissie Hynde, the future leader of the Pretenders.

Sex, alcohol and drugs

Like the group’s meteoric career, the production of the series was not easy. Singer and lyricist John Lydon, the infamous Johnny Rotten, tried (without success) to ban the use of his songs. “I was disappointed that he did not want to be involved, comments Steve Jones. It is so much the more unfortunate that the series portrays him very well. »

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In his lively and spontaneous staging, Danny Boyle uses the 4/3 format to allow the integration of many archival images. Sex, alcohol and drugs, rock’s famous triptych, are of course very much present in Pistol, especially through the loss of bassist Sid Vicious. Surprising for a production stamped Disney? “Incredible, yes! laughs Danny Boyle. The only thing we were not allowed to show was a vintage t-shirt created by Vivienne Westwood, which showed one of the seven dwarfs getting Snow White! When I saw it again, I was shocked too, but it was exactly punk! »

In Los Angeles today, Steve Jones is a little less punk than in London. “I’m happy to still be alive”, he smiles. He says he listens to the rock from the 1960s that he hated yesterday: Steely Dan, the Who, the Kinks too. But he does not forget to play on his status: “I am a living legend, it allows me to have a good table at the restaurant! »

Pistols ***, by Danny Boyle, with Toby Wallace, Sydney Chandler, Thomas Brodie-Sangster. 6 episodes of 50 minutes. Available Wednesday.

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