Still a Pistol
A Punk Pioneer Mixes It Up On the Radio
By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2004; Page C01
When he played guitar in the world's most notorious band, Steve Jones lied about his taste in music, and that was probably a good idea. He and the other Sex Pistols were billed as snot-nosed hellions and the scourge not just of parents but also of arena-rock acts, like Pink Floyd and Queen. Jones loved the songs of fellow punks, but he actually enjoyed some of the groups he was supposed to chase into oblivion.
"When I was in the Sex Pistols, I listened to Boston," he said one recent afternoon, citing the band that gave us "More Than a Feeling." "But I couldn't tell anybody, you know. I'd get lynched."
The secret is out now. For more than three months, Jones has been the host and star of "Jonesy's Jukebox," two hours of radio that runs Monday through Friday at noon, on an FM station here known as Indie 103.1. (You can tune in online at 3 p.m. EST at indie1031.fm/main.html.) Eclectic doesn't begin to describe this mix: On a given day, Jones will spin cheese-pop from the '80s, dub reggae from the '90s and goth-punk from two months ago. He might play three Prince songs in a row, or a track from an up-and-coming group like Franz Ferdinand, or an under-loved vintage punk band like 999. Outside the realm of college radio, shows with such fearless, anything-goes range are all but impossible to find.
But the music on the "Jukebox" is just half the fun. The other half is Jones, whose random musings, memory lapses and cockney accent -- nearly every "th" becomes an "f," so he calls the station "one oh free point one" -- are as entertaining as any song. It helps that Jones knows many of the artists he spins, and if he hasn't met them, odds are good that he's stolen their equipment. A drug abuser for years and a kleptomaniac for far longer, he routinely heisted stuff found in studios and then hawked it for heroin.
"I was addicted to doing it," he says of his crime spree, chatting off the air in a 45-minute interview. "I didn't care who it was. I just had a mission."
Recently, when he introduced a song on his show by the British band 10cc, he didn't just rave about the music, he also recounted the long ago day when he nabbed a pair of the band's guitars and the day, many years later, that he called up one of the group's founders to apologize.
"I've been straight for a long time now and one of the things I do is make amends to people I come across," he says. "I thought he would be upset, but he was frilled that I was straight." He pauses for a moment.
"Probably wasn't as frilled when it 'appened."
Jones is sitting on a stool in the darkened booth where he broadcasts, wearing a T-shirt and fiddling with a CD that just arrived in the mail. At 48, his once-long mane of hair is now clipped short and he has the soft, satisfied middle of a guy who isn't exactly counting his carbs. He looks like the sort of character you'd want on your side in a bar brawl, though there's an air of contentment about him that suggests his fighting days are over.
"I love what I'm doing," he says, beaming. "I could do it forever."
Until the radio show, Jones wasn't doing much, other than hanging around the house he owns in Beverly Hills, where he's lived for about 22 years. He's never been married and never had kids, and aside from a couple of tours with the reunited Sex Pistols and the odd job as album producer, little was happening in his life. Then, four months ago, his phone rang. It was an executive at 103.1 who once worked for a label that Jones recorded for in a post-Pistols band. When Jones heard the word "radio," he didn't wait for an invitation.
"Out the blue, I said, 'I want a job, I want be a deejay,' " he recalls. " 'Cause I was so bored! I wasn't doing anyfing. And the next fing is, this guy's over my house and two weeks later I'm doing this for the first time."
Jones's one condition: a free hand in devising his daily playlist.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Sex Pistols founder Steve Jones is as likely to play pop as punk on his L.A. radio show, an entertaining mix of random musings and memory lapses.
(Jonathan Alcorn For The Washington Post)