Former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten has told the High Court in London “no money in the world is worth a lie” while giving evidence about blocking the use of the band’s music in an episode of Netflix drama The Crown.
The punk group’s former drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones are suing the band’s ex-singer, real name John Lydon, to allow their songs to be used in TV drama Pistol, directed by Danny Boyle.
The six-part series, which is being made by Disney and is due to air next year, is 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”.
But Lydon, who has previously told the Sunday Times he thinks the series is the “most disrespectful s*** I’ve ever had to endure”, argues that licences cannot be granted without his consent.
Giving evidence at the Rolls Building in London yesterday, Lydon said the producers of the popular series, which chronicles the reign of Queen Elizabeth, wanted to “distort the history of the day”.
He explained in his witness statement to the court that the show’s producers wanted to depict him as a “political protester” and to show scenes of protest in front of the queen, which he said “simply didn’t happen”.
On the day of the queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, the band performed some of their hits, including God Save The Queen, during a boat trip on the Thames river.
He said: “The plots of the show, The Crown, with this particular issue was changing the history of the time. Absolutely rewriting it.
“They wanted some voting scene, something related to me talking about everybody should vote and then tried to turn that into an issue in this drama programme where I would be lining up to vote and that’s not relevant to it at all.
“The producers agreed to use film footage of the boat trip instead. But the story that they presented with the queen in despair in her carriage, and all those ugly scenes on the streets of crowds fighting and chucking bottles, whilst others were celebrating the queen.
“Nobody was rioting and here is my real serious problem with it. This never happened.
“This is a lie to history, it’s a lie about history, of the Sex Pistols’ history, and so I am always going to find that an issue you cannot compromise on.
“If you allow this to happen you are allowing people to alter and rewrite your history, making your real history a lie by the contradiction supporting that and accepting money for that, that’s something I could never be a party to.
“I cannot compromise in selling my integrity. I know what’s what and far too often it’s the examples in the press and the media of history being rewritten that causes real damage to the truth.”
He told the court: “The show’s original offer was, well, it was a misuse of us completely.”
He also said the proposed story was a “very adverse interpretation of the history of the jubilee”.
Mr Lydon added: “There was no bricks and bottles thrown at the queen. It’s a lie.”
He said the “only demonstration about the royal family that day was the Sex Pistols on a boat trip”, adding that they were “singing our lovely songs” in front of the Houses of Parliament.
After the end of the hearing yesterday afternoon, Lydon signed a number of photos and records – including Sex Pistols’ 1977 album Never Mind The B*****ks – for a fan outside court.