We all know Steve Jones’ legacy being the backbone of the iconic punk group the Sex Pistols, but some fail to remember that Jones was a solo artist, albeit for a brief period of time in the late 1980s.
After the Pistols demise, Jones, along with Pistols drummer Paul Cock collaborated with several artists doing sessions work including Joan Jett and Johnny Thunders. Jones also had several failed band attempts, not to mention a vicious drug habit throughout the early 1980s.
After cleaning himself up, Jones hooked up with former Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor for Taylor’s 1987 solo debut, ‘Thunder.’ He also worked with Iggy Pop on Iggy’s solo album ‘Blah Blah Blah’ that same year. These releases, and turning his life around, fueled the fires for Jones again as he gave up on the concept of a band to record his own solo debut album, ‘Mercy,’ in 1987.
I was at my usual hang out, the local record store, who would always turn me on to new music. Over the mom and pop indie music store stereo was a slickly produced album playing that caught my ear. It sounded very much like Andy Taylor’s (Duran Duran) solo debut ‘Thunder’ I had previously purchased.
I asked my buddy what he was playing, and he handed me the new album by Steve Jones, ‘Mercy.’ The name was such a common one that I didn’t realize it was THE Steve Jones of Sex Pistols. He didn’t look anything like himself from his punk days; with his hair grown out in snake-like strands, he was tan and looked healthy, holding his trusty Les Paul guitar with his mane flowing on the cover, and on the back, he was sprawled out on a motorcycle.
The album wasn’t punk at all; it was like a totally new Steve Jones. It was very polished, and it was hard rock, if not bordering on heavy metal, with a few pop elements thrown in. It was a perfect fit for the music of that day, and it would become one of my favorite albums of the 1980s. Pistols fans probably choked on their safety pins upon hearing this record, but since I wasn’t into the Sex Pistols then, I loved it. Steve showed he could play that Gibson Les Paul with flare on raging guitar solos and also showed his softer side on the ballads “Raining in My Heart” and “Pleasure and Pain.”
Come to find out the reason ‘Mercy’ sounded a lot like the Andy Taylor album was because Steve Jones produced and co-wrote a lot of the songs on Taylor’s album.
Steve Jones’ ‘Mercy’ was panned by critics and fans alike, but I didn’t care; I loved the album and was excited to see his second solo attempt, ‘Fire & Gasoline,’ in 1989.
For this album, Jones wasn’t messing around as he brought in some big guns to help out. ‘Fire and Gasoline’ included songs co-written by Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx and the Cult’s Ian Astbury, with guest appearances by Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose and the Cult’s Billy Duffy. Still, it wasn’t enough to win over fans. Gone were the slick power ballads and pop rockers in favor of turn-the-amp-up-to-10 balls-out rockers.
Upon getting the new release, I was surprised by the drastic change in sound by Jones, but it’s something he’s been known for throughout his career. This heavier side fit perfectly into the popular metal vein of his fellow rockers the Cult, Guns ‘N Roses, and even Metallica. He also let it be known where he came from, as Jones covered the Sex Pistols song “I Did U No Wrong,” which is completely fleshed out, and also covered the David Bowie classic
There are many sides to Steve Jones; ‘Mercy’ and Fire & Gasoline’ are just a blurb into his amazing career. But it’s an important blurb, because these two records were an important part of my life in the late 1980s.
Thank you Steve, and Happy Birthday