“Pistol”: the true, the false of the series of Danny Boyle on Disney +

“Great Scam in Rock History” according to the ironic title of Julien Temple’s film (The Great Rock’n’Roll Scam1980) or “punk boy band” for the others: the series does not decide, even if it details the difficult relationship of a group formed (and manipulated according to this version) by their manager Malcolm McLaren (interpreted with the verve required by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the ex- romantic kid from love in fact)

If the title of the series is reduced to Gunin the singular, it is because the screenplay is based on Lonely Boy: Tales of a Sex Pistolthe autobiography of founding member Steve Jones.

Singer Johnny Rotten, aka John Lydon, criticized this adaptation as “a petty bourgeois fantasy…a fairy tale with little connection to fact”. You can share your reservations. Gun delivers a somewhat polished vision. On Form : punk is dead

Lydon probably doesn’t appreciate his incarnation by Anson Boon, who composes a quasi-escaped asylum where Lydon was a mischievous leprechaun.

Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) and Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon): too “dirt and fury” to be honest. ©FX / Disney+

Lydon attempted to object to the use of the band’s music. A court ruled in Boyle’s favor after Jones, drummer Paul Cook (Jacob Slater) and Sid Vicious’ (Louis Partridge) heirs agreed.

Danny Boyle – who was 20 in 1977 – replied in the Guardianwith phlegm: “I love Lydon. I don’t want him to like the show: I want him to attack it. […] Why change good habits?

In this type of adaptation, the true and the false merge under the artistic licence. Analyze (with spoilers)

The beginnings

The first episode begins when Steve Jones (Toby Wallace) changes the name of his first band, The Strand to The Swankers. It is then composed of Paul Cook, Glen Matlock and Wally Nightingale (the series evacuates three other initial members). In fact, Matlock came later. The meeting of the group with the couple Vivienne Westwood-Malcolm McLaren (Talulah Riley and Thomas Brodie-Sangster) was longer.

Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley)
Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley), a creative couple. ©FX / Disney+

The sex shop

Westwood and McLaren’s shop had several names before becoming Sex in 1975. They accompanied successive fashions – rockers, Teddy Boys, hippies – before establishing themselves with the punk scene. The part of inspiration, avant-gardism, opportunism of the couple remains subject to debate. As seen in the series, theft was common there. The couple managed this by offering aspiring musicians to lend them the clothes for a concert to advertise them. The series omits a revealing anecdote: in art schools, McLaren swindled scholarships by enrolling under different names. For a detailed account of McLaren’s journey, read the comic Malcolm McLaren: The Art of Disaster (Futuropolis).

Steve Jones (Toby Wallace), punk and retaliation for justice.
Steve Jones (Toby Wallace), punk and retaliation for justice. ©FX / Disney+

Steve Jones justice retaliation

If we are to believe his autobiography, Steve Jones was abused by his stepfather. He also allegedly stole equipment at the end of the last concert of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour. In the series, he is arrested by recidivism. Jones himself no longer remembers the circumstances of this arrest. McLaren did secure his release, but not as spectacularly as seen in Gun. The anecdote explains Jones’ loyalty to his unscrupulous manager.

Matlock’s ousting

Glen Matlock (Christian Lees), the Pistols’ first bass player, ousted at the dawn of success, in favor of Sid Vicious, a different version of the facts reproduced in the series. It wasn’t Steve Jones who fired him (let alone in a pub toilet). In his autobiography I was a teenage sex gun, he claims to have anticipated the decision, tired of Johnny Rotten’s explosive ego and after hearing about the Pistols’ rehearsal with Sid Vicious. He would have had an explanation with McLaren. He then formed the Rick Kids.

Glen Matlock (Christian Lees), the ousted.
Glen Matlock (Christian Lees), the ousted. ©FX / Disney+


Chrissie Hynde, future singer of Pretenders, occupies a preponderant role – to the benefit of her interpreter Sydney Chandler. Of American origin, Hynde worked for West-wood seeking to break into the music scene. Hynde and Jones were lovers. But their romance is overdone. Hynde’s attempted sham marriage to one of the Pistols in order to prolong his stay is authentic, but summarized (according to Hynde’s book, Carefree: My Life as a Suitor).

Before Sid and Nancy, there was Chrissie the Pretender (Sydney Chandler) and Steve.  But the series romances a bit.
Before Sid and Nancy, there was Chrissie the Pretender (Sydney Chandler) and Steve. But the series romances a bit. ©FX / Disney+

The groupies

Around the Pistols and Westwood revolves the fauna of the Bromley Contingent. Initially inspired by glam rock and Bowie, its members refined the punk look. We recognize in Gun the famous Sue Catwoman, Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin (who will create the group Siouxsie and the Banshees) or the future Billy Idol. Pam “Jordan” Rooke, an employee of Westwood, really went by train to London, naked under a transparent raincoat. Maisie Williams, the Arya Stark of game of thronestakes the opportunity to break his image.

Pam "Jordan" Rooke (Maisie Williams), an authentic muse of punk.
Pam “Jordan” Rooke (Maisie Williams), an authentic muse of punk. ©FX / Disney+

Show The Bill Grundy

The Bill Grundy Show episode in December 1976 when the Pistols swear live is authentic and one well caused a media storm. The presenter has actually moved moved with regard to Siouxsie Sioux. That Gun doesn’t pay off is that the informal Bromley Contingent cast decides to move on afterwards, disturbing that the media caricaturizes the punk scene.

The influence of “Bodies”

Except in the prelude of the first episode (inspired by the documentary Obscenity and Fury by Julien Temple, 2000), Gun skims over the social context of the time. The chilling third episode, Body, makes an exception with the story of the tragic journey of Pauline, the woman who would have inspired John Lydon the title “Bodies”. According to the singer’s biography, the facts are true – including Pauline’s visit to his home. If you only need to watch one episode…

Sid and Nancy

Impossible to evoke the Sex Pistols without detailing the relationship between Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge) and the American groupie Nancy Spungen (Emma Appleton). Alex Cox makes a movie out of it (Sid and Nancy, 1986).Spungen is the role of the temptress who causes Sid’s downfall. His appearance in the series different from reality. It was John Lydon who introduced him to his friend in 1977. In his biography Anger is Energy: My Uncensored LifeLydon assures that he agrees that it would be “one night stand”. Malcolm McLaren did hatch a plan to keep Spungen away (as Jon Savage reports in Dream of England). But it wasn’t Jones, Hynde and Cook who realized it and it was cut short. The end of the couple is consistent with what we know.

Nancy Spungen (Emma Appleton), the bad girl in the story.
Nancy Spungen (Emma Appleton), the bad girl in the story. ©FX / Disney+

The Christmas Concert

On December 25, 1977, in Huddersfield, the group gave what would be their last concert in the United Kingdom, in aid of the children of striking firefighters. The Pistols played the game with a good-natured spirit (self-censoring their lyrics). The concert it’s really ended in a fight of cream pies.