In 1979, despite his bandmates’ initial disapproval, Lydon took McLaren to court alleging the misappropriation of money owed to the members. The case was settled in their favor, with McLaren losing control of his movie The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle and its earnings used to compensate the musicians. When it became clear that the manager had indeed spent the band’s cash, they switched to Lydon’s side.
In a new interview with Classic Rock, Jones recalled how he had been caught shoplifting in McLaren’s shop. Instead of handing him over to the cops, however, the owner took the young musician under his wing, offering him a place to stay.
“The great thing about Malcolm was that he had this other life I’d never known,” Jones said. “He went to the Speakeasy, the club everybody went to back then, and knew all these King’s Road avant-garde types. I’d just tag along, and I was fascinated by it, just being an ’erbert from Hammersmith, and I loved it.
“And he liked having me around. He couldn’t drive, so I drove [him] to the tailors in the East End so he could pick up samples. I always feel my loyalty lies with Malcolm. Even though we got shafted on the business end of it, I just had a loyalty to him. I liked hanging out with him; he was a laugh.” Asked if he could have initiated the legal action, Jones replied, “Probably not. It was a great move on John’s part. Well, them two never saw eye to eye, really. But I’m grateful to John for that.”
He went on to praise McLaren’s impresario talents. “He was important, a great manager who saw opportunities,” Jones noted. “Sending us to the American south when he did may have seemed mad, but we got a ton of publicity out of it. He didn’t want any of that ‘here comes another rock band’ crap, and as much as I fucking hated playing in front of people slinging bottles, I get the concept. Everything was a stunt. Just playing a gig in front of a bunch of people was boring to him.”
Despite that, he accepted McLaren “probably had something to do with the demise” of the Pistols. “He might have wanted it to end,” he said. “Then again, why would you bother managing Bow Wow Wow or Adam Ant if your goal was just to destroy bands?”