On a clear June morning, I rode 150 miles to Sea Ranch, California, to interview a vacationing rock guitarist. He's 62 years old, lives in Los Angeles, and a few days prior, rode a loaner Scrambler Ducati 1100 Sport from Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. His pal Jason had arranged to hand off the Sport for a week of riding in western Mendocino County, where Jonesy often vacations to clear his head from the craziness of LA.

Steve Jones and his Scrambler Ducati 1100 Sport
Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones cracking open the throttle on his Scrambler Ducati 1100 Sport on CA-1 near Sea Ranch, California, in June 2018.Gaz Boulanger

Steve Jones is the host of "Jonesy's Jukebox," a popular radio show on 95.5 KLOS in Los Angeles. The former Sex Pistols guitarist is considering a major move to northern California if he can find the right property. I rode a Scrambler Ducati 1100 Special three hours north to meet Jonesy, who was funny, relaxed, and more keen to talk about bikes than music.

I wanted to read Lonely Boy when it came out last year, but not just put it on my shelf after I was done. So I asked the Mountain View Public Library to buy it, and they did, so government funds purchased your autobiography and it’s now available for all the Googlites and Appleheads and Facebookers who call Mountain View home to read. You’ve done plenty of interviews about your book and its contents, so there’s no need to go down that road again today.

I also did the audio for the book; it took me 60 hours! I was reading off an iPad in this little recording studio booth. After three hours I started seeing things. I'd go there after my radio show; I thought it would be a breeze to record, but I hung in there and recorded me own book. Not even Keith Richards can say that (laughs)!

Because this is a motorcycle magazine interview, let’s talk about who got you into and onto motorcycles in the first place.

I was a kleptomaniac at a young age. I started out stealing Vespas and Lambrettas when I was 11. I got into stealing cars as well; joyriding at 15 or so. I went into a Honda dealership when I was 16 or 17, signed some papers, and just took the bike, a Honda 650 with the four pipes. I don’t remember the details, but it was a lot of fun. Me first motorbike. It broke down or something a couple weeks later.

Maybe it just ran out of gas?

(Laughs) More than likely. My next bike came years later was when I moved to California in the early ’80s. No helmet, no money. I found a co-signer and bought an 883 Harley Sportster. Took Chrissie Hynde for a ride. There was nothing like it, catching the California motorcycle bug. Had that bike for a bit, then while riding in Laurel Canyon with my girlfriend Nina, I looked back at her for a split second and hit a car that had stopped in front of us. Broke me wrist and the bike. Nina was fine. Got the bike fixed.

The next bike was a candy-apple red Harley AMF Shovelhead. It was in my video for “Mercy.” I got an FLH from a friend recently and took off all the frilly stuff. Bike is fun for riding here and there, but it handles like a car with no power steering.

The Shovelhead got me into another wreck, this time on Mulholland Drive. These drunk chicks crossed the yellow line and I crashed, hurting the same wrist and almost losing my junk. Nina was on the back again, and escaped harm. She was lovely, probably my only true girlfriend.

My wrist isn’t too bad; no arthritis and I can still “jing-jing-jing” on the guitar. Where the wrist hurts the most is when I’m riding.

Simonon and Jones
The Clash bassist Paul Simonon (left) with Jones, looking hard on their Harleys in the late 1980s.Robert Matheu

Is it true that you and Clash bassist Paul Simonon rode across the country once?

It looked like it from the pictures, but we really only rode to the Mojave Desert, which isn’t that far. We hung out a few times; he always looked great. Jealous of that bloke! He had the Elvis look and I had the Fabio look back then.

Remember when Glenn Frey had the “Hard Rock/Rock Hard” ads in the late ’80s? That was you.

Yeah, everyone was working out and getting sun to escape their demons. I’d just park me bike outside the Rainbow; it was like catnip for the ladies.

Which bikes do you currently own, and which one gets the most saddle time?

I customized an Evo, then got another FLH with drum brakes. I’ve had loads of bikes, several Triumphs; just sold two Ducatis, me Multistrada with 65,000 miles on it and a GT. I customized the Multi with blacked-out parts and plenty of carbon fiber. Pro Italia worked on me GT, so I got Evan Wilcox to build an aluminum tank, side panels, and fenders for it. I never rode the bike because I was too big for it; looked silly on it, really. Even custom risers didn’t make it comfortable.

Now I’m left with a police special FLH, a BMW (HP2) Megamoto, and a custom Harley Road King Special in me garage, next to my truck. It’s a tight fit. I’m thinking about that 2018 Scrambler Ducati 1100, but I’d replace the turn signals and a few other bits. Maybe get some Termignoni pipes. I don’t mind the mag wheels; I love the way the bike rides. It does burn the gas, but it’s perfect for a fast little bike, good for zipping in traffic.

How often do you ride each week?

Nearly every day. Traffic in LA is a nightmare, and bikes are the only way to get around town. My commute to the station is 30 minutes or so. Not far. Texting is rampant among drivers, which is scary. I don’t want to sound like the old fart, but before there were mobile phones people paid more attention behind the wheel.

Segueing into music. What is it about the black leather motorcycle jacket and rock and roll that symbolizes rebellion? You oughta know; you wrote a song called “Black Leather.”

That song was less about a jacket and more about a chick. A black leather jacket is part of the deal, innit? Bad boy image, like Levi’s.

Scrambler Ducati 1100 Sport
All systems go on a cool June morning on the California coast. Jonesy fires up his Scrambler Ducati 1100 Sport.Gaz Boulanger

I don’t protect myself like I should when I ride. Just want to be comfortable. No padded stuff. I wear a Ruby open-face helmet, but the new Arai full-face is nice. Light. I like me face to be open. I’m a cautious rider now. I ride Angeles Crest a lot, but not on weekends when the traffic is heavy.

Are you playing guitar every day?

I pick it up when I’m at home. Wouldn’t say I’m learning anything new, but I play often. I like messing about. I’ve been using a Pedal Plus lately for a Pink Floyd-y sustained sound. Brilliant.

Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen mentioned on your show that he owns 500 guitars, and takes 50 on tour. How many do you have, and how many did you take on tour?

Two; one backup in case I break a string. When the Pistols toured we kept the same sound. I’m grateful for that, it’s just not my thing to have multiples. Rick brought this Epiphone Coronet on the show, which Steve Marriott from the Faces used to play. He’s got me on the trail to buying one. We text frequently; he’s a good guy. They tour a lot.

Was Neurotic Outsiders your favorite musical effort? Must have been fun playing with Duff McKagan (of Guns N’ Roses) and John Taylor (of Duran Duran).

It was a good period, the Outsiders. I don’t like being the center of attention because I don’t like carrying it all. John Taylor and I shared vocals. We made a good record. The songs are good; it was my last proper record. I’m thinking about possibly a solo record; would love to have Jeff Lynne produce it. That would be a fantasy come true. Not sure who I’d ask to play on the record; maybe newer, but still a pro.

I don’t have the energy to go on the road these days. The guys in Cheap Trick help each other along. If I ain’t having fun, it’s not worth it; it’s different when you’re 20. When you get old your time is limited.

Your Freedom Fighter Julien Temple video from 1989’s Fire & Gasoline album certainly had a motorcycle mayhem storyline. You and Billy Duffy (of The Cult) were at your big-hair ’80s peak then. So was Iggy Pop. How was it playing with Iggy, and do you and Duffy ride together these days?

We were part of that big-hair scene, and I was riding a lot with Mickey Rourke. We kinda started the whole Hollywood Harley riding scene. Everyone we knew in rock and roll started getting bikes.

That bastard Iggy never has to work out and he looks great. I just breathe and I gain weight. It was fun writing songs and playing together. He’s great to work with, quick with lyrics. I don’t get the chance to ride with Billy much because he tours a lot.

What music trips your trigger now? Your musical tastes have always been rather diverse.

There’s always the Faces, Roxy Music, early Bowie, Mott the Hoople, early Stones. That’s never gonna change. My favorite year for music is 1972; so much great stuff was released. I love the way ’70s records sound. Then we had the ’80s thing with snare drums and synthesizers and click tracks.

My first solo record was kinda mellow. Just wanted to get away from the London punk thing. Wasn’t listening to anyone, really; just playing what I wanted to play. Do what you want to do.

The new record company devils are Spotify and Pandora; not a fan.

Looking back to 1976, did you ever think you’d be a music DJ in Los Angeles?

Of course not. It feels good to stay involved at this level. I’m here on my terms only.

In your opinion, what’s the greatest song of all time and why?

That’s a tough one. What’s yours?

David Bowie’s “Heroes.” The perfect song; emotion, sustained guitar, dreamy lyrics.

That’s a good one. I’ll have to tell you later. There are so many great songs by Bowie, Eddie Cochran, the Faces, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis. Songs I dug because I was born in 1955; timeless songs I’ve been listening to since I was in the womb.

I can tell you it’s not a Nickelback song.

In the end, it’s all just about rock and roll, eh?

It’s a feeling; I don’t know how to explain it.

It’s at this point that Jonesy’s phone rings. His ringtone is “Miss Judy’s Farm” by the Faces. I ask him if that’s his favorite, and he still can’t decide. That evening he texts me his answer:

“ ‘Maggie May’ by Rod is my all-time fave…”

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