The Professionals: "We didn't want to do this as a nostalgia trip"
After the Pistols dream ended as a nightmare, Steve Jones and Paul Cook eventually returned with The Professionals. Now the latest line-up are giving it another go and “having a bit of fun”
Malcolm McLaren loved a soundbite. He’d generously deploy succinct pearls of wisdom at every given opportunity. Paul Cook, recalling his flaming youth at the epicentre of the punk firestorm over a bracing cup of tea, recounts one of his late manager’s absolute favourites: “He’d say: ‘You’ve got to destroy in order to create, boy. You’ve gotta destroy.’”
As situationist rhetoric goes, it’s a classic; when stencilled on to a shirt, a design for life. But in the real world – or at least the music business – what do infamous iconoclasts do for an encore? The Sex Pistols were a hard act to follow. Especially for the Sex Pistols.
“It was pretty tough,” Cook, the band’s drummer, admits of the year he and guitarist Steve Jones spent in limbo following the Sex Pistols’ irreparable split of January ‘78, “wondering what to do with ourselves after being in such an iconic band. In the end we thought we’d better knuckle down and carry on as The Professionals, otherwise we were just going to fade away.”
Obviously, once you’ve torn down the temple, you can’t really expect too many invitations to rejoin the choir. As if alienating their industry wasn’t enough, the Pistols had apparently set out to destroy rock’n’roll itself, so rebuilding a career in its ruins was never going to be easy. Consequently The Professionals’ initial incarnation careered, as if cursed, from chaos to catastrophe. Now they’re back, with heavy friends, for a second crack. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For every ‘happily ever after’ there’s a ‘once upon a time’, and ours occurs in London’s Shepherd’s Bush.
“Me and Steve have known each other since we were ten years old,” says Cook. “He was a terrible influence on me, but a good one as well. He was a wayward boy, a loose cannon. Always the one making things happen, leading everyone astray, getting us into trouble or excitement. He stayed at my house a lot. We were like brothers.”
Jones frequently stayed with friends, and for good reason. As he recently revealed in his startlingly frank autobiography Lonely Boy, his home life was tumultuously toxic, defined by a combination of neglect and abuse. It stole his childhood, bequeathed intimacy and chemical addiction issues, along with a predisposition toward petty crime that resulted in frequent spells in reform school. A prolific burglar of his favourite rock star’s homes, it was only a matter of time before Jones recognised music as the only feasible off-ramp from his life’s on-going downward spiral.