When former Sex Pistol Steve Jones joined a pickup band for a benefit concert for a cancer-stricken friend at Los Angeles’ Viper Room in the mid-’90s, he probably had no clue that the lineup he’d choose would result in a full-blown record deal with Madonna’s Maverick Records for $1 million.
What started out as a random mishmash of his musician friends–John Taylor (Duran Duran) and Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses)–and a Monday night residency at the infamous club turned into Neurotic Outsiders. Together, they took all that power they possessed and channeled it into a self-titled debut released in 1996. Long out of print, “Neurotic Outsiders” is being re-released as an expanded edition, containing all the tracks from the album plus the rare Japanese-only EP. It will be released on June 3, 2022, via Boston-based Supermegabot Records.
“We all were in these high-profile, high- maintenance bands with very little actual playing. With Neurotic Outsiders, things felt completely loose,” Taylor said of the ragtag nature of the band.
Originally starting out as cover band that hosted a wide array of surprise guests, including Simon LeBon, Billy idol, Izzy Stradlin, Chrissie Hynde, Ian Astbury, Sporty Spice Mel C, Iggy Pop, Brian Setzer and Slash, the band’s own internal chemistry between its four members was so apparent that soon Neurotic Outsiders was born.
As more and more of Jones’ post-Sex Pistols originals started making their way into sets, the band began embracing the new material. Comprising no frills, guitar-drenched, rock ‘n’ roll tunes, most of the originals were unheard material leftover from Jones’ Sex Pistols/Professionals days.
“[Jones] gave me the tape of his songs and it became my favorite tape,” McKagan said. “It sounded like 1979 English punk rock with an American feel. It was rockin’. It was heavy. Jonesy wrote the coolest pop.”
Pulling in Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison to harness its power, the self-titled debut was full of songs that reveled in the rock ‘n’ roll excess of yore, which The New York Times characterized as “pure Hollywood, honestly, and comfortably vulgar” and Details called “crude punk rock.”
Kicking off right out of the gate with the slash and burn of “Nasty Ho” into the pounding sear of “Always Wrong,” the band unexpectedly sprinkled honest and tender tunes throughout, including the wistful “Union,” a rumination on the demise of the Sex Pistols (which ironically reformed just as the song was completed). “Story of My Life” retells Jones’ own addict’s lament, while Taylor’s “Better Way” is “a testament to our sober lives and it was not the song I would have envisioned writing with the co-author of ‘Pretty Vacant.’”
Other tracks include “Angelina” (a tribute to the inescapable ’80s/’90s pink-haired billboard queen of Los Angeles) and “Good News” (a bitter send-off with the lyric “the good news is you’re dying, the bad news is I’m alive”). The album’s first single, “Jerk,” is a standard self-deprecating Jones’ track where he proclaims “I’m a jerk” as a chorus. Included are covers Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth” (from the Japan-only EP) and a furious rendition of The Clash’s “Janie Jones.”
Just as the band was starting to gather steam, each of the band members were–one by one–pulled away when their previously inactive bands started reforming again, leaving prospects of a continuation of Neurotic Outsiders swept away in the Viper Room’s evening detritus. Had they stuck together, it might have re-energized Jones to continue making music. But as it stands, this currently stands as his final album.
“I am proud of that album,” Jones said. “This is one album I really do like. I like the songwriting. I like the production, and I like the way it’s played. We had a fun time making that record, and I think it could’ve done well if we’d all been around to give it a proper push.”
Since 1996, the band reformed in 1999 for three shows at the (now defunct) Viper Room, but they’ve all stayed busy.
The album’s lyrics foreshadowed many of the themes addressed in Steve Jones’ 2018 autobiography, “Lonely Boy,” now adapted by director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) as the 2022 Hulu miniseries “Pistol.”
Matt Sorum’s long-delayed autobiography, “Double Talkin’ Jive,” has been released by Rare Bird Books, covering his career from playing in Tori Amos’ Y Kant Tori Read project, through the Cult, GnR, Velvet Revolver and beyond.
Duff McKagan made numerous albums, both solo and in other bands, and has written two books, before reuniting with the reformed Guns N, Roses, which has been touring since 2016.
John Taylor recorded six solo albums, wrote his autobiography, and has been touring and recording with Duran Duran since the original band reunited in 2000.
All four members of Neurotic Outsiders are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as is the album’s producer Jerry Harrison. Taylor’s induction with Duran Duran will take place this November.
“Neurotic Outsiders” expanded edition track listing:
- Nasty Ho
- Always Wrong
- Good News
- Better Way
- Feelings Are Good
- Janie Jones
- Story of My Life
- Six Feet Under
- Seattle Head
- Spanish Ballroom
- Planet Earth
- Jerk (Clean Version)