Punk Goes Acoustic

Interview With Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols)

By Kyle Pineda

English television TV host Bill Grundy once referred to the Sex Pistols as “not the nice, clean Rolling Stones” (not that the ‘Stones were really ‘clean’ themselves anyways), but with a bang, the Sex Pistols exploded onto the English punk scene and nearly dissipated just as quickly as they had arrived. Yet tonight at The Vagabond, former ‘Pistol Glen Matlock will play his own tunes, stripped down acoustically and prove that the “not nice” and “unclean” punks could still play the roof off any venue.

Glen sat down with us at WRGP Radiate FM for a few words on Wednesday night, with a couple performances to boot:

In the past, you’ve talked about pirate radio, and I know pirate radio in the 60’s in England was very big since the BBC was against playing certain bands…

Well, you’re kind of right, but the BBC didn’t not play certain kinds of bands; there just wasn’t any pop music programs when I was a kid.


No, there were two shows, there was one on Saturday morning, called the Brian Matthew’s Show, I know there’s a few English people out there, they might recognize that, and there was the Jimmy Saville program, who died two years ago. They would play early Beatles stuff, the Dave Clark 5, and then the Jimmy Saville show was the Top 40, but as a kid I always thought it was kind of weird that they knew what the Top 40 was because you couldn’t hear whatever bands to select whatever the Top 40 was going to be. But right about that time, all these people started broadcasting from ships just outside British territory waters, in fact there was a movie that came out a few years ago called “The Boat That Rocked”, which is like a comedy version of it, but it’s a pretty true story. That coincided with the bands like the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, the Yardbirds, and the Rolling Stones coming through for the first time, and also one of my all-time favorite bands, the Small Faces.

So as a kid in the 60’s, listening to this pirate radio influencing everyone, everybody sort of picked up a guitar, would tune in and that’s how they found new music?

Pretty much, yeah, it was a very big influential thing; I think a lot of people my age have kind of forgotten that a little bit. And that’s when, I mentioned the Kinks, well somebody like Ray Davies, who I think is one of England’s greatest living songwriters, you know that’s why I picked up on that kind of three and a half minute slice of song that was kind of really about something actually.

Once you started playing with instruments, who started influencing you? Whose songs did you cover?

I suppose you’re alluding to my first proper band, the Sex Pistols, in which was like early to mid 70’s we started getting it together, and right about that time in England, everything became progressive rock, bands like Yes and Genesis, and it didn’t mean anything to me or the other guys. And so we went backwards a little bit, and picked up on what I was talking about, and some earlier rock and roll things. We’d all met at this guy’s shop, Malcolm McClaren, you might’ve heard of him, who was our manager. He had a clothes shop and it had a great jukebox, and it had like Eddie Cochran, and Gene Vincent and stuff like that, so we picked up on that. We were sidestepping what was going on, and then going back, but putting our own stamp on things.

So you’d say the punk scene grew out that, punk was a backlash against all these progressive bands…

Kind of, and bands that didn’t really mean anything, but also what was going on in England at the time, real big sort of…not a depression but well…

A recession?

Yeah, a big recession, and there was a really big political thing going on at the time. One government was mad at the other, and it seemed like nobody was in charge and it was a real error…

And it seems like nothing has changed, worldwide in the last 35 years…

Yeah, except now we’ve all got computers as well so we can check up on what going’s on elsewhere, but it seemed like nothing was happening, we thought if we were going to do anything we got to do it for ourselves and we wrote a song to do with that, I mean I wrote a song called “Pretty Vacant”, which I still don’t quite understand what it means, but that’s the way I felt at the time, and John [Lydon] wrote a song called “No Future”, which ended up being called “God Save the Queen”, but it seemed like to us like there was no future unless you did something about it for yourself, which is what we attempted to do.

We interviewed John Lydon since Public Image Ltd. was in Miami not too long ago, and he made a comment about how punks back then hated each other, and that was the scene. When I asked him why it was like that, he really couldn’t answer it, he just said, “that’s how it was”. How do you respond to that?

I kind of see where he’s coming from, I never really felt that, and that’s the difference between me and John. I remember doing a photo session in the street, and one of the guys from the Stranglers walked past and he said “Hi”, so I said “Hi” back, and John said “You’re talking to him?” and I said “Yeah, he’s just one of the guys” and he said “Oh how dare you talk to him”, so I don’t think it was me who had a problem with the other guys. It’s also funny how we’d heard about these bands in America, from early New York, because Malcolm McLaren had been going backwards and forwards to New York, mainly to buy old clothes for his store, and be brought back some flyers of shows and it was like early Television when Richard Hell was in the band, and the Heartbreakers, and the Ramones, but none of those bands had made any records and so we’d never got to listen to them. We hadn’t made any records and when they came over to England for the first time, it was a really quite a shock, especially with the Ramones, I think they were the first New York punk band that came over and played, how similar the sound was. So I think everybody, both sides of the Atlantic had kind of got fed up with the same set of influences at the same time.

Listen to the complete interview, along with performances of “A Different World” and “Burning Sounds” here.