Steve Jones

Still packing heat

in Culture by

Ex-Sex Pistol brings his band for a dose of Prague culture

A plaque now marks the spot at St. Martin’s School of Art in London where, Nov. 6, 1975, four sour-faced reprobates calling themselves The Sex Pistols made their live debut. Deliberately unrehearsed and reportedly delivering a cacophonous racket of a set, the band was booted off the stage after only three songs.

Did it matter? Hell, no! The Sex Pistols were always designed to put controversy before musical competency.

Three decades on, as the anniversary of the band’s only true album, Never Mind the Bollocks, rapidly approaches, the only Pistol still packing live ammunition is original bass guitarist Glen Matlock, who’s bringing his band The Philistines to Prague.

Contrary to popular myth, Matlock was not kicked out of the Pistols in favor of Sid Vicious for liking The Beatles. Things turned sour when their sly fox of a manager, Malcolm McClaren, decided to throw Johnny Rotten into the mix. Rotten hated everyone, including himself, but was mostly jealous of Matlock’s art-school background. With Rotten dragging in his pal Sid Vicious in Matlock’s place, McClaren’s ploy to whip up a new culture of hate and violence that would rip apart the social fabric of the nation finally fell into place.

“Sid was a lovable idiot with a nice haircut,” says Matlock, “but he wasn’t a bass guitarist, more a singer. And that changed the balance of the band, because he ended up stealing a lot of Johnny’s thunder.”

With Rotten barking out lines like “I am an Antichrist” and declaring that the Queen “ain’t no human being,” Never Mind the Bollocks went on to form the very template of punk rock.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that he wrote some of the best tunes on Never Mind the Bollocks, as well as both the music and lyrics to “Pretty Vacant,” Matlock’s talents were largely ignored. He left by way of the back door, and his career seemed destined to slide into deep obscurity.

Is he at all bitter? Of course not.

“Malcolm McClaren is a nasty piece of work, and I don’t know anyone who has worked with him who hasn’t had a bad experience,” Matlock says. As for Rotten? “He was a spiteful old queen, in a Kenneth Williams kind of way. As soon as he got his face in the papers, he changed.”

It’s been a career of mixed fortunes ever since. In 1978, Matlock formed pop punk outfit The Rich Kids with Midge Ure (later of Ultravox fame), but they split up after just one album, Ghosts of Princes in Towers. Rock sojourns with the likes of Iggy Pop, The London Cowboys and Johnny Thunders followed. But it wasn’t until the 1996 release of his debut solo album, Who Does He Think He Is When He’s at Home? that Matlock came into his own.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, though. The Sex Pistols had just announced that they were going to re-form for “The Filthy Lucre Tour” and wanted Matlock on bass. Consequently, the album sank without a trace.

The Pistols re-formed again in 2002 and 2003, with Matlock spending his time in between trying out other projects, like Dead Men Walking, a supergroup of rock has-beens that included Mike Peters of The Alarm, Kirk Brandon of Spear Of Destiny and Pete Wylie of The Mighty Wah!

Matlock was in Prague 10 years ago as a member of The Sex Pistols, and in some ways not much has changed. “I’m still singing about gross ineptitude, stupidity and the state of the world — pretty much the same things as with The Sex Pistols,” he says.

The Philistines are a tight live unit with two excellent high-powered rock ‘n’ roll albums already to their credit. The lineup includes rockers Ray McVeigh on guitar and Chris Musto on drums. (Musto was in the post-Pistols outfit The Professionals with Steve Jones.)

“We haven’t been gigging that much because we’ve been busy recording a new album,” says Matlock. “But we’re coming to Prague because of the culture. We’ll be doing stuff from all my albums and a few Sex Pistols songs as well. They all kind of slot together pretty good, because I’m the bloke who wrote them.”

Could Matlock be blowing his own trumpet? If so, it’s about time.

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