<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> God Save The Sex Pistols - The Origins of the Sex Pistols
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pic: Chelsea School Of Art, 5th December 1975. (l-r; Glen, John, Paul & Steve)

Q: Can you tell me a bit about how you and Steve started the group?

Paul Cook: It wasn't our doing really. It was this bloke called Wally. Like he used to go to our school. He was in the same year as us. And we didn't used to play anything when we was at school or anything. He was interested in it and we just used to go round to his house, towards the end when we was leaving school.

And we used to bunk off, go round his house and sit in his garden, like. See, his mum and dad were out and they didn't care anyway. In the summer we used to go round there - cos it was near the school - and sunbathe and that. And at the time - we didn't know John - there was me, Steve, this Wally geezer and a couple of our other mates.

And I think it was after we left school, Wally - he used to play guitar - he said let's start a group. We decided our own little things, what we was going to do. I wasn't going to be in it at first cos I wasn't all that interested. But Steve, he got a drum kit first. And Wally was on guitar. There was a different bass player, and someone else. After a while they said Steve will be the singer like and I'd play drums. So I said all right.

And Steve had learned to play a bit by this time. So he taught me what he knew and I carried on from there. And he was going to be the singer and he started playing about with guitar. Then there was just the three of was: me, Steve and this Wally. And then we got Glen through the shop, cos we knew Malcolm by this time.

Glen Matlock: I'd worked in Malcolm's shop for about a year and then Steve and Paul started coming in. Malcolm introduced us really. Steve and Paul had all this equipment around and they didn't know what to do with it, so they might as well learn to play it. So that's how they started.

Then they started to get a little bit more serious. Then they had this bass player who was married and had a wife and kid, you know never turned up for rehearsals and all that. About this time I met them. I was learning to play bass. So that was it really. It was about four years ago we started rehearsing, in 73. It is in the last two years though that we really got serious.

Paul: We used to rehearse for a while, the four of us. Then we sort of slung Wally out cos we weren't really happy.

Q: How did you get to know Malcolm McLaren first?

Paul: He had the shop and we used to go in there, round about 1970, 71. I was about 14, 15 then, no about 15 I suppose. Used to buy all our clothes, cos we were mad on clothes, Steve and I. It was called "Let It Rock" then. Used to sell all teddy boys clothes and that.

We used to go in there round about 1971 every week like. We didn't talk about anything to do with music, we'd just go in there and talk to him. And we knew all the people who worked in the shop, we were friends with them, cos we used to hang about the King's Road a lot.

And we heard that Malcolm was looking for groups like to do something with and - this was when we was with Wally - we said we're getting a group together. He said, "I'll come and listen to you". He just used to come down, hang about and listen to us. Give us his "bad advice" about what to do.

Q: Such as?

Paul: I don't know. We was just sort of a bit naive at the time like. Was playing all these old numbers you know, Beatles. He just said stop playing this shit and write your own stuff or get something together so you definitely know what you're doing.

You know, we didn't know what we was doing or anything. We just used to pick stupid random numbers and play them. But then we decided to play all the stuff we liked, like early Small Faces numbers and early Who, like so it's all directed into one channel. And we picked up from there, writing our own stuff. You know we done them as a sort of guide, but we done our own stuff.

And one of the first bands to influence us like, well me anyway and Steve, coming out of that old stuff, was the New York Dolls. Saw them by accident cos we went to see the Faces at Wembley and the Dolls were supporting them - it was about the time their first album was out. And then I saw them on the old telly and I was fucking really knocked out by them.

It was mainly their attitude and I think. It was this really conventional BBC - you know the Old Grey Whistle Test, like everyone's really straight - and I couldn't believe it, they was just all falling about all over the place, all their hair down, all knocking into each other. They had these big platform boots on. Tripping over. They was really funny.

And they just didn't give a shit, you know. And Bob Harris at the end of it went: "tut, tut, tut, mock rock" or something. Just cast it off in two words. I thought it was great though.

Steve Jones: So Wally got the boot and I started practising guitar. I could play - I knew a few chords and so we just started looking for a singer. And Malcolm kept his eye open at the shop and we tried one bloke but he was a dead loss - he was worse than me.

So just by John like coming in the shop...I'd seen him about six months ago. I thought he looked pretty good and I said to Malcolm to look out for this bloke, he's got green hair and that, because he had green hair at the time. And he'd come in the shop and then Malcolm must have asked him: "Do you want to sing?" And he said: "Yes, I don't mind," or something.

So we arranged to meet him in the pub round the corner from the shop. So we went to see him and like he was really like piss-taking back because like we thought he was it a bit of a bowser you know. And he was really flash, like he comes with his mates and we was talking for about an hour and he said, all right, he'd audition it. And he said: "OK, when?" We said: "Tomorrow night."

And then we had this idea of taking him in the shop and making him sing to the jukebox. So we told him that and we went back to the shop. He put the jukebox on and put on these Alice Cooper records and things like that. He was just piss-taking all the time-like out of us and everything else-and he was just pissing about, trying to make out he was singing. And we thought he was really funny. I thought he was hysterical. And he probably thought we was a bunch of idiots. So we went on from there. So we just started rehearsing.

Q: What made you decide on John in particular?

Paul: We thought he's got what we want. Bit of a lunatic, a front man. That's what we was after: a front man who had definite ideas about what he wanted to do and he'd definitely got them. And we knew straight away. Even though he couldn't sing. We wasn't really interested in that cos we was still learning to play at the time, so we weren't really worried about whether he had a great voice or anything.

Q: How did the rest of the band react to John when he first joined you?

Glen: Steve and Paul looked on him as a kind of joke really. You know, cos he was like taking the piss out of them and they took the piss out of him. They just thought he was kind of a puppet character. I just thought yeah, he's kind of mad enough and now we can get on with the band. We can start gigging straight away. Cos we'd been rehearsing for a year-and-a-half, two years by them. Not rehearsing solidly, but learning to play. And when John came along he seemed the right guy to do it. Yeah, everything seemed to work.

Q: Why do you think it is that he has become so much the focus in the group, that he's the one that everybody talks about?

Glen: I don't know. I mean he's obviously got a lot going for him, he's pretty mad and all that.

Q: What do you mean, mad?

Glen: Well at bit nutty, and kind of like looks a bit kind of psychotic. And he stares good, you know, he's got a good stare. You know, Robert Newton kind of stuff. He looked exactly like what was needed. I mean that's why we picked him to be the singer because he looked like what our ideas were like in the back of our heads for somebody to look like. So he embodied the whole thing. He was just the right guy at the right time. He's got the right face.

Q: Do you remember the first gig you did?

Paul: I remember it well actually. It was in St Martin's College, in a little room upstairs. Glen used to go there, right, and there was this group playing and we said: "Can we come over and support you?" And they said: "Yeah," like they were acting really flash like. And we went over there and had big hassle about whether we could or not. They didn't really want us to support them. They was just a sort of rock'n'roll band, revival and that, sort of sub-teddy boys like, and all their mates and stuff were in the audience.

We went on and it was really loud, it was deafening like. And we was going really mad cos this was our first gig and we was all really nervous. And suddenly you have this great big hand pop out, and someone pulled the plug out like. Someone switched the power off. Well they did, the other band, I think, cos they wanted to go on. They was getting all annoyed and that. We had a load of our fans there and they had a load of theirs and it nearly evolved into a big fight, you know. We just went off then.

Q: At the early college gigs, where you gatecrashed, what was the audiences' reaction to you?

Glen: Disbelief. There were people who were very snide. They always used to take us off halfway through. A guy would come rushing up and say: "Hey, it's your last number," and then he would say: "Thank you very much the Sex Pistols and their wall of sound," in a very piss-taking kind of way.

Q: What sort of people were following you then? Were they just people that you knew or was there already a kind of identity?

Paul: No, in the early days the first couple of gigs was just our friends and their friends, you know. It grew from that really.

Q: What was the second gig that you did?

Paul: Second one was supporting a group called Roogalator and we played at some art school. And that was really good. That was in Holborn. I was expecting another disaster, but we played good, and we really went down well.

That was when we started getting a following, playing around, getting a bit of press. It gradually started building up till we played the 100 Club and then the Nashville. It was getting quite big by then. It was really good the early gigs though.

Interview conducted by Judy Vermorel in 1977 for the biography “The Sex Pistols”, originally published in 1978 by Universal Books, and subsequently reprinted as “Sex Pistols-The Inside Story” by Star Books (1981), & revised again in 1987 by Omnibus Press.

God Save The Sex Pistols ©2007 Phil Singleton / www.sex-pistols.net. All rights reserved.

God Save the Sex Pistols


God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton / www.sex-pistols.net