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Interview / Review
2023 has been a busy year for Glen; touring the world with Blondie, releasing Consequences Coming, and publishing Triggers: A Life In Music.
Glen takes a breather to talk to Phil Singleton

Glen Matlock (Photo Credit Tina K)Phil: To start with, let’s reflect on Consequences Coming. How do you feel about the album’s reception?

Glen: It’s had nothing but good reviews to be honest so I’m really pleased about it. On the other hand, I think they’ve been very fair and even-handed because it’s a bloody good album! So yeah, I’m chuffed about it.

You appeared on a few shows on radio and TV…

I put the cat amongst the pigeons on the BBC, but they shouldn’t have got me there waiting 2 1/2 hours before I was due to go on. They picked on the wrong bloke at the wrong time. [Glen is referring to BBC One Breakfast where he dished out a bashing for the Tories]

That’s how you get the best stuff sometimes! In what way do you feel that the album differs from your previous ones?

It’s just the same old shit really! It is and it ain’t. Whatever I do, it’s always got a bit of Glen Matlock to it, they are 3 and a half minute rock songs, and some kind of lyric that means something to me that hopefully some other people pick up on which appears to be the case. I’ve moved on a little bit from my last album which was deliberately rockabilly-ish, which is why I had Slim Jim Phantom and Earl Slick playing on it. Earl is playing on the new album with a bunch of other people; Clem Burke is on a couple of tracks, James Hallawell, Chris Musto and Neil X, and a Japanese whizz-kid guitarist Hotei, who is like the Jeff Beck of Japan. It’s a good cast, Norman Watt-Roy is on bass - I only play bass on a couple of tracks. To me, when I make a record, I’m not trying to follow the latest trends. I just try and make a classic album and the sound of it serves the songs. That’s the idea. It’s not deliberately old-fashioned, it’s just kind of timeless.

As regards the subject matter you cover, you’ve drawn from both the political and the personal.

Yeah, but the two things kind of blend into each other sometimes, somehow. I try and write a lyric like I’m having a conversation, a chat with somebody about what’s going on in our collective minds and there’s quite a crossover point between the personal and political. The political hits you personally and it kind of affects your relationships sometimes as well. I wrote those songs quite a few years back now, I wrote a lot of them in lockdown, remember lockdown?! What happened to Boris Johnson? Boo-hoo! That big cunt. [It also transpires Glen came into close contact with Donald Trump while over in New York trying to catch a cab, but that’s for another time]. Trump’s not exactly enjoying himself at the moment, no matter how brave a fat face he puts on.

I’ve picked out three contrasting songs to illustrate the different styles on the album. I’m interested in your thoughts on them. The first one is Face in a Crowd. I like the poppy, feel good 60s/70s sing-along vibes.

That was actually written a long time ago with Patti Palladin. We heard about 15 years ago that Ronnie Spector was looking for some songs. I had the idea ‘Late Night New York Sunday Morning’, so we wrote a song for her and it didn’t make her album in the end. Then I thought it might be kind of a Blondie song, Clem really liked it and wanted to do it, but the other guys thought it sounded too much like Blondie. I just thought I’d reactivate it. It’s a song about, not quite unrequited love, but when you meet someone and it could’ve gone one way but it goes another. You always wonder what might’ve been then you bump into somebody and it sets your mind racing again. I like New York, Bleeker Street where Bleeker Bob’s Records was, and Greenwich Village - it’s got all that going on in it.

What about Step in the Right Direction?

That’s another rock/pop toe-tapper with some fabulous guitar. Sometimes you’ve written a bit of a song, but you can’t quite complete it for some reason and then you find another bit and you think ‘oh I’ve got that idea from donkeys years ago’. Again, it’s a little bit of a relationship kind of song about where it didn’t quite go right with the steps you’re taking to correct things. It’s a bit like Todd Rundgren, who produced the New York Dolls, his song I Saw the Light, which was his version of a Tamla Motown song. It’s got that vibe to it. Then we thought we’d rock it up a bit with Earl playing all that wah-wah guitar - there’s a fantastic guitar solo in it. Don’t tell him that! It’s a hats off to some of my influences.

The third song I want to flag up was Tried to Tell You.

You love a bit of doo-wop do you? I performed The Way I Walk with Robert Gordon and I had to do the backing vocals with all that doo-wop. I said I don’t mind doing this, but what are the actual words you were singing? He said ‘oh man it’s dooo-wopp!’ The song has got a bit of Oh Darling by The Beatles in it and some Billy Fury A Thousand Stars vibe. Lyrically, it’s tough when someone refuses to try to see things the way you see things and they have missed the boat because of it. Things in life are better when you come to some understanding. It’s give and take, and when there’s no give and take, people end up walking off. So that was the song, but during lockdown I had a lot of time on my hands and thought it needed some backing vocals. So I started doing the doo-wop thing for a laugh and it sounded quite good so I cracked it up and cracked it up and that was it. I gave it to Mario McNulty to mix it. He said maybe it only needed a bit of it but I said, no leave it in. Then I did a gig in the summer in Los Angeles and Clem played with me, and we had a cast of a few getting up with us; Kathy Valentine from the Go-Go’s, Kevin Preston my mate from Prima Donna - he's also the second guitarist in Green Day - and Slim Jim and Fred Armisen. I had them all doing the doo-wops, which was cool. When I do my acoustic show, I may get the audience to do the doo-wops or bop-shoo-wops as they are in this song. There was a record on the jukebox in Malcolm McLaren’s shop, I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos, it’s very much like that arrangement wise.

A crooner from the late 50s would do a great job with this song.

Hang on, what’s wrong with me being a crooner?! Oranges aren’t the only fruit, you can’t be punk rock all day long y’know mate.

Those are the three I wanted to flag up as they’re all contrasting…

There’s no political ones I noticed, Phil! [laughs] The album is being pressed again on blue vinyl. I wanted it to be cobalt blue, but they don’t do it, so they did another blue. I thought nobody would know what cobalt blue was so you could still call it cobalt blue, but they didn’t, they called it the name of the blue they used, ultra blue. It’s made me blue but there you go!

Now let’s talk about this book of yours, Triggers: A Life In Music.

I wrote I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol many years ago, I did it a long time before people and bands started doing these things. It did all right, and was well thought of, but it was so long ago, my thinking has changed since it came out. And I felt if it had come out in latter days it might have been given more of the time of day. It was coming up to the Danny Boyle series, and you know I was kind of disappointed in that and people have always been asking me when am I going to do a follow-up? I wasn’t in a mad rush to do it, but I was beginning to think that way and with the Danny Boyle thing I thought maybe I should but I can’t write the same book again. My literary agent, Adrian Sington, suggested I do it around lyrics I had written and those of songs I like by other people that have influenced me. That was the basic idea. So it isn’t just I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol Two. I think it’s quite illuminating. It’s quite contemporary.

I didn’t really start it until this January. I did a lot of it while I was on tour with Blondie. With Blondie we went around South America, America, Glastonbury, Coachella festival, and with my own album and gigs and writing the book it’s been non-stop. It’s been really busy this year, I’m not complaining, but I’m tired!

In what way has your perspective changed over the years since the first book?

When I wrote Teenage Sex Pistol I was keen to get things off my chest about my contribution to the Sex Pistols, so that set a few things straight and I found it quite a cathartic exercise. Since then the Pistols have reformed a few times and I’ve reset my career with what I’m doing musically. I’m constantly being asked to do different things with different people. I did The Faces stuff since the first book and now I’ve got the Blondie stuff going on, I’ve had 3 albums out which I’m pretty pleased with, Born Running, Good To Go and the new one, and I think I found my feet creatively. So it’s all in there. There’s over 40 chapters, each chapter is the name of a song, and I give an extract from the lyrics.

Give me three that you’ve used to illustrate your life.

Dead End Street by The Kinks, that really struck a chord with me. Montague Terrace by Scott Walker, The Small Faces’ All or Nothing - the stories behind how I met the guys. The book covers quite a lot really.

For people who’ve already got Teenage Sex Pistol, why should they buy Triggers?

Well, there’s loads of different stories in it. The world has changed, I talk about lots of different things. There’s a little bit of crossover, but there is a whole lot more about the thoughts of Chairman Matlock. It’s pretty funny as well, I’m not a po-faced miserable kind of bloke. In Shakespeare, my favourite character was Falstaff, the joker who could tell the truth to the king. He spoke in prose as opposed to rhyming couplets. I like that kind of take.
Thank you Glen. Time for the....

Book Review

TriggersIt’s often said there are two autobiographies in every person, one by the younger raw individual and the other by the more mature, calmer and reflective writer able to apply the benefit of perspective. I Was A Teenage Sex Pistols was the former and now we have the latter: Triggers: A Life In Music.

To make it clear, this is an autobiography, it’s not a discussion about Glen’s favourite songs and lyrics. The connection between the song chosen as the chapter title and the content therein can, on occasion, be quite tenuous, although it’s always there. I did enjoy how the Rezillos’ Can’t Stand My Baby managed to get in!

The prologue begins in 1995 with the period leading up to the Sex Pistols’ Filthy Lucre Tour which basically, after a period of slumber, kick-started Glen’s musical reinvigoration which continues to this day. The prologue is also about reconciliation and this sets the tone, one which makes it eminently more readable and engaging. It is not self-pitying, nor is it a cry for justice and recognition, as evidenced when we are taken back to his formative days. Glen views childhood mishaps, mistakes and misfortune as life experiences, not tales of woe. Although the thought of Glen having a cheap knock-off version of Action Man I found disquieting.

As expected, the bulk of Triggers is focused on the Pistols. Glen recalls getting the Saturday job at Malcolm McLaren’s shop Let It Rock, meeting Steve and Paul, the band’s evolution, the dynamics within the group, the characters within their orbit, and the wider London music scene of the 1970s. This is where the book excels, the vivid portrayal of this period of time in the capital is difficult to top. You don’t need to be interested in the Sex Pistols to benefit, it encapsulates a long gone era, mixing history, energy, nostalgia and humour. Seen through the eyes of this Saturday Boy, we get a clear, honest account, free from revisionist claims; there’s much myth busting along the way. Importantly, there is much to learn, not just in hard facts; the moment which Glen believes McLaren started to take the idea of the band seriously being a case in point. Triggers is crammed full of such recollections.

Of course, there is more to Glen than the Pistols, and the Rich Kids for that matter, and we do learn about his further adventures and his knack for crossing paths with various musicians in need of a bass player. Thus his stints with Iggy Pop, The Faces and ongoing duties as a member of Blondie (with whom he was close to joining back in 1999, if only he had a mobile). His dark days of drinking are not avoided and there’s some tasty (sober) tales to be told along the way and friendships to be explored, his thoughts on the late Steve New being very welcome.

The only unresolved angst in the book is, unsurprisingly, recent; Danny Boyle’s TV series ‘Pistol’. Even an older, wiser Glen cannot help being riled. Clearly unhappy with how his own character is treated, it’s not too much of a stretch to view Triggers as a chance to respond.

Perhaps, the one aspect of his persona that has changed most markedly since I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol in 1990, is his development of a deeper, more passionate engagement with politics. They don’t imbue Triggers, but Suez and Brexit help top and tale the story, so you are left in no doubt where he sits on the political spectrum.

In the excellent, considered, epilogue Glen chooses to focus on his good fortune, serendipity and the importance of coincidence. The biggest impression I came away with, from what is essentially a big hearted memoir, was the stature in which he is now held by his peers. This prestige has continued to grow over the decades since I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol and it is this confidence which gives Triggers a positivity that wasn’t there 30+ years ago. A lot can happen in half a lifetime. Indeed it has. Both Teenage Sex Pistol and Triggers present different aspects of the same person. Future scholars need to read them both, this would prove a fascinating study in its own right.

Triggers: A Life In Music is vital for anyone passionate about the Sex Pistols, enthusiastic about punk rock, or merely interested in the mid-70s UK music scene. For the die-hards there is plenty of new nuggets and fresh perspectives, for the casual reader it’s a captivating history lesson with direct lineage to the present day.

The Punk Rock explosion viewed from within its own epicentre, the importance of Triggers: A Life In Music as an invaluable cultural reference cannot be overstated.

Interview / Review  ©Phil Singleton

For more of Chairman Matlock’s take on his career and life, grab a copy of Triggers: A Life In Music (Nine Eight Books). Available now.

Interview conducted 12th October 2023
©Tina K & Danny Clifford
Text ©Phil Singleton 2023 /

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