John v Glen: someone's talking bollocks

Rock: The Sex Pistols are back - but have they really made up their differences? Nicholas Barber casts a historical eye over punk's great debate

"John's said a lot of things about me over the years, and I've said a lot about him," reasoned Glen Matlock, at the already legendary Sex Pistols reunion launch in March. "But now here we are on the same stage together." True, they were on the same stage for the first time in 19 years, and today they will be on stage again, playing live in Finsbury Park. Or will they? Lydon said at the press conference that the band would probably fall out and break up two concerts into their reunion tour, and on the evidence of his and Matlock's autobiographies, he was being optimistic.

Matlock, who denies having read John Lydon's stinging tome, is famous as the bass player who was replaced by a man who couldn't play bass. For proof of his unpopularity within the Pistols' ranks, look no further than the fact that Lydon, Steve Jones and Paul Cook preferred to spend time with Sid Vicious. Matlock's I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol and Lydon's Rotten: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs tell both sides of the story. The amazing thing about Matlock's book is how readily he portrays himself as a "twerp" and a "lemon", always taking the blame while others take the credit. The amazing thing about Lydon's book is how readily he portrays Matlock in exactly the same way. So at least they agree on something. But do the original punks agree on anything else?

WHEN JOHN MET GLEN

Glen Matlock, page 58: So what made us persist with John? It's difficult to say. Maybe that very quickly he started coming up with lyrics and that he and I got on well right from the off.

John Lydon, page 101: I must say this about Glen: he was the only one who attempted to kindle any kind of friendship with me, which is odd because I despised him so.

DROP DEAD

Glen, p101: ... he turned round to me and said, drop dead ... half an hour later, he turned round and said, you're still here. The look on his face told me that he really believed somehow that if he told me to drop dead, I would. Oh well, I thought, John really has gone a bit doolally now.

John, also on p101, strangely: In Glen's book, he claimed all I ever said to him was "Drop dead". That's right, Glen. Drop dead. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't seem to think I meant it. I f***ing well did. Continuously.

THE SUM OF THE PARTS

Glen, p169: The Pistols were ... Steve, Paul, Glen, John and then Malcolm [McLaren, manager]. In that order.

John, p184: Steve, Paul and I could have been a f***ing awesome threesome. We could have done without that bass nonsense.

WORDS ...

John, p101: ... I always wrote the lyrics and insisted on that right from the start, which infuriated the band no end.

Glen, p76: So I wrote the lyrics to "Pretty Vacant" - all of which are mine, apart from a couple of lines that John later changed in the second verse. I wrote something along the lines of "If you don't like this, up your bum, we're going down the pub." John changed it to, "Forget your cheap comments, we know we're for real." Which is a far, far better lyric.

Glen, p120: [Chris Thomas, producer] had heard ["Anarchy in the UK"] and liked the song. Great chord changes, he said, who wrote them? I had, of course.

John, p87: I know a lot has been said about Glen being the melodious one, and that without him we would never have had hit singles. For God's sake, who gave a damn about a hit single? Irrelevant and, apart from that, a lie. For all of Glen's melodiousness, he didn't exactly do very much when he left us, did he?

SPITTING IMAGE

Glen, p115: The Damned's drummer, Rat Scabies, started spitting at the audience. And they started spitting back. Thus was invented that grand tradition of gobbing.

John, p121, p134: I think the audiences gobbing on stage came from me. Because of my sinuses, I do gob a lot on stage ... Nobody realized they were imitating a physical illness, not a political stance.

GOODBYE GLEN

John, p162: I instigated Glen's leaving the band ... It was down to, quite frankly, either he goes or I go. I couldn't put up with him any longer.

Glen, p150: I said, Malcolm I'm just not interested any more. I can't be bothered with that bloke's attitude ... So let's leave it at that.

SID VICIOUS

John, p155: Sid was basically stupid.

Glen, p158: I could never work Sid out. A lot of people thought he was stupid, but he wasn't. He was very intelligent but talked like he wasn't.

GLEN'S SLIGHT RETURN

Glen, p150: [Malcolm] told me that they were going to do some recording [for Never Mind the Bollocks] ... and asked me if I would help out because Sid wasn't too good. I agreed.

John, p163: Sid wasn't very good at recording ... it was desperation time, so in came Glen. We literally hired Glen Matlock ... isn't that awful? That, more than anything tenfold, explains my contempt for him.

THE PISTOLS MINUS GLEN

Glen, p170: The only way they could have cut it live was with me in the band because I was the one who understood and saw the whole picture of what we could achieve musically.

John, p2: Things improved no end the minute he exited ... Glen wanted to turn the whole thing into a sort of a Bay City Rollers scene and for us to look like some Soho poofs.

JOHN: THE WHOLE TRUTH

Glen, p101: You just had to put up with a constant tirade of bullshit from John. Total lies and denial. He'd say something and two minutes later he'd completely deny he'd ever said it.

John, foreword: I have no time for lies or fantasy, and neither should you.

THE SEX PISTOLS

Glen, p166: The Sex Pistols were a total failure.

John, p141: The Sex Pistols was always disastrous.

Finsbury Park, N4 (0181 963 0940), today; support acts including Iggy Pop, Skunk Anansie and the Buzzcocks from 12noon, Sex Pistols at 8.45pm. Glen Matlock's 'I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol' is published by Virgin (paperback, pounds 9.99); John Lydon's 'Rotten: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs' is published by Coronet (paperback, pounds 6.99). Malcolm McLaren interview: see today's Real Life section.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'