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
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence