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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
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.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests