In rock and roll, there are legendary feuds. Mike Love vs. Brian Wilson, Axl vs. Slash, and one of the most savage: John Lydon, frontman of the Sex Pistols, vs. Glen Matlock, the bassist credited with co-wroting nearly all of the songs on Never Mind the Bullocks... As luck would have it, both of the founding Pistols are making rare New York City appearances.
No, they won’t be on stage together. Lydon, the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten, showed no love for Matlock in his memoir, Rotten: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs, recounting how he constantly told the bassist to “drop dead” and meant it. When the Pistols reunited in 1996, the Independent charted the sources of contention between the two, including the circumstances under which Matlock was replaced by Sid Vicious. According to Lydon, he “instigated Glen’s leaving the band,” but Matlock was rehired to record on Never Mind the Bollocks when Sid Vicious couldn’t hack it in the studio: “That, more than anything tenfold, explains my contempt for him,” Lydon wrote.
Maybe Gillian McCain, co-author of the seminal punk history Please Kill Me, will ask Lydon why he “despised” Matlock when she interviews him on April 15, as part of the Museum of Arts and Design’s “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die” exhibit of ‘70s and ‘80s punk graphics. Lydon is expected to “unpack the continued controversies and ongoing critique of punk’s explosive influence on visual culture,” according to the event description. And there are still plenty of controversies to be had. Just last month, Lydon got into it with Marky Ramone at a panel discussion, calling the Ramones “boring” and calling their drummer “a heavy-metal fucking reject.” You can expect more of the same when Lydon appears at MAD. After all, this is the legendary firebrand who– when he discussed his latest memoir, Anger Is an Energy, in Greenpoint a couple of years ago– said he “discovered when I was really young that arrogance was a really fucking great tool.”
As for Matlock, he’ll be playing his instrument (which these days is guitar—and an acoustic one, at that) rather than running his mouth. Though his live act usually includes a bit of raconteuring. After he left the Pistols, Matlock formed new-wave act Rich Kids with Mick Jones of the Clash and went on to record with The Damned and Iggy Pop. At shows, he’s been known to play his solo songs, some of the tunes he wrote for Iggy Pop (e.g. “Ambition”), and covers of songs by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and others. Oh, and you can also expect to hear Sex Pistols songs like “Pretty Vacant,” which he wrote in its entirety “apart from a couple of lines that John later changed in the second verse,” according to Matlock’s memoir I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol. (Fun fact: The title was inspired by Richard Hell’s “Black Generation,” which Matlock also plays live, and the riff was inspired by an ABBA song, “S.O.S.”)
With Brexit blowing up, it seems like a good time to hear a rendition of “God Save the Queen” by the guy who helped write it.
Glen Matlock plays Joe’s Pub on June 11; tickets are $25.
John Lydon will be interviewed by Gillian McCain at MAD on April 15; tickets $10-$30.