I was talking to Warren Zevon, somewhere in the ’90s, about his touring. I liked him both solo acoustic and with full band, but it had been a while since I’d seen him with a full-tilt rock band. I wondered why and if we might see this some day. The answer was: Economics and probably not and that turned out to be correct. Zevon, as great as he was (and he truly was), didn’t have a big enough audience to play big enough venues to make enough money to support all. I’m guessing that’s one of the primary reasons Glen Matlock – yes, an artist on a smaller scale – is doing a US acoustic tour –with New York Dolls Sylvain Sylvain – that will stop at the Midway Café Friday March 7.
Matlock, 57, may need an introduction for some: He was the bassist in the Sex Pistols (pre-Sid Vicious) and he was the one who could both a) play and b) write. Rumor was he was booted out of the Pistols because he admitted a fondness for Paul McCartney (and presumably strong melodies). Dunno if it’s true. Makes a good myth, if not. The Pistols did not write any good songs without him. He did rejoin the fellas on various reunion tours, including the first reunion tour of 1996. (I covered it; see jump). Matlock gets props for his Pistols work because although Johnny Rotten was the voice, the words and the attitude, Matock was reportedly the melody maker behind “God Save the Queen,” “Anarchy in the UK,” “Pretty Vacant” and others.
After he exited the Pistols he formed the Rich Kids, and went on to work with a variety of artists ranging from Iggy Pop, fellow original School of ’76 Brit Punk Rockers The Damned (yes, he was one of the thousands), through to neo-rockabilly singer Robert Gordon, whilst pursuing his own direction where melodic and inventive rock music thrives. He released an , “Born Running,” in 2010. and he took up the bassist spot in the reformed Faces. It was one of the bands he loved as a kid. Who didn’t? He was also a fan of the Kinks, The Who and David Bowie. In 1974, whilst employed as an assistant in the King’s Road, Chelsea clothing emporium Let It Rock (owned by Malcolm McLaren and his then-wife Vivienne Westwood) joined up with guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook (alongside guitarist Wally Nightingale) in a combo that would become The Sex Pistols. The band line-up was completed by the recruitment of John Lydon (soon to become Johnny Rotten) as their vocalist. (Johnny got the gig after singing along to Alice Cooper.) The Sex Pistols line-up eventually settled around Rotten, Jones and Cook, with Matlock playing bass and singing backing vocals.
Matlock’s autobiography, “I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol,” was published in 1990, and updated and reprinted in 1996 with insights and updates following the reformed Sex Pistols ‘Filthy Lucre’ tour.
And, now, he’s playing the tiny Midway Cafe, and we’re guessing there will be heavy nostalgia (and irony) for old Pistols fans and some new stuff, too.
I wrote the copy above and then had a chat with Glen who was sitting on a park bench, shirt off, on his cell in Miami.
JSInk: Why acoustic?
Matlock: I’ve done a few over the past few years and it somehow struck a chord with people. When I’m with the Philistines, it’s a good rock band, but with a band you’re plugging the next album, and acoustic I can do all the things I’ve done [over my career]. all the songs I’ve written and co-written and had a hand in has started out on acoustic guitar. So, it’s bare bones. I’m not Johnny Rotten, and I don’t try to be. I just try to get the songs across. People have said they can actually hear the songs better not covered up with up all that noise. I’m not the best guitarist in the world, but I’m a good provider of simple things done well. It’s almost like Richie Havens. … I went to see Ray Davies play. I think watching his show, I felt on the same page as him. It was a re-affirmation of what I’m doing. I think Ray Davies is one of the greatest English songwriters.
OK, how many Pistols songs?
I do two songs. Get this clear: I don’t do an acoustic version of “Never Mind the Bollocks.” What you’ll find, is I always jokingly say the same old shit, my songs whatever period, they all fit hand in glove with each other.
(The phone connection breaks up and Matlock’s London accent is tough to begin with but he basically said to reveal them would be to reveal the punch line of a joke.)
My impression was in the Pistols you were the guy who brought the melody. True?
Kind of. “Pretty Vacant.” as far as I’m concerned, that’s my song. The only one we did together was “Submission,” where we traded line by line. I worked out the chords, shouted to the other guys.
How do you view the arc of your career?
It’s up and down. I’ve never seen myself as a rock star. I’m just a guy who plays music.
Back to seeing Ray, do you use that storyteller format, songs and tales?
It all depends. I like to get ’em singing along. I have rough set list. Playing solo, the buck stops with you. You haven’t got the other guys to hide behind.
You’re getting people in their 50s, I’m sure, original Sex Pistols fans Are you getting younger people as well?
Yeah. I haven’t got millions of people coming. But it seems to be building. I’ve got my bumps. It’s tough being in the Sex Pistols and then getting on with what you want to do now. It is hard. You have to find a way with dealing with that. But I’m quite happy to do this. I’ll make another record with my guys in England. I’ve got half the songs written as I’ve been traveling around the States. I slot the a few new ones in.
Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets: $20.
3496 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, (617) 524-9038 http://midwaycafe.com/