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Earlier this year I was rummaging round my sister’s attic in Chichester when I came across an A4 ring-bound notebook. On turning the cover, I realised it was the long-forgotten transcript of an interview I’d recorded with Glen Matlock in 1978, the year after he’d quit The Sex Pistols. I’d met Glen in August along with Midge Ure, Rusty Egan and Steve New, all members of his new band The Rich Kids. The meeting took place at the Holland Park house of Sheila Rock, the ex-wife of rock photographer Mick Rock. Also a photographer of the rock world, Sheila is known for her unique photos recording the earliest days of the UK punk scene. Things were looking good for The Rich Kids, Glen’s new band. Not only had they released their first single ‘Rich Kids’, but they had also recorded sessions for John Peel’s BBC1 radio show and appeared on Top of the Pops.
To go straight to Part One of the interview click here
Introduction – Leaving The Sex Pistols
By the time The Sex Pistols released their first single in November 1976 they’d already achieved a media reputation for inciting antisocial behaviour. The title of the single Anarchy in the UK did nothing to alleviate that impression. Anxious to cash in on the Pistols’ notoriety, the tabloid headlines that followed the record’s release had more to do with the art of self-fulfilling prophecy than news. Scarcely able to disguise their unstinting glee, the British press reported that spitting and pogo dancing at the band’s gigs were encouraging acts of violence and self-mutilation among the nation’s young. If nothing else, the stories amounted to over- simplification. The Pistols were as much a symptom of the social malaise infecting the UK, as the cause.
Throughout the early 1970s, discontent and disillusion among young Britons had been growing exponentially. Unemployment figures were careering uncontrollably towards the 1978 post-war high of one and a half million, hitting the young hardest. In 1976, at the end of one of the hottest summers since records began, the discontent reached boiling point. On August 30th Notting Hill Carnival broke out into a mass riot. In direct contradiction to the story that it was punk ‘wot did it’, it is far more likely that institutionalised racism coupled with deliberate heavy-handed policing helped morph underlying frustration into the fury that sparked the riot. The dissatisfaction that manifested itself on the streets of Notting Hill wasn’t caused by songs like Anarchy in the UK, quite the opposite, it inspired them. It could even be argued the punk movement helped channel anger that could’ve resulted in something far worse.
But despite the media-generated hysteria, there was more to England’s Pistols than gobbing, swearing and pogo. The release of Anarchy would finally bury the lie they had no talent. Though crude and raw the band’s creativity was palpable and undeniable. The era of stagnation super groups had brought was over at last. With punk the power of rock ‘n’ roll was reborn. To be given back to the youth from out of which it had sprung, and to which it always belongs. Rock was never about anything at all if it wasn’t about youthful rebellion. Lest we forgot, the Pistols reminded us of that.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a shock, when in early 1977 rumours abounded that Glen Matlock had been kicked out of the Pistols. After all, to almost anyone over the age of twenty-five, the band had become known for its explosive volatility more than anything. Yet to many fans, Matlock was regarded as one of the main creative forces behind it. Some still see him as being responsible for giving Anarchy the musical edge that defined British punk.
On February 17th of that same year, it was announced Matlock had left the band of his own accord. But there are good reasons for thinking manager Malcolm McLaren could’ve been plotting to get rid of the bass player/songwriter for some time. Not least, that the manipulative Pistols’ Svengali thought his appearance too nice and clean for his tastes. McLaren wanted to replace him with someone nastier, more befitting the Pistols’ notoriety.
Despite all the spitting and foul language The Sex Pistols had become renowned for, Glen Matlock still possessed something of the sort of boy most Mums would love to have round for tea. With his cheeky chappie looks, the youthful-looking musician bore a striking resemblance Jack Wild, Lionel Bart’s Artful Dodger in Oliver!. The fact he also could’ve been mistaken for Monkees teenage heartthrob, Davy Jones, was a detail that would never have escaped McLaren’s keen eye. The fashion designer was as much a stylist as anything, and it is highly likely Matlock didn’t fit the Pistol image for which he was aiming. From a strictly commercial point of view McLaren’s Svengalian instinct for publicity proved right.
The shopkeeper turned impresario was once reported as saying had he seen Vicious before he saw Johnny Rotten he would’ve chosen him to front the band. That made any comparisons betweem him and Matlock a no-brainer. Vicious was the perfect example of the youth every parent dreaded their child would one day bring home. Just the job to win even more of the negative headlines the publicity-addicted McLaren craved.
In retrospect, there was always something Dickensian about the Pistols. They might’ve jumped out the screen of a modern day version of Oliver Twist directed by QuentinTarantino. McLaren would’ve made a brilliant younger version of Fagin. The fact his foppishness displayed tones of ‘flash’ Toby Crackit would’ve made that character redundant. And, though there might’ve been some discussion over whether John Lydon or Glen Matlock was most suitable for the role of Artful Dodger, there definitely could’ve been no argument as who should play a teenage version of Bill Sikes. John Ritchie’s tragic and unstable upbringing could have come straight from the pages of a Dickens novel. The name Bill Psyches springs to mind. As with Mclaren’s Pistols, reality is there would have probably been no room for Glen Matlock in Tarantino’s Oliver Twist. There probably wouldn’t have been any room for the angelic Oliver Twist in it either. I suppose a film a bit like that could be called The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and be directed by Julian Temple.
With the aura of ill-will that hung about him, Sid Vicious fitted into the Pistols as neatly as a razor fits into a slash. He gave off the distinct feeling that things were never going to end well. Sure enough, his time with the band lasted just two weeks short of two years. In the final chapter of a life that was Dickens to the hilt, Vicious’ girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, was found dead in the bathroom of their room in the Chelsea Hotel in New York on October 12th 1978. She had died of a single stab wound. Sid Vicious was arrested and charged with her murder. Domestic abuse and violence had played their parts in a turbulent relationship. Four months later, February 2nd 1979 Vicious – on bail awaiting trial – was also found dead. Though still a subject of controversy, he is believed to his taken his own life with a fatal heroin overdose. The investigation into Nancy’s murder was never resolved satisfactorily, and both deaths remain hot topics for discussion. To all intents and purposes, The Sex Pistols died along with Sid Vicious.
I once spotted Vicious in the wee hours in The Speakeasy. The West End club was a London hangout for rock stars to relax in after gigs. He was sitting on a bench at a table alongside the other Pistols. The Who’s Pete Townsend sat on a chair facing them. Townsend seemed very drunk, burbling non-stop to a row of stone-faces. Suddenly, it looked as if something Towsend had burbled stirred Vicious into full consciouness. Without so much as a word, the punk of punks smashed his beer glass onto the table. A shocked Townsend rose immediately and stumbled off, almost straight into me. Vicious just stared blankly in front of himself, as though nothing had happened.
Eighteen months after the Pistols and Glen had gone their separate ways we sat down in Sheila Rock’s living room on the first floor of the house she once owned on London’s Portland Road. The previous Friday I’d watched The Rich Kids perform at one of punk’s premier venues, Camden’s Music Machine.
Glen turned out to be very nice indeed. Sitting with us were Midge Ure, Rusty Egan and Steve New, the rest of The Rich Kids. Having released two singles, the band’s debut album Ghosts of Princes in Towers – produced by the legendary Mick Ronson, was about to be released the following week. The future seemed bright and full of promise.
Click here for part one of the interview.
Copyright © 2017 Bryan Hemming
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Part two please Sir ?
Sorry, for the delay. My attentions have been distracted by various uncontrollable forces of late. I hope to get back on course soon.
Hi Bryan. I’m having trouble finding part two of the interview. (Couldn’t even work out how to leave a comment on Part one! Duh, me! 🙄) Is it up yet?
I’ve been a bit tardy with posting the second part of the interview, and have been neglecting my blog. I’ll try to post it soon.
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Thanks Bryan. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging, eh?
I had not realised you got around so much Bryan though that explains the observational breadth of your pen and skill in recounting events with the just the right amount of detail and background info
This era of music passed me by as it all seemed to stop around then – the 70s was an ugly face in Britain after all those flowery liove-ins and I was struggling more than these pogo hoppers could ever know in raising a young family on a very small income. Today theses same folk have been marginalised out to the corners on the right wing and are castigated for it.
Thanks so much for your kind words, Laura, they come at a time of need. Truth is, I’ve lost a bit of self-confidence over the last year or so, which is why I haven’t posted much written work. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing.
My whole life has been more about stumbling blindly into things, rather than following any sort of great career plan. The punk era was the same. One minute I was a sort of hippy working in an antique shop, the next a well-known photographer of the punk period, Sheila Rock, was dragging me about to meet punks. I’ve been working a little bit on an autobiography, as I’ve probably stumbled about more than most.
The second part of the Rich Kids interview will be preceded by some of the stuff that got me to the interview. As it’s rather too long for the purpose at the moment, I’m tring to cut it down, which seems to be making it even longer. I touch a little bit more on the harsh reality that helped push UK punk to the fore.
Though I had some great times in the 1960s and 70s, too many people seem to be looking at both decades with misty, rose-tinted spectacles.
I know a little bit about trying to help raise a young family on a very small income from relatively recent experiences. It’s very hard.
happy to be a confidence bolsterer Bryan because I have always admired your writings – witty and often searingly well observed. Besides you have travelled the political and cultural spectrum that most of us just read about – hence we need writers! Look forward to reading how you rocked up with Sheila – her punk photos have had a lot of press recently – will it be a book at bedtime length?
Those rose-tinted times had a lot of thorns – I guess they always do/did
You are just full of fascinating stories, Bryan. Thanks for sharing this one and the interview. I’d never heard of The Rich Kids, but of course I know the Sex Pistols. That story of Townsend and Vicious in the bar…full of foreboding.
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London’s Notting Hill was a place you could stumble into an amazing cross section of people in the 1970s. As well as knowing lots of people might know from newspapers and TV screens, there were ordinary workers, teachers, postal workers fishmongers, waiters, prostitutes and quite a few black guys I counted as friends. It was ethnically very diverse. The black guys were just as likely to be doing any of those jobs, as well as some being in advertising, banking or the antiques business. Some of them used to take me to all-night shebeens, where white males weren’t generally welcome, and other places where everyobody was welcome. I’m trying to write a lot of this stuff, but there is an awful lot to write.
Quite fascinating Bryan as I was living on the fringe at the time and didn’t get what was taking place on the broader scene. They were just vague names… Since then I’ve looked back at society and its upheavals with a different pair of eyes.
I’ve enjoyed this so much, Bryan. Not just your set up is enticing, but throughout the interview you show highly honed reporter skills. That comes from someone who was never a competent one, to begin with. I was pretty much useless and wasted my time trying, to detriment of the few qualities I could have developed a bit. I wished you had interviewed Syd or Lydon, even if it’d probably cost you a broken nose or something. I was never into them but admired that moment, a sobering revelation that my tastes no longer were at the cutting edge of the times. What with Rod singing Tonight’s the Night, Mick sucking up hard to the rich NYC intelligentsia, and other former heroes only too happy to join in the parasitical global jet set, I could see exactly why my world was coming down heavy. Thanks for the read.
Thanks so much for that, Wesely, I was a little bit hesitant about publishing it.
Hate to admit it, but I did get the chance to inteview the others. I got on so well with Glen, we went for a drink afterwards. After a great time, he told me he wanted to meet up the following week and introduce me to the lads – the rest of the Sex Pistols – in Camden, and gave me his phone number. They were still good friends.
Believe it or not, it had been my first, and only ever, interview. I felt in no position to judge how it had gone. To my everlasting regret, I chickened out.
By the way, I transcribed things exactly as they happened, the interview hasn’t been shortened or edited in any way whatsoever.
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I’m glad you did publish it. Well done. As for the others, well, that was that. Cheers