The Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock: the 10 records that made me play bass

Glen Matlock

The London Bass Guitar Show returns to the capital on March 4 and 5, and amongst the all the notable musicians offering masterclasses - Megadeth bassist David Ellefson will be taking one, as is Ida Nielsen from Prince’s band 3rd Eye Girl - you’ll find a Sex Pistol: Glen Matlock is ready to share what he knows.

“It’ll be interesting,” says Matlock. “I’m gonna go through some of the songs that I learned, the songs that got me to where I was going. To be honest, I’ve never been to one of these things before and I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to do! But I think can I teach people that it’s not about eighth notes, like Steve Jones on Never Mind The Bollocks, which I think is boring, and it’s not about Jaco Pastorius either. The players I like are people like Carole Kaye, Tina Weymouth, John Entwistle and Ronnie Lane, and the Tamla Motown and Stax players, people who give songs counter-melody and colour.”

“To be honest, I haven’t even played bass for a while,” he continues. “In the last year I’ve played at Glastonbury and at the Montreux Jazz Festival, just me and an acoustic guitar. And now I have an album coming out that’s an extension of that, with Slim Jim Phantom and Earl Slick. I like the way the Spiders From Mars worked: great musicians, but with Bowie driving it all with an acoustic guitar. That’ll be out in the summer, with a single out in a month or two.”

Glen Matlock’s London Bass Show masterclass will take place at London Olympia on March 5. Classic Rock readers can get a 20% discount by entering the code ClassicRock when purchasing tickets.

The 10 records that inspired Glen Matlock are below.

Various Artists - Stars Of The Apollo

This featured all the people who played at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, right from year dot up until Aretha Franklin and beyond. It opened the door to me to so many styles of music within that idiom, from Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday to Bessie Smith.

Various Artists - The Story Of The Blues

I wanted to buy a Robert Johnson album, and the shop didn’t have one in stock, so the guy sold me this best-of. It was a double album featuring people like Butterbean & Susie and Lead Belly. That was when I learnt to play, following the 12-bar blues.

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

This was one of the first records I ever owned — I got it for Christmas when I was 11, and I remember my mum and dad doing an Indian dance when Within You Without You came on. I’ve still got that copy, including the cardboard insert with the cut-out moustache. I was trying to learn guitar at the time, and was all fingers-and-thumbs, so I naturally gravitated towards the lower end of things: McCartney’s bass playing on It’s Getting Better is very clever.

David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

When you’re young and you’ve got a Saturday job, and you’re buying a few records, what really stands out is what you can afford, and this was one of those albums. As far as bass players go, Trevor Bolder is right up there. The bass line on Hang Onto Yourself inspired what I played on No Feelings by the Sex Pistols. It was my homage to him.

The Faces - Long Player

One of the things I loved when I was a kid was a load of rock’n’roll 78s my uncle had given me. I had ones by Jerry Lee Lewis, Earl Bostick, Little Richard and Elvis. I loved those walking bass lines. The records came in these cardboard sleeves stitched up with string, and I remember going down the Portobello Road when I was about 14, and I found this album that looked like an old 78. I didn’t know anything about the band, but I took it home, and it was The Faces. They had that real London thing, which was a perfect antidote to all the Merseybeat stuff.

The Faces - A Nod Is As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse

The bass playing on Miss Judy’s Farm is great. So inventive. It was such a pleasure to play that live. They had this brilliant thing, where one track on each album would just be one chord all the way through. It’s almost like a Booker T kind of groove. They probably did those tracks while Rod Stewart was off pulling birds, but they were all such good players. Ian McLagan is so unsung. He’s the best white Hammond Organ player ever and a great pianist too.

John Lennon - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

It’s a very bleak sounding record, and everything’s got tape echo on it - even the tom toms - but I’d never really heard Klaus Voorman before, and he’s kinda cool. He plays bass like he’s not really a bass player.

Can - Soon Over Babaluma

One of the best gigs I ever saw was Can at the Hammersmith Palais in about 1973, and Soon Over Babaluma is one of my favourite albums. Holger Czukay’s playing taught me about octaves, and the thing he had going with drummer Jaki Liebezeit was fantastic.

Various Artists - Tamla Motown Chartbusters Vol. 5

All of that Motown stuff is amazing, James Jamerson [legendary Mortown bass player] and the rest. The Funk Brothers did a gig a few years ago at the Royal Festival Hall. I ended up backstage and actually shook hands with Bob Babbett [bass] and Jack Ashford [band leader/percussionist].

Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue

I love Paul Chambers’ bass on So What. As far as Jazz goes, I like earlier be-bob stuff. I did by an Albert Ayler record once, but I don’t think I played it more than a couple of times. It’s too much like hard work.

The 10 most influential bassists, by Nick Beggs

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.