Under The Influence: Glen Matlock

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The former Sex Pistol and Rich Kid called himself ‘Blind Lemon Matlock’ before he became the punk-blues godfather.

My introduction to the blues was listening to The Mike Raven Blues Show on Radio 1 in the late 60s. It was a formative radio programme for so many of us. Listening to the transistor at home in Kensal Green, north London, you had a choice between Mary Hopkin and Lightnin’ Hopkins – and Lightnin’ won./o:p

When I was teaching myself to play guitar, from Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day, I learnt the blues progression. I’d sit up in my room bashing out the blues like I was Blind Lemon Matlock. It spurred me on to look into it a bit more. I went to our local record store in Harlesden, looking for a Blind Lemon Jefferson or Robert Johnson album, but they didn’t have any. The guy convinced me to get The Story Of The Blues double album, which went right from the early recordings up to Chicago blues.

I was aware of the blues boom in the 60s but I was too young for it. I knew where Cream were coming from though. I really liked Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – Oh Well, Black Magic Woman and Man Of The World. Later on, when I was working at [Pistols manager] Malcolm McLaren’s shop, he had a jukebox with Smokestack Lightnin’ on it. The vocal performance is fantastic, stuff like that knocked the socks off anything else that was on the radio at the time, it just seemed more real and heartfelt and soulful.

In the 80s I was touring the States with Iggy Pop and we did One For My Baby (Set Em Up Joe), which is a creeping blues. [Damned guitarist] Brian James did a fantastic solo and it brought the house down every night. On our night off in Chicago we went to a down- home club hoping to see Muddy Waters, and this white, middle-aged housewife came out and played guitar. She was pretty good, but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for!

When you’re a musician you have to be aware of how the blues kinda works, it really is the basis of everything. It was important in my musical education. Even a song like Anarchy In The UK – it goes round all the progressions and revolves in the same way that a blues song has to – start at B then up to F, goes to G and comes down again. The blues permeates all decent modern music, even if you don’t know how to play a Dobro or broken bottleneck./o:p

STARS OF THE APOLLO

(Columbia, 1972)

I couldn’t afford a whole load of blues records, so I used to get samplers. These were all singers who’d performed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. It had Aretha Franklin doing Evil Gal Blues, Bessie Smith’s Gimme A Pigfoot, Butterbeans & Susie, who were a risqué husband and wife double act in the 1930s, a bit like cheeky chappie Max Miller and his missus – ‘Here’s a funny thing’./o:p

SON OF GUTBUCKET

(Liberty, 1969)

Someone at school had the first album in the series, which was called Gutbucket (An Underworld Eruption). We also had Son Of Gutbucket. It was Canned Heat, The Groundhogs and Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation’s Sugar On The Line, they all dovetailed into each other. Those bands influenced lots of us. Chicken Shack had a hit with I’d Rather Go Blind, Rod Stewart did it, then I did it, when I played with the Faces. It’s a fantastic song./o:p

SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS

I Put A Spell On You (Okeh, 1958)

I also heard this on the jukebox when I was working at Malcolm McLaren’s shop, Let It Rock on the King’s Road in London. It’s not purist blues but it’s the finest vocal by anyone, any time, ever. He don’t half sound like he means it, and that’s the difference between pop songs and the blues. They tend to be a bit more heartfelt with it, you know?/o:p

MOSE ALLISON

Parchman Farm (Prestige, 1957)

I’m a big fan of Mose Allison and some of the jazz stuff. It’s got a totally different groove. There’s also I’m Not Talking, which The Yardbirds covered. The Who would be nowhere without Mose Allison. It’s all over My Generation and they did Young Man Blues, another of his songs./o:p

SMALL FACES

You Need Loving (Decca, 1966)

A Willie Dixon song, of course. I know that Robert Plant was a big fan of the Small Faces. Steve Marriott’s vocal break is very like Whole Lotta Love.

I first saw them on Ready Steady Go! in 1965. And then I followed them through until Marriott went off and did Humble Pie, who were much bluesier. The Small Faces were heading in that direction with Wham Bam Thank You Man. One of the best gigs I ever saw was Humble Pie supporting Grand Funk Railroad in Hyde Park in about 1971.

In 196869, I was 12 or 13 years old so I wasn’t going to see who was on at the 100 Club at that time, but I started knocking around the Portobello Road a bit later on and the record shops in Golborne Road. I remember buying Long Player by the Faces, purely because it was in a cardboard sleeve with etching on it and looked like an old blues 78, with the Warner Brothers label poking through the hole. It’s all kinda mixed in there somehow. I was mates with Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan, who passed away last December. He was a fan of Otis Spann and Professor Longhair and wanted to have that New Orleans sound. I can just about master a bad version of Tipitina on the piano./o:p

THE KINKS

You Really Got Me (Pye, 1964)

I think The Kinks are very important in the history of music, just by dint of You Really Got Me. The Stones would have gone right up the 12-bar on this song but The Kinks didn’t – they moved it up a semitone – and it was the birth of rock music, as in hard rock, as opposed to R&B and blues./o:p

LITTLE WILLIE JOHN

I’m Shakin’ (King, 1960)

This is an early R&B classic. Jack White covered it [on 2012’s Blunderbuss album] and I thought, I know that fucking song from somewhere – ’scuse my French. I’d wanted to do it when I had a band called The Spectres in the early 1980s, with Steve New of The Rich Kids and Budgie, the drummer from Siouxsie & The Banshees. I always knew I’m Shakin’ was a good one to cover but Jack White actually did it and put it out./o:p

PETE SEEGER

Goofing-Off Suite (Folkways, 1954)

I didn’t even realise Pete Seeger was a banjo player until I listened to it. There’s something going on in his lyrics, a bit odd, a bit different somehow. I thought it was a silly record, but it would be played on radio programmes such as Ed Stewpot’s Junior Choice and Forces Favourites. He also did that song Little Boxes. Even when I was young I realised there was a bit more to it than a silly song about boxes. It’s got a whole hidden meaning to it./o:p

Keep up to date with Matlock on Twitter @GlenMatlock./o:p