It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when and where the punk movement kicked off, but it certainly wasn’t in the UK, and it wasn’t the Sex Pistols. The source of punk was rooted in the late 1960s and early ‘70s with the emergence of heavy rock groups like The Stooges and New York Dolls who garnered inspiration from the sordid and hedonistic material of bands like The Velvet Underground.
When the Sex Pistols emerged in the mid-1970s, it was evident that the group had taken a firm grasp of the more outrageous side of rock ‘n’ roll, which placed value on volume, image and political agenda over musical mastery and melodic intricacy. It came as little surprise that the Pistols were inspired deeply by bands like The Stooges, The Who and the New York Dolls.
Unfashionable as it was for a punk to admit love for the “goody-two-shoes” Beatles at the height of the movement, Glen Matlock, the original bassist of the Sex Pistols, was in persistent admiration of the Fab Four. Matlock’s love for The Beatles led to significant goading from his former bandmates, who ostensibly prefered that he sing the praises for proto-punk groups instead.
After ongoing personal and creative disputes with the Pistols’ frontman John Lydon, Matlock left the band with the door open for Sid Vicious to step in on bass. In a factually incorrect statement to NME following Matlock’s departure, the band’s manager Malcolm McLaren said that he had been fired for liking The Beatles.
Despite his love for the Liverpudlians not really being the cause for his parting from the Sex Pistols, Matlock was indeed enamoured with them from a young age.
In a 2021 interview with NME, Matlock remembered that The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the first-ever record he owned. “I got it for Christmas when it came out, and I found it the other day when I was finally trying to sort out my LPs,” Matlock said. “I hadn’t played it for donkey’s years, but it’s still got the cardboard cut-outs that came with it: you got a cut-out moustache you put on like Sgt Pepper, but I never cut them out because when I was about ten, even back then a ten-year-old kid with a dark brown moustache would’ve looked a bit daft. It’s something I’ll never get rid of – it’s a family heirloom.”
As a child, Matlock was surrounded by some great music thanks to his parent’s record collection. He explained in an interview published in the Big Issue last year that after his parents’ recent passing, he had a trip through memory lane as he sifted through his family’s old record collection. “My folks passed away in recent years,” Matlock told the Big Issue. “I found all my records around their house. I started to try and go through them, but some are my mum’s, some are totally naff… ‘Let It Be Me’ by Gilbert Becaud… ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ by Kenny Ball and his Paramount Jazz Band, with ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on the B-side.”
He continued: “And then the Beatles came along! When I was growing up, there was a lot of schmaltzy kind of music, and that was a bit more like it. The Beatles’ Twist and Shout EP was one of the very first records, it might be the first record I bought with my own pocket money when I was a kid. I bought it from the washing machine shop in Oldham. It was like Radio Rentals or something, where you rented your TV from, and washing machine and radiograms.”
Matlock added: “John Lennon’s vocal on ‘Twist and Shout’ is fantastic. It’s a real slice of rock and roll. I heard it, and I thought I’d immediately start the Sex Pistols.”
So, while The Beatles weren’t one of the leading forces behind the punk movement, they were undoubtedly the most integral inspiration for one of its most iconic bassists.