Every generation has a musical act or two that comes along and scares the hell out of its parents: Elvis Presley and his swiveling hips; the Beatles with their "long," moppy haircuts; the Rolling Stones, who were coming for your daughters; the list goes on.
In 1978, it was the Sex Pistols, who not only repelled my parents, but me, too. I was 8 years old and worshiped Kiss, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult—stuff that might have alarmed some parents, but not mine. My parents were encouraging of my love of whatever music I was into at the time. However, without ever really hearing a note of their music, we all hated the Sex Pistols.
I blame the media more than the band. Sure, the band was created to shock—that was pretty much the modus operandi of Malcolm McLaren, the Svengali behind them. But the media saw a distasteful story and ran with it. When the Sex Pistols landed on U.S. shores for their first American tour in January 1978, reports about the band—how they vomited and pissed on their audiences, how bassist Sid Vicious would cut himself bloody during performances, how they had cursed repeatedly on live British TV, not to mention stock footage of leather-clad punks with safety pins through their faces—were inescapable and played up the band's most-tawdry antics. Kiss may have scared some parents, but they were make-believe; these guys were real.
Yet no one—in the mainstream media, anyway—really mentioned the music.
A few years later, my friend Brian and I decided to find out what the fuss was all about. I had already heard the Ramones by that point, but I still hadn't heard the Sex Pistols. Brian and I were at the mall, and I bought Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, the band's only true album, on cassette. We took it back to his house and stuck it in his cassette deck; in an instant, our lives were changed.
We'd never heard anything like it—raw, visceral, angry as hell—and I'll never forget slowly turning to Brian to find his mouth literally wide open, just as mine was. It was like a scene out of a movie. And from that day on, we started buying every punk album we could get our hands on.
Kiss seemed silly at that point. Kids' stuff.
As far as I remember, my cassette didn't have writing credits, so we both assumed the Sex Pistols were singer Johnny Rotten, bassist Sid Vicious, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook. But a little bit later, when we saw who had written the songs, we wondered who "Matlock" was. (There was no Internet, kids.) Along with Rotten, Jones and Cook, he was credited with writing 10 of the album's 12 songs, including "God Save the Queen," "Anarchy in the U.K.," "Pretty Vacant" and "Submission." Even later than that, we found out that it was Matlock—former bassist Glen Matlock—who wrote most of the music and lyrics for the songs on which he was credited. Sid Vicious may have been the most infamous member of the band, but he was also its most useless: He may not have had any issues with bloodying himself to please fans, but he could barely play the bass. Glen Matlock was one of the most important Pistols, the guy who wrote the songs.
Why Matlock left depends on whom you ask. McLaren and Jones both claimed he was sacked because he liked the Beatles. At the time, Matlock claimed that he left by mutual agreement, but he later changed his story to say that he and Rotten were butting heads due to Rotten's growing ego.
None of that really matters. What matters is that one of the most influential songwriters in punk history became relegated to a mere footnote.
After the Pistols, Matlock drifted from band to band, the most notable being The Rich Kids, a power-pop band that featured future Ultravox singer Midge Ure (who also, incidentally, co-wrote and produced "Do They Know It's Christmas?"). He rejoined the Sex Pistols on their subsequent reunion tours at the turn of the century.
Right now, Matlock is touring as a co-headliner with Hugh Cornwell, the semi-legendary former singer of the Stranglers, another great early British punk band that was responsible for classics like "(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)," "Peaches" and "Golden Brown." As a solo artist, he's released a number of albums that were critically acclaimed, even if they didn't set the charts on fire. Both singers are being backed by the same band, which includes the fantastic drummer of Blondie, Clem Burke.
The tour kicks off at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, Feb. 24. As added incentive, two fantastic local bands are also on the bill: Lenguas Largas and HAIRSPRAYFIREANDGIRLS. Things get rolling at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $10; they'll be $12 on the day of the show. For more information, head to hotelcongress.com/club, or call 622-8848.
Another punk legend, albeit one from a generation later, will be on a Tucson stage this week—but he won't be playing music.
Henry Rollins—the last frontman for the American hardcore pioneers Black Flag, leader of the Rollins Band, author, actor, radio and TV host, raconteur and Renaissance man—will be at the Rialto Theatre as part of his current spoken-word tour, dubbed The Long March Tour. What will he be discussing? Who the hell knows? But anyone who's ever seen one of these tours before knows he'll be funny, angry, provocative and—above all—pretty damn entertaining.
The opening date of the three-month Long March Tour goes down at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., next Thursday, March 1. Tickets for the all-ages, reserved seated show are $25 and $30. For more information, head to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
We were saddened to hear that Mike Davis passed away on Feb. 17 due to liver failure. Davis was the bassist for legendary Detroit proto-punks the MC5, but he had close ties to Tucson, as he and his wife, Angela, spent a good deal of time on a ranch just outside of town. He played in Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios for a spell, and just about anyone who's spent a good deal of time in the local music scene has stories to tell—mostly about what a sweet, unassuming and generous guy he was.
Locals on Facebook have been posting memories about him, and one of my favorites comes from Powhaus Productions' Jared "Kitty Kat" McKinley, who posted this: "R.I.P. Mike Davis. I'll never forget riding around in a golf cart with you years ago at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum as you nonchalantly reported that you used to 'be in this band called the MC5.' When I about shit my pants, you retorted, 'Cool, you heard of us.' Yeah, Mike, I heard of the fucking MC5. Will miss you."
Our condolences to Angela and all those who knew and loved him.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Los Lonely Boys (acoustic) and The Dunwells at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 29; Fringe Fest's The Barely Free Baja Spectacular featuring tons of local musicians including members of The Tryst and Sweet Ghosts, Leila Lopez and Brian Green, Collin Shook, Brian Lopez, Jimmy Carr and organizer Bryan Sanders at Solar Culture Gallery on the nights of Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25, and the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 26; the annual Blues Sunday service with Lisa Otey, Diane Van Deurzen and "Hurricane" Carla Brownlee at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Feb. 26; the Guitar Masters Tour with Andy McKee, Stephen Bennett and Antoine Dufour at the Rialto Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 26; Foreigner at the Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino on Saturday, Feb. 25; Authority Zero, Allura, The Endless Pursuit and others at The Rock next Thursday, March 1; Western swing dance with Carolyn Martin and Way Out West at Suite 147 in Plaza Palomino on Friday, Feb. 24; Clay Walker at the Diamond Center at the Desert Diamond Casino on Saturday, Feb. 25; Ballyhoo! at The Hut on Tuesday, Feb. 28; Pure Noise Records Tour with The Story So Far, The American Scene and others at Skrappy's on Tuesday, Feb. 28; Three Bad Jacks, Sugar Stains, The El Camino Royales and The Outlaw Rebels at O'Malley's on Sunday, Feb. 26; The Saint James Society, Doctor Dinosaur and Research at Plush on Friday, Feb. 24; Alaska String Band at Abounding Grace Sanctuary on Saturday, Feb. 25; WaWaWa's one-year anniversary featuring Crizzly at Club Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28.