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Glen Matlock: 'Leaving the Sex Pistols cost me millions of pounds'

Glen Matlock: 'Leaving the Sex Pistols cost me millions of pounds'

Fame & Fortune: Glen Matlock and his band mates used to steal bread from milkmen before they got a record deal. He explains what happened next.

Glen Matlock does own shares but says: 'I don’t even know who they are with to be hones'

Glen Matlock does own shares but says: 'I don’t even know who they are with to be hones'

How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude to money?

I come from a staunchly working class background. My father was a semi-skilled factory worker and we lived on tick and hire purchase most of the time.

Things were tight. The rent man would come round and we’d not answer the door. It taught me that money was hard to come by and you have to graft to get it.

What was your very first job and how much did it pay?

I stacked shelves at my local store every Saturday. It paid 10 shillings a week. I was 11. 

 How much was your first record advance and what did you buy with it?

When we signed with EMI in 1976 we got £40,000 [about £300,000 in today’s money] between us in the band, plus wages of £25 a week and the rent on a flat paid for.

Out of my share I got a Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitar that had been making eyes at me from a shop in Denmark Street. It was about £400. I used it on the Anarchy in the UK record and tour. I’ve still got it now.

Has there been a time in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to pay the bills?

Oh yeah, lots of times. Before we got our record deal we were absolutely skint. We used to live in our rehearsal place in Denmark Street, and we were starving . . . until we found out that the milk float didn’t only deliver milk at five o’clock in the morning, it also used to deliver bread and cheese. So that came in handy.

So did you steal food from milk floats back then?

We put it to better use. It was an investment in punk rock.

You famously quit the Sex Pistols in 1977. How much do you think that decision cost you?

A lot. Somewhere in the low millions. I couldn’t give you an exact figure. Who knows? But it’s not something I get up in the morning and moan about. It’s just what happened. At the time, money was the last thing on my mind.

How much money did you earn from the Sex Pistols overall?

My wage when I was in the band was only ever £25 a week. But then, a couple of years later, I started getting royalties. In 1979 I remember the letterbox rattled and in came a songwriting royalties cheque for £14,500 .

And when we reformed in 1996 we did a reunion tour and I earned a lot from that. It worked out at £35,000 profit per person per show, and we did the best part of 100 shows, plus we’d get merchandising money and other things on top. 

 The Sex Pistols, 1976: Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten Soho. Photo: Ray Stevenson / Rex Features

The Sex Pistols, 1976: Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten Soho. Photo: Ray Stevenson / Rex Features

Have you ever got into trouble with the taxman?

Not long after I left the Pistols I was skint and living in a squat, and I got summoned to Bush House with my accountant to a meeting with the tax authorities. They wanted to look into my affairs.

My accountant, who was Jewish, said to me: “Be very careful what you say, Glen. These people are worse than the Gestapo.” But I didn’t owe them any money then.

After that, though, I did come unstuck. You get used to the royalties coming in and then that slows. In 1983 the taxman came knocking for £35,000 to £40,000, which I didn’t have.

It was funny, actually. The guy who was my tax officer – a nice old duffer of a bloke – his name was Mr Cheatem. He begged me to settle. I had to remortgage my flat in the end. But I paid off all the outstanding tax, and ever since then I’ve always been up to date with it.

What’s the worst money mistake you’ve ever made?

I shouldn’t have paid the taxman. Not then, not when it was inconvenient for me to do. I think you should pay your tax, but I should have been harder nosed about it and paid it later.

Then I wouldn’t have had a massive mortgage on my shoulders at punitive interest rates when I wasn’t working.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A little bit of both. I have some money tucked away in case of emergencies and I’ve got a very small pension of about £100,000. But I’m focusing on my mortgage because I’ve decided the best thing I can do is own my property outright, and I'm pretty much almost there.

I was more of a spender in my youth and I’ve learnt my lesson about that, because you don’t know what’s coming next.

How much is your property worth?

A couple of million quid. It’s just a three-bed maisonette in Little Venice [in west London] with a small garden. I moved into it in 1995 and bought the place upstairs, then knocked it through and added more bedrooms. But I’m not a property speculator – I didn’t buy my flat as an investment, I bought it as somewhere to live.

If you could change any aspect of the tax system, what would it be?

I’d create a special thing for artists and people of peculiar occupations where if they have one good payday only once ever in their lives, then they can spread their income out so the tax doesn’t all fall in one year. You can only ever do one farewell tour.

How much did you earn last year?

A good five-figure sum.

Apart from property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

A private education for my two sons at the Ryde School on the Isle of Wight. That’s cost me £20,000 a year in school fees.

What’s the one indulgence you couldn’t live without?

I like a nice whistle every now and then – you know, a whistle and flute? [Cockney rhyming slang for suit.] A mate of mine is a tailor called Sir Tom Baker in Soho and he does me a good deal on a nice bespoke handmade suit.

I think the last one I got off him cost me about a grand. It’s money well spent when a suit fits you well.

How do you prefer to pay for things – cash, or debit or credit card?

Debit card. That way, you’ve got a record of what you pay for, but you don’t have to pay any interest. 

 Glen Matlock performing in New York in 2012 Photo: Getty Images

Glen Matlock performing in New York in 2012 Photo: Getty Images

How do you tip?

Quite well, by English standards. About 10pc to 12.5pc – I normally just round it up so you don’t have to do too much maths.

How do you feel about investing in the stock market?

I’ve done that and I’ve done all right so far. But I don’t study the market and I’m not in a rush to invest any more than I already have.

I don’t even know who my shares are with to be honest. I’ve got an all-encompassing selection, you know? My financial adviser helped me with it. I went for medium risk.

How much have you invested in stocks and shares so far?

Over £100,000 in some Peps and some Isas. I don’t sit there poring over them every day. I get a statement once a year and they look like they’re ticking over all right.

What are your financial priorities for the next five or 10 years?

To pay off my mortgage. I want to keep that on track. That’s pretty much it.

When will you retire?

I don’t know that I will ever retire. I enjoy playing and I get invited to go to some really cool places. It’s a very cheap way of seeing the world.

If you had to sum up your attitude to money in a single sentence, what would you say?

Respectful, these days. 

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