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Former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock on his travel hotspots

Pans labyrinth: Tokyo’s Kitchen Town

The former Sex Pistols bassist tells Polly Humphris about getting arrested with Iggy Pop and the simple pleasure of washing his smalls at a local launderette

What is your favourite on-the-road moment?

One of the last Sex Pistols tours was a 30-date US tour sometime in the 1970s. The coach had a video player, which we weren’t used to having, but our guitarist Steve Jones pipes up: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got it sorted.’ We expected porn but what he actually slotted in was Summer Holiday, the 1963 film with Cliff Richard. The bit where Cliff pulls up on the bus was so incongruous with us lot on a tour bus, it was hilarious. We’ve all got a soft spot for Cliff.

What is your favourite city?

Tokyo is a real mix of ancient and ultra-modern. There’s a shop in Harajuku with a massive 40ft neon sign called Nice Claup ( What does that even mean? Kappabashi Street between Ueno and Asakusa is known locally as Kitchen Town and is full of shops supplying wholesale kitchenware. They also sell plastic food for display in restaurant windows — everything from ice cream to sushi.

What keeps you sane on the road?

Finding the local launderette and doing my own washing. I like having clean clothes and I don’t like paying a fortune for a hotel to wash my smalls.

When have you been most frightened while travelling?

We were playing a gig in an old abattoir near Helsinki and had to get a small Learjet to get us there. We took off fine, got up to cruising altitude and suddenly the sirens started going off and the cabin pressure dropped. The plane lost control temporarily but we got there in one piece.

No eelings: Elvers unsettled Glen

What have you ever taken from a hotel room?

I’m partial to a fold-up hairbrush, which isn’t very rock’n’roll, and, of course, we had our moments back in the day. I remember telling our tour manager I’d made ‘a bit of a mess’ of a hotel room and he told me not to worry. After he’d got us all out, he presented me with a bill for a few hundred quid, which was a fair bit in 1979. I have thrown a TV out of a window but it was my own TV out of my own window, which was silly.

Star: Summer Holiday with Cliff Richard

What is the best souvenir you’ve come home with?

In homage to my love of Japan I’ve got a tongue-in-cheek dressing room sign that says Gren Matrock but overall I’m actually terrible for leaving things in other countries. I had a really sharp, dark-blue pinstripe suit that I took to Spain. I got home and realised it was still hanging in a wardrobe in Sitges.

Bustling: Greenwich Village

What has been your most life-changing experience while travelling?

I remember playing in New York when the Sex Pistols were starting out. It was the first time I’d been to the States and there was an art show going on in Greenwich Village. Joni Mitchell was there and she accidentally stood on my foot with her stiletto heel, which was memorable anyway, but on the way home a guy stopped me in the street and said, ‘Hey, you’re Glen Matlock’. It was David Johansen from the New York Dolls, who I’d never met.

Doll face: David Johansen

What’s the worst meal you’ve had abroad?

In Madrid I was served elvers [baby eels], which are supposed to be a Spanish delicacy but looked like a bowl of worms. They didn’t taste too bad but they looked pretty grim and had an unfortunate crunch mid-bite.

Oddest place you’ve spent the night?

We played some gigs in rural western France and ended up in a creepy farmhouse. It was freezing and the only blankets we had were the ones that had been used to cover the cows.

On stage: The Sex Pistols

Have you ever come close to getting arrested?

Yes. We were playing with Iggy Pop in Michigan. Iggy’s got a bit of a reputation for ‘airing himself’ on stage, shall we say, so when we came off we were all marched away at gunpoint. They didn’t lock us up, though.

Glen Matlock’s new solo album, A Bloke About My Size, is out in June