Sex Pistol Glen Matlock launches Operatic punk album by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

British institution the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and some of Britain’s finest opera singers have recorded an album of tracks from the angriest and most rebellious songbook – Punk. Forty years after the BBC banned God Save The Queen, ‘The Anarchy Arias’ is the first ever album of classic punk tunes done in a full-blown operatic style and is an idea inspired by Sex Pistol Glen Matlock. The thirteen-track album will be released on 9 June 2017 on Universal Music.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and critically acclaimed opera singers including lead soloist Stephen Gadd, who has sung in some of the world’s most prestigious venues including English National Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Opera national de Paris and the Glyndebourne festival (more often to be found performing Tosca and Macbeth than Oh Bondage Up Yours!) might be an unusual idea on paper, but whether it be the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love or the Clash’s London Calling, these dramatically arranged operatic versions make it clear just how much Punk has transcended its scrappy origins to become a national archetype.

Punk was designed to be stirring, and the original energy of the music adapts brilliantly to the power of the swelling strings and operatic voices. In fact, as Glen Matlock explains, it’s not too much of a stretch from the guitar to a thirty piece orchestra: “When you’re playing guitar, you have six strings each playing a different note, allied to a chord. In an orchestra, a string instrument only plays one note at a time, and you have loads of different people, making up those chords. It’s not that dissimilar, you just have more people doing it.’

As one of the main songwriters, arranger and bass player for the founding British punk group, Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock explains his involvement with the project: “About a year and a half ago I got involved with doing Pretty Vacant with a string quartet. I really enjoyed it. The guy behind the Arias heard it, and thought it might be good for all kinds of punk things. So that’s what they did, I then heard some tracks, and I really liked it, I thought some of the orchestrations were fantastic. It was really well done.”

In fact, the idea of doing orchestral versions of Sex Pistols songs was first tried out in the 1970’s, with the London Symphony Orchestra’s versions of EMI and God Save The Queen on the ‘The Great Rock’n’roll Swindle’ soundtrack album. And, as Matlock adds, “I’ve always liked that version that Jerzimy did on the Swindle soundtrack of “Anarchy in the UK”, with a French accordion, in waltz time. All those things work, and they’re not necessarily what you think.”

“There’s certainly a lot of tongue in cheekiness to it’, Matlock adds. “At the same time I am of an age where you had things like “Deep Purple in Rock”, with a symphony orchestra, or Procol Harum doing “Conquistador” with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, or Frank Zappa with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Festival Hall. And always in the back of your mind, as a songwriter, you wonder what your stuff would sound like with an orchestra. And it’s a little bit of an accolade to hear it done that way. I think any good song can be played in any idiom.”

Like Punk, ‘The Anarchy Arias’ is poised between seriousness and levity, between simple melodies and rousing emotions. To be released around Father’s Day, it converts chaos into choral melodies – and gives another way of hearing these classic pop tunes afresh.

The album is sponsored by Hobgoblin beer.



1) Pretty Vacant (originally performed by Sex Pistols)

2) No More Heroes (originally performed by The Stranglers)

3) Should I Stay Or Should I Go (originally performed by The Clash)

4) Ça Plane Pour Moi (originally performed by Plastic Bertrand)

5) Teenage Kicks (originally performed by The Undertones)

6) The Sound Of The Suburbs (originally performed by The Members)

7) Ever Fallen In Love…(With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)   (originally performed by Buzzcocks)

8) God Save The Queen (originally performed by Sex Pistols)

9) London Calling (originally performed by The Clash)

10) Babylon’s Burning (originally performed by The Ruts)

11) Oh Bondage Up Yours! (originally performed by X Ray Spex)

12) Love Will Tear Up Apart (originally performed by Joy Division)

13) Neat Neat Neat (originally performed by The Damned)

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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