Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Malcolm In The Middle of the Earth

A few days ago pop Svengali Malcolm McLaren died. He’s best known as the manager of the Sex Pistols. In the 70s he also ran a successful boutique with famous designer Vivienne Westwood, and in preparation for his Pistols stint he orchestrated the last gasp of proto punks the New York Dolls.

Today as his corpse lay rotting McLaren is remembered as a trendsetter and visionary. Last week most would’ve said scumbag, crook, opportunist. All are correct descriptions.

Through his shop Let It Rock (later renamed Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, then Sex, then Seditionaries) he and Westwood created the deconstructed look of torn t-shirts, safety pin earrings, bondage trousers, mental patient haircuts in day-glo colors - in fact organic versions of all the shit you’d see in the Hot Topic shop at your local mall.

With The Sex Pistols McLaren created – created - a band of true misfits who’s playing was barely adequate, who’s demeanor was the ultimate in anti-social behavior, and through his promotional duties he got them banned from almost every live music venue, TV studio and radio outlet throughout the UK. When they scored a recording contract, workers refused to press the records. When the record finally got released and shot straight to number 1, the music press wouldn’t even list it. The number one spot was displayed as a BLANK line. Then they came to America for a week or so and broke up. From cradle to grave all of this took 18 months. And for that brief time they were the absolute greatest f#%king band EVER.

Today this uber-bad boy shtick seems commonplace. Back then, none of this had ever happened before. No, not Elvis or Stones. Not even close. And it was all down to McLaren. ALL of it. But he was no mere Colonel Punk Parker or Blank Brian Epstein. McLaren did other things, too.

In the early 80s he recorded some of the first hip hop/rock sides that would later become commonplace. He used bagpipes, recorded phone conversations and scratching to give his tracks a more global feel. He produced a dancefloor friendly version of Madam Butterfly. He was instrumental in creating the New Romantic movement that America most obviously saw manifested in Boy George. He did a lot of other things, but I’m tired of writing about him. Look it up on the internet.

Trust me – whoever you are, and no matter how little you may be familiar with “punk”, you know about it because of Malcolm McLaren. He came to New York in 1976 and took a small underground movement back to the UK and mixed it up with fluorescent paint & beer and puked it up into the faces of youths worldwide.

Read this – Roger Ebert and Russ Meyer were involved in a Sex Pistols film that never quite got off the ground. It's a great piece.


Monday, April 12, 2010

End Of Intermission

In the immortal words of Sly Stone: heard you missed me, well I’m back.

I used to do all my blog entries from work, but everything’s been locked down since January, including all blog sites. I can’t stream music – no WWOZ Nawlins. no WFMU Jersey. no XFM London. I can’t listen to Rodney Bingenheimer live from LA on Sunday nites. I can’t stream from Sirius. Facebook and Ebay have been blocked. But I can create a Word doc, email it to my Hotmail account, pick it up at home & Bob’s Yer Uncle, an updated blog.

Who really cares what’s been happening with me since last summer? Let’s get on with the here & now.

IMPORTANT: Record Store Day is fast approaching. FYI it’s this Saturday, April 17, 2010. PARTICIPATE! This is the day for all the existing record stores to strut their stuff & hopefully make some money. I fully support the in-person record buying experience, even though I hate most of the people shopping along side of me (hey, you're too close, step back!). Boy, if I had a record store it’d be like Studio 54 - not everyone’s getting in. Sure, I wouldn’t make money, but I ain’t doing it for the money. Art does not equal commerce for me.

This year I’m excited about the special Record Store Day releases. A bargeload of artists are releasing very limited runs of 7” singles to be sold on RSD only. The chance of getting what you want is probably a hell of a lot better if you’re in, say, London, NY, Chicago or Portland (the latest city of choice for cultural lemmings – sorry, Williamsburg). The Fall have one. Daptone has one from soul queen Sharon Jones. The Stones have an “Exile On Main St” era unreleased track on offer. Even the bloody Beatles are re-releasing Paperback Writer/Rain, and Elvis has some crap out, too. Some of these quantities number in the hundreds, some more, some less. And who knows what the distribution setup is? You pays yer money, you takes yer choice.

Please go out & buy some CDs or records on that day. It may not matter to some, but the record store is a dying business, and to see it disappear as a haven for music lovers is a shame. Hey, I buy from Amazon & Ebay too, but absolutely nothing compares to rifling through racks of music and actually holding them in your grubby mitts, or getting a headache from rolling your eyes repeatedly from overheard nerd conversations about Wolfmother and Beach House. Give me a frikkin’ break.