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.


No comments: