I have brought you many things in my time, but the most successful of them was an invention they called punk rock….Find yourself four kids. Make sure they hate each other. Make sure they can’t play. (Malcolm McLaren, Great Rock’N’Roll Swindle.)
I try to make ideas happen: ideas that could change life. (McLaren on Enough Rope.)
There was quite an interesting article, well, interview really, question and answer session with Malcolm McLaren in the Guardian, was it yesterday, or the day before, linked to his candidature as Mayor Of London. It all made you feel quite sympathetic to him, by and large, but he repeated the old canard about ‘God Save The Queen’ not being played on the radio at all. Well, that’s complete bollocks, because it was played at least a dozen times on these programmes. (John Peel, 13 January 2000)
I hope it will not offend too many people if I say that I thought Malcolm McLaren was a self-serving narcissist. Yet that is, I think, a fairly comprehensive summary of his career, and one which even he would see some truth in. It’s not that he had a finger on the pulse of the public exactly (he missed the demonstrations in Paris and screwed up spectacularly in managing the New York Dolls), but he had some idea of the way public feeling was moving, and also had a knack for making a career out of absolutely nothing. With the Sex Pistols, maybe he planned out and stage-managed their career, maybe not. What mattered was that he had an obsession with image, and used that in an entertaining way: if he hadn’t been around, it’s douibtful that the Pistols would have been anything more than a pub rock band with a Small Faces obsession, and he repeatedly made this clear in The Great Rock’N’Roll Swindle, a trash masterpiece with his fingerprints all over it. Spells with Adam And The Ants, Bow Wow Wow and Jimmy The Hoover effectively rounded out his management career, but he had made his mark.
Whenever we all thought he was washed up, along he’d come with some new stunt or a shining musical treat such as Double Dutch or that Madame Butterfly thing. He could be irritating, sure, but that was his raison d’etre, and he succeeded superbly. As a tribute of sorts to a flashy and charismatic character, here is the O-Levels’ EP from 1978 where, in their amateurish yet charming way, they tried to offset some of the flak he was getting at the time. ‘We Love Malcolm, even if nobody else does.’ Love’s a strong word here, but without him, somehow the world is just a little greyer, and as his grandmother told him, a little bit more boring.
‘O’ Level, We Love Malcolm EP
We Love Malcolm/Leave Me/Everybody’s On Revolver These Days/Stairway To Boredom