Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren
Malcolm McLaren

McLaren in October 2009.
Background information
Birth name Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren
Born 22 January 1946(1946-01-22)
Stoke Newington, London, England
Died 8 April 2010(2010-04-08) (aged 64) Switzerland[1]
Genres Rock, Hip hop, Punk rock,
Rock and roll, New Wave
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter, band manager, entrepreneur
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1971–2010
Labels Charisma Records
Island/Atlantic Records
Epic/SME Records
Gee Street/Island/PolyGram Records
Virgin/EMI Records
Associated acts Sex Pistols
New York Dolls
Bow Wow Wow
World's Famous Supreme Team
Website Official site

Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren (22 January 1946 – 8 April 2010)[2] was an English[3][4] performer, impresario, self-publicist and manager of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls.[5] As a solo artist, McLaren had an innovative career which helped introduce hip hop to the United Kingdom.


Early years

McLaren was born to Pete McLaren, a Scottish[6] engineer, and Emmy Isaacs in post-World War II North London. His father left when he was two and he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Rose Corre Isaacs, the formerly wealthy daughter of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish diamond dealers, in Stoke Newington. McLaren told Andrew Denton on Enough Rope, that his grandmother always said to him, "To be bad is good... to be good is simply boring".[7] In The Ghosts of Oxford Street he says Charles Clore (who bought Selfridges) became his mother's lover. When he was six, McLaren's mother married Martin Levi, a man working in London's rag trade. When McLaren was in his forties, a Sunday newspaper found Pete McLaren in an English "greasy spoon garage".

McLaren's stepfather and mother owned a rag factory in London's East End called Eve Edwards London Limited. They lived well but McLaren and his stepfather never got along. He left home in his teens. Following a series of jobs (including one as a wine taster), he went on to attend several art colleges through the 1960s, being expelled from several before leaving education entirely in 1971. It was during this time that he began to design clothing, a talent he would later use when he became a boutique owner.[citation needed]

He had been attracted to the Situationist movement, particularly King Mob, which promoted absurdist and provocative actions as a way of enacting social change. In 1968 McLaren had tried unsuccessfully to travel to Paris to take part in the demonstrations there. Instead, with Jamie Reid, he took part in a student occupation of Croydon Art School. McLaren would later adopt the movement's ideas into his promotion for the various pop and rock groups with whom he was soon to involve himself.[8]

New York Dolls, Vivienne Westwood and SEX

In 1971, McLaren and his girlfriend, the designer Vivienne Westwood, opened a London clothing shop called Let It Rock, on Kings Road. The shop sold Teddy Boy clothes and McLaren and Westwood also designed clothing for theatrical and cinematic productions such as That'll Be The Day and Mahler. Let It Rock proved a success but McLaren grew disillusioned with the style of shop owing to problems with the Teddy Boys who were the shop's main customers.

McLaren travelled to New York City for a boutique fair in 1972, having already met the group the New York Dolls. That year he renamed the outlet at 430 Kings Road Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and supplied the group with stage wear. In 1975, McLaren designed red patent leather costumes for the New York Dolls and used a Soviet-style hammer and sickle motif for their stage show, as a provocative means of promoting them. This ploy was not successful and the Dolls soon broke up. In April 1975, McLaren returned to Britain, by which time he had renamed the shop SEX, selling punk and S&M inspired clothing.[9] In December 1976, Sex was renamed "Seditionaries". In 1980 it was reopened under the name "World's End".

Sex Pistols

By 1976, McLaren had started to manage The Strand, the band that later became the Sex Pistols.[1] He soon convinced them to kick guitarist/songwriter Wally Nightingale out of the band and also introduced them to bassist Glen Matlock (who worked in SEX). His assistant, Bernie Rhodes (soon to be manager of The Clash), spotted John Lydon who was then sporting green hair, and torn clothes with the words "I hate" scribbled on his Pink Floyd shirt. His appearance and attitude impressed McLaren, and Lydon, now dubbed "Johnny Rotten", was brought in to audition as a new frontman. Rotten joined, and the band was renamed The Sex Pistols (McLaren stated he wanted them to sound like "sexy young assassins").[10]

Rock is fundamentally a young people's music, right ? And a lot of kids feel cheated. They feel that the music's been taken away from them by that whole over-25 audience.

NME – November 1976[11]

In May 1977, the band released "God Save the Queen" during the week of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. McLaren organised a boat trip down the Thames where the Sex Pistols would perform their music outside the Houses of Parliament. The boat was raided by the police and McLaren was arrested, thus achieving his goal: to obtain publicity.

The band released their album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols in October 1977 and played their last UK gig before embarking upon a US tour in January 1978. During his time managing the band McLaren was accused by band members (most notably by John Lydon) of mismanaging them and refusing to pay them when they asked him for money. McLaren stated that he had planned out the entire path of the Sex Pistols, and in the film, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, he set this plan out. McLaren kept the Sex Pistols' contract rights until Lydon took him to court in the 1980s to win the rights and unpaid revenues from McLaren. Lydon won and gained complete control from McLaren in 1987. McLaren and Lydon refused to speak to each other after the band split. In the 2000 film, The Filth and the Fury, the surviving members of the Sex Pistols put their version of events on film.

Other artists

McLaren was approached by Adam Ant to manage Adam and the Ants, following their debut album release in late 1979. Shortly thereafter three members of the band left to form Bow Wow Wow, under McLaren's management. McLaren continued to manage Ant as he found new band members for Adam and the Ants and worked on a new sound. McLaren was later to manage Jimmy The Hoover, formed in 1982, who gained a support slot on a Bow Wow Wow tour.

Bow Wow Wow was originally created to promote clothing designed by Vivienne Westwood, and McLaren continued to exploit the band members, pressuring the underage lead singer to pose nude for the underage sex magazine he had created entitled Chicken, a reference to the magazine's underage content.[12]

Solo musical career

In 1983, McLaren released Duck Rock, an album which, in collaboration with The World's Famous Supreme Team (a duo of Hip-Hop radio disc jockeys from New York City – See Divine, The Mastermind and Just Allah, The Superstar – who then hosted a prominent Hip-Hop/classic R&B show on WHBI 105.9 FM and who were also among the first DJs to introduce the art of scratching to the world), mixed up influences from Africa and the Americas, including hip-hop. The album proved to be highly influential in bringing hip-hop to a wider audience in the UK. Two of the singles from the album ("Buffalo Gals" and "Double Dutch") became top-10 hits in the UK, with "Buffalo Gals" a minor hit in some major cities in the U.S. Duck Rock features clips of "The World's Famous Supreme Team Show" throughout the course of the album between songs, as well special vocal appearances from the duo themselves.

He then turned to electronic music and opera in the 1984 single "Madame Butterfly", based on the opera. The track is arranged with drum machines, atmospheric synthesisers and spoken verses. It reached No.13 in the UK and No.16 in Australia. The producer of the single, Stephen Hague, became a much sought after producer in the techno pop genre following his work with McLaren on the following full length LP, Fans.

McLaren's 1989 album Waltz Darling, was a funk/disco/vogueing inspired album. Waltz Darling incorporated elements of his former albums, i.e. spoken verses, string arrangements and eclectic mix of genres but featured such prominent musicians as Bootsy Collins and Jeff Beck with a glitzy, Louisiana-style production aimed at the US market. The singles, "Waltz Darling" and "Something's Jumpin' in Your Shirt" became top-20 radio hits in Europe, with the single "Deep in Vogue" bringing voguing to the attention of the world long before Madonna did.

In 1992, McLaren co-wrote the song "Carry On Columbus" for the feature film of the same name. The song plays over the end credits of the film. In 1994, he recorded the concept album Paris, with French artists such as Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Hardy.

In 1998, McLaren released Buffalo Gals Back 2 Skool (Virgin Records), an album featuring hip hop artists like Rakim, KRS-One, De La Soul and producer Henri Scars Struck revisiting tracks from the original Duck Rock album. In addition, that year, he created a band called Jungk. This project was not a commercial success. Also in 1997/1998, he released a track called "The Bell Song". Various remixes were released on 12" singles.

His song "About Her", based on "She's Not There" by The Zombies, rose to prominence when used by director Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill Vol. 2. He was accused of plagiarism for this song in 2005 for allegedly copying the work of a French musician, but was cleared of the charges in November 2005 when the court in Angers, France threw out the case.[13] The song uses Bessie Smith's "St. Louis Blues" by repeatedly playing the verse, "My man's got a heart like a rock cast in the sea."[14]

McLaren's solo work, particularly from the Duck Rock period, has also been sampled by other artists. In 1999, a group called Dope Smugglaz had a UK top twenty hit with the track "Double Double Dutch" which made extensive use of samples from McLaren's original "Double Dutch". In 1997, Mariah Carey's "Honey" and "Honey (Bad boy remix)" sample "Hey DJ" In 2002, Eminem released a track called "Without Me", which sampled McLaren's song, "Buffalo Gals". In 2007, McLaren's song "World's Famous" was sampled by R&B singer Amerie on the song, "Some Like It", from her album Because I Love It.

In 2006, author Paul Gorman published his book The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion with a foreword and contributions from McLaren. The book included a CD featuring the track "Deux" from the Paris Remixes album.

British Airways advertisements

In 1989, McLaren and composer Yanni arranged The Flower Duet into a work called Aria. The 'Flower Duet' theme, taken from the French opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes, had already been used by composer Howard Blake[15] to accompany British Airways commercials since 1984. However, from 1989 McLaren and Yanni further arranged the Flower Duet and it featured in BA's "World's favourite Airline" global advertising campaign of the 1980s and 1990s.

Other projects

During the 1980s, McLaren attempted to make a film called Fashion Beast, from a script by comic-book writer Alan Moore. McLaren took the project to New York City in 1986, and was for a time funded through NYC-based nightlife impresario and producer Robert Boykin. Avenue Pictures recommended screenwriter Steve Means to rewrite the Alan Moore script. This was contracted and several drafts written, but the process slowed down with the physical deterioration of producer Boykin, who subsequently died in 1988. McLaren declared the project "an orphan." The film was never made, but McLaren was involved with other film and television projects, including The Ghosts of Oxford Street, made for Channel 4 in 1991. This musical history of London's Oxford Street was directed and narrated by McLaren and included performances by The Happy Mondays, Tom Jones, Rebel MC, Kirsty MacColl, John Altman and Sinéad O'Connor.[16] McLaren was also one of the producers for the film adaptation of Fast Food Nation, which premiered on 19 May 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival and was released in late 2006.

McLaren approached the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1985, early in their career, expressing interest in managing them, and reinventing the group. After hearing a short live set, McLaren was "clearly unimpressed" according to Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. He then proposed to reinvent the group by having them dress in neon surfer-punk clothing, and have them play really stripped-down, basic 1950s rock n' roll, with all of the emphasis on Kiedis. Although Kiedis was flattered to be considered, he and the band rejected the offer. Kiedis recalled the event, saying "It was like the Wizard of Oz had spoken, and what he had said was too ludicrous to take seriously", as his proposition was too different from the band's musical style.

In an issue of New Statesman published on 20 December 1999, an article titled "My Vision for London" included the McLaren Manifesto,[17] and there was speculation that McLaren might stand to be elected as Mayor of London,[18] although ultimately he did not run.

McLaren had a 2005 exhibition of some autobiographical work at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Center for Arts and Media Karlsrhue) in Karlsruhe, Germany[19] called Casino of Authenticity and Karaoke.[20][21] This installation had originally been part of the Bonnefanten's 1999 exhibit Smaak – On Taste in Maastricht. In 2003, he wrote the article "8-Bit Punk" championing 8-bit music.[22] He also appeared on This Spartan Life, a popular machinima which frequently uses 8-bit music, and he also discussed the topic.[22]

In 2006, McLaren presented the documentary series Malcolm McLaren's Musical Map of London for BBC Radio 2, followed in 2007 by Malcolm McLaren's Life and Times in L.A. Also in 2007, McLaren competed in a reality TV show for ITV titled The Baron. The series was due to be shown in August 2007, but was postponed owing to the death of fellow contestant actor Mike Reid shortly after filming was completed. It was eventually broadcast starting on 24 April 2008. McLaren came last in the competition, which was won by Reid. It was announced on 7 November 2007 that McLaren would be one of the contestants in the seventh series of the ITV reality show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, set in the outback of Australia and premiering on British television on Monday 12 November 2007, but he pulled out the day he had flown to Australia. He told press "it is fake", that he didn't know any of the other celebrities and quite frankly, "he didn't have the time". He was replaced by Katie Hopkins.

In January 2008, McLaren featured as one of the 'celebrity hijackers' in the UK TV series Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack, which was broadcast on E4. In his hijack, he encouraged the housemates to remove their clothes, daub themselves in paint and produce an artwork using only their bodies and a bicycle. Also in 2008, New York City public arts group Creative Time premiered nine pieces of Malcolm's 21-part sound painting series Shallow via MTV's massive HD screen in Times Square.[23] The series, which originally premiered at Art 39 Basel in June,[24] was the first instalment of an on-going public arts content partnership between Creative Time and MTV.[23] The complete version of 'Shallow 1–21' was given its full US museum premiere in the Morris Gallery of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), in Philadelphia, from 24 October 2009 until 3 January 2010.

About his contribution to music, McLaren has said about himself: "I have been called many things: a charlatan, a con man, or, most flatteringly, the culprit responsible for turning British popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick. This is my chance to prove that these accusations are true."[25] At the time of his death McLaren had just finished a new film work entitled Paris.

Later life and death

McLaren met Korean American Young Kim at a party in Paris; she was his girlfriend for the last 12 years of his life.[26] She moved in with him in 2002;[27] they lived together in Paris and New York.[28] He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in October 2009,[29] and died of the disease on 8 April 2010 in a hospital in Switzerland.[1] McLaren's last words were said to be "Free Leonard Peltier".[30][31] His funeral was held on 22 April 2010 at One Marylebone Church, central London.[32] Later that day he was buried in Highgate Cemetery,[33] North London.[1][2][34]


See also



  1. ^ a b c d Daily Mail: "Dead at 64, the godfather of punk" Written by Alison Boshoff, Retrieved 9 April 2010
  2. ^ a b Peck, Tom (8 April 2010). "Malcolm McLaren dies aged 64". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  3. ^ "Malcolm McLaren @ FUTURE DESIGN DAYS". Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Malcolm McLaren"
  5. ^ Josiah Hughes "Former Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McLaren Dies at 64", Exclaim!, 8 April 2010.
  6. ^ obituary. Guardian. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  7. ^ McLaren, Malcolm (10 July 2006) (Transcript; Audio). Enough Rope. Interview with Andrew Denton. ABC Television. Sydney. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  8. ^ Sex Pistols: the inside story By Fred Vermorel, Judy Vermorel – From Situationism to Punk, pp220-224 [1]
  9. ^ "Vivienne Westwood (born 1941) and the Postmodern Legacy of Punk Style". Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  10. ^ Simpson, Dave (9 April 2010). "Malcolm McLaren obituary". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 294. CN 5585. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Simon, and Joy Press. The Sex Revolt . 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994. 40–41. Print.
  13. ^ Accusations of plagiarism. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  14. ^ Always on the Always on the Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  15. ^ British Airways Theme Tune. (31 March 1984). Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  16. ^ Channel 4 – 100 Greatest Christmas Moments, accessed 9 July 2007[dead link]
  17. ^ "My vision for London". New Statesman. UK. 20 December 1999. 
  18. ^ "Malcolm McLaren To Run For Mayor Of London". Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  19. ^ Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  20. ^ ArtCast Basel: ArtCast featuring Malcolm McLaren. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  21. ^ Interview download. None. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  22. ^ a b Wired 11.11: 8-Bit Punk. (4 January 2009). Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  23. ^ a b Creative time presents the U.S. premiere of Malcolm McLaren’s shallow outdoors in Times Square. (PDF) . Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  24. ^ artlog – Malcolm McLaren: Shallow, A Series of Musical Paintings[dead link]
  25. ^ Classic Rock. June 2010. Issue 145,p. 20.
  26. ^ Punk pioneer Malcolm McLaren dies. The Evening Standard (London)(9 April 2010). Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  27. ^ Malcolm McLaren, the great rock 'n' roll swindler[dead link]
  28. ^ Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren dies. (8 April 2010). Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  29. ^ "McLaren to be buried at Highgate". The Independent (10 April 2010). Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  30. ^ Nathan, Sara; Todd, Ben; Williams, Alexandra (10 April 2010). "Free Leonard Peltier! Malcolm McLaren uses last words to call for release of American Indian killer". Daily Mail (London). 
  31. ^ Malcolm McLaren's last words were 'Free Leonard Peltier'. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  32. ^ Singh, Anita. (22 April 2010) "Malcolm McLaren's funeral". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  33. ^ Anarchy rules over Malcolm McLaren funeral as Sex Pistols manager is laid to rest with pomp, finery and jokes. The Evening Standard (London)(22 April 2010). Retrieved on 9 July 2011.
  34. ^ "Former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren dies at 64". BBC News. 9 April 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 

Further reading

External links

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