Friday, April 09, 2010

Goodbye to Malcolm McLaren

Sex Pistols manager and pop culture guru died yesterday, aged 64.

I'm one of those who never got the Sex Pistols and all the fuss surrounding them, the hammed up poses, the two fingers up and calculated face-pulling. I tend to side with those who see it more as a cunning marketing operation as opposed to anything to identify the whole punk phenomenon with.

I can't remember who said once that the Sex Pistols would just tell you to fuck off, whereas The Clash would tell you to fuck off and explain why. To me, The Clash were always a million times better.

And yet, if punk, along with the Sex Pistols and the whole imagery surrounding them, is now firmly etched in the nation's history, it's to the immense credit of Malcolm McLaren and his intuition. You may argue it was a question of good casting as well as right-place-right-time but he's the one who did it and got it massively right.

McLaren was probably the first person who understood the potential of celebrity stunts. He cashed in on the shockingly backward state of 1970s' society and spotted the immense marketing potential of manufacturing something ugly, dirty, bad and outrageous for the masses to chew on. It had the vision to clock that something constantly slated as repulsive and offensive will turn irresistibly tempting within five minutes.

According to today's obituary in the Times, "McLaren faced up to accusations of charlatanism and of turning popular culture into a cheap marketing gimmick. “I’m here to prove,” he said, “that all that is absolutely true”".

Unlike many of his colleagues, at least he never pretended otherwise. Rest in Peace, Mr McLaren.


Anita said...

After Tony Wilson now another legend passed on. We're in desperate need of non-conformist music entrepreneurs.

Planet Me said...

Tony Wilson is the man behind this quote, and he was discussing Joy Division.

Bob Piper said...

The Clash DID do it 10 times better, but the real point is whether the Clash could have done it at all without Malc and the Pistols.

Taronja said...

I disagree with the OP. I'm more inclined to see it like Bob Piper.

The Sex Pistols were a breath of fresh air. You've got to contextualise it. 1976 was one of the dullest moment in British music, with all the prog rock dinosaurs looking preposterous dressed as medieval knights churning out 30min-long drones.

Malcolm may have had the intuition and offered the right clothes, but it would have happened anyway.

Patrick Gray said...

R.I.P. Malcolm