Malcolm McLaren — Prankenstein

The man who fooled the world dies.

Malcolm McLaren was a walking parody of himself.  A joke.  Prankenstein.  The sort of wide-boy everyone knew, and he lives on in the thousands of bullshitters who run second-hand record shops and boutiques, who charge you a fortune for a t-shirt some child in Bangla Desh made for tuppence or a scratched Captain Beefheart LP.

Always the plan.  Always the bullshit.

McLaren was a prating coxcomb, a ridiculous poser, the sort of guy you’d avoid in the pub unless you were that sort of guy too, and you could huddle in a corner calling each other maaaan and tapping each other for money.

And yet, somehow, the ludicrous chancer detected something in the mood, took the ball on the bounce, hired four nihilistic losers, dressed them in his girlfriend’s stupid designs and blew popular culture wide open.

He didn’t invent what was happening.  By 1976, popular culture was ready to collapse under the weight of its own smugness anyway.  Already, credible musicians were starting to reassert themselves in the face of universal blandness.  That was the year the Clash, the Cure, the Damned and Joy Division formed.  Elvis Costello set up shop with the Attractions.  Madness appeared, and – God help us – U2.  The Ramones had been going for two years.

McLaren knew the Sex Pistols could dominate the public perception of the new wave if he offended the right people; the News of the World and Sun readers, and that’s what he did a year later with God Save the Queen.  The Pistols were a bunch of idiots with only one decent musician, bass player Glenn Matlock, quickly disposed of by McLaren in favour of the cretinous Sid Vicious, who couldn’t play bass at all and spent the rest of his short life trying to learn.

The crappier the better, as far as McLaren was concerned.  It was how he hoped punk would be and the gullible British public lapped it up.  The tabloids took  the name punk and applied it to every new band that appeared on the scene.  The Clash were called punks.  The Cure.  Even Elvis Costello.  It was ridiculous, but it blew over as quickly as it started, ending for the Pistols in heroin addiction, violence, mutual hatred and murder.

McLaren couldn’t have been happier.  He was The Man Who Invented Punk, and he spent the rest of his life basking in the spurious and unfounded glory, turning up regularly on TV chat shows as the guru of the alternative.

He was never that.  McLaren was  King’s Road wide-boy with an eye for the  main chance, and yet, at the same time, he probably marks the spot where popular culture briefly stood still and said no to all the smug bullshit that it had been wallowing in, before it came to its senses and went back to the smug, corporate bullshit.  After all, less than ten years after the punk revolution, popular music was dominated by the dross pumped out by Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

Some revolution.

12 thoughts on “Malcolm McLaren — Prankenstein

  1. The Louis Walsh of his day.
    I think the days of managers who were as rock’n’roll as the bands they represented are long gone. Now it’s suits (but no ties, open neck shirt cause they’re casual types of guys) who have degrees is business management and will encourage you to but a hotel to offset the little tax you pay. Here’s hoping McLaren

    RIP Peter “G” Grant. Nevermind the bollox McLaren, it was just Marketing in the UK.

  2. A prankster, a joke, smug, crap, prating coxcomb, ridiculous poser, the sort of guy you’d avoid in the pub….
    Who’s this your accusing?

  3. I’d agree about Mcclaren bock but looking back at the sex pistols through video and audio they have to be the coolest boyband ever. I love, god save the queen, pretty vacant, bodies, new york to name a few and of course the covers of my way and the eddie cochran song the title eludes me right now. It brings to mind the old advert, you can’t sing, you can’t dance, you’ll go a long way. I think i read somewhere they were only together as a band for 4 months is that true? I did see the video of the last concert where John Lydon asks the audience have you ever felt cheated. They just seemed to work.

  4. I loved the Sex Pistols and Viv Westwood and everything they stood for. Antidisestablishmentarianism may seem boring right now but there’s really nothing left to revolt against any more. Mclaren continued to be creative in his later years with hip-hop tunes and wacky collaborations like Madame Butterfly. He got me through my art college years. Thank God and the Queen for unafraid mad bastards like him.

  5. The only notes that really count are the ones that come in wads, sang Lydon. Still, the opening bars from God Save the Queen capture the mood of the era like no other.

  6. He started off with the New York Dolls and I kind of liked the Punk movement. It was an important part of the history of modern music and a lot of great bands may not have been quite the same had it not been for the infuence of Punk. Bands like The Pixies and even Radiohead credit Punk as a major influence on their music. Let’s face it, you could hardly laud the birth of Rock n’ Roll as a period of quality music, yet it was vital in the emergence of band that came afterwards. I’m not saying that Rock Around The Clock had a direct influence on the likes of Led Zepplin or Jimi Hendrix, but it did change the rules.
    I loved the Sex Pistols

  7. It was around 75/76 when I came back up to Amsterdam from the best part of a year locked away on an Island in the med. Playing music in the cafe’s in the towns and on the beaches. You know yourself “beads bangles and feathers”. First night back in Amsterdam I went to a bar called “The Last waterhole” There was a Punk band advertised called the Depressions from London. I had never heard Punk at this stage having been cocooned in hippyville far away from the madness. I’ll never forget it, they started at 9 on the button. Fuck this was brilliant. Every song 3 minutes usually 3 chords, 3 verse & 3 chorus, bang! finish! On to the next song. Excellent!! Next few days got my first opportunity to hear the Pistols, Wow!! Johnny Lydon a brilliant song writer and the Band? wild!! but incredibly tight! and just so full of this wonderful energy. Mclaren a great manager who contributed to new musical ideas right up to the day he died. Not all as powerful as the Pistols, but he was always on the look out for the new! All the best Mr Mclaren.

  8. If something like Saturday night fever was an indication of the smugness of the time.. then I can see why McLaren was a success. (or is Saturday night fever a spoof really ? :) )

  9. I have to agree with you Bock. McLaren was just a sideshow, whose contribution to punk was minimal. However unlike the modern day music moghuls Walsh and Cowell I think he may have been aware of that. Hence the pistols album title “The great rock and roll swindle”

  10. LL-That’d be C’mon Everybody,a classic from Eddie Cochran,and the Pistols did a great job of it.I still get a buzz when I listen to it.Anarchy In The U.K,another diamond.The Pistols were definitely no worse than the fucking drivel thrown up today on a daily basis by- – – – – .(fill in the blanks yourself).Musicians they were not but the wicked McLaren grabbed a moment and ran with it.An indelible moment which changed everything.
    I’m glad it happened.

  11. Did they do that one too i was thinking of there version of eddie cochrans ‘something else’ awesome song too.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.