Thursday, April 08, 2010

Managerobit: Malcolm McLaren

BBC News is reporting the death of Malcolm McLaren in New York, apparently from cancer.

UPDATE: Alan Yentob has just been on the News Channel, saying (I paraphrase) that he'd known McClaren had been unwell, but was surprised how quickly the end came.

If McClaren was anything, he was adept at selling Malcolm McClaren - positioning himself as the inventor of punk rather than the more honest claim of being the person who worked out how to make money from it. In later years, he would attempt to create new genres, swearing that skipping-rock or opera-pop was just about to come. Normally, the only person making records in that genre would be McClaren; normally, he would plough the furrow alone, until abandoning it and moving on to the next thing. After all, he'd always have having invented punk to fall back on.

There are other blots on his record - Ghosts Of Oxford Street, the toe-curling Channel 4 Christmas confection from a few years back; the toe-curling musical map of London for Radio 2; The Baron, that odd ITV confection where he competed with Mike Reid for a Scottish baronetcy. And turning up for I'm A Celebrity but then refusing to go on because it was fake. (Reality TV? Fake? Whoever knew?)

He wrote the theme music for Carry On Columbus, the ill-judged attempt to revive the franchise in the 1980s. And remixed a British Airways advert. Hired by Adam Ant to turn the Ants' fortunes round, McClaren pocketed the cash, and persuaded The Ants to become Bow Wow Wow.

If Malcolm McClaren was anything, he was the ultimate art school student, stretching out his final show for fifty years.

And some of the stuff he had a hand in really did outshine the stunts:


Mikey said...

I think you could have been a bit kinder there. McLaren was responsible for a couple of ill-concieved ideas it's true, but he also, despite not being able to sing or play a note, made two of the best albums of the 80s.

Not a great achievement, one might think, given the paucity of musical virtue in the benighted decade but just listen to the (very influential) Duck Rock and the (rather less so) Fans against any amount of Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones or Culture Club and I suspect you'll be forced to admit that Mclaren could, on occasion, back up his fast-talking art student bullshit with some solid and enduring work.

Or, at least, some solid talent spotting.

And at least, unlike today's over-groomed showbiz crop, he could be deliciously, deliriously off-message in an interview situation. There's too little of that nowadays.

All the cries of anarchy and situationist rhetoric may have been just inspired branding, but I'd still take that empty posturing over any amount of pop star property development and butter advert.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Duck Rock is exactly what I'm talking about, though - it is a brilliant piece of work, admittedly, but was another example of McClaren taking stuff that was already there underground, shouting a lot about it, and sitting back and taking the praise for having invented something.

I love Fans, and Bow Wow Wow. He was just a lot closer to Pizza Express than the Heston Blumenthal a lot of people think he was.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

... which isn't to say there isn't a space for that in music. I think Simon Price's description of him as the Jonathan King of Punk is probably spot-on. And I don't think that's an insult.

georgina said...

Thank you, your article is very good

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