Malcolm McLaren, 1946‐2010

Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren, perhaps best known as being the ex-manager of the 1970’s British punk band, The Sex Pistols, lost his long battle with cancer on April 8, 2010. He passed away in Switzerland, aged 64.

Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren was born on January 22, 1946 in London, England. Having never got on with his step father, McLaren left home in his teens. After a variety of jobs and attending several art colleges, he opened a clothing shop in London called Let it Rock with his girlfriend, the designer Vivienne Westwood. (Their son, Joseph Corré, later co-founded the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.)

In 1972, having met the group The New York Dolls, McLaren renamed his store to Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and supplied the group with stagewear. The Dolls eventually broke up in 1975, by which time the store had been renamed SEX, selling S&M attire. It was about this time that McLaren had started managing a band called The Strand, who would later become The Sex Pistols after guitarist-songwriter Wally Nightingale was kicked out and John Lydon—who was subsequently dubbed Johnny Rotten—became their new frontman.

In 1977, The Sex Pistols were signed to Virgin Records. Other record companies with whom they were signed previously deemed them to be too controversial, after such publicity stunts as playing their rendition of God Save the Queen opposite the Houses of Parliament in a rented boat on the river Thames. In October that year, The Sex Pistols released their album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Within a year, the band had split up amid arguments and accusations of McLaren’s mismanagement and withholding of funds. The 1980 movie, The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, told the story (from McLaren’s perspective) of how McLaren had planned out The Sex Pistol’s career. The 2000 movie, The Filth and the Fury, later told The Sex Pistol’s version of the story.

In late 1979, McLaren was approached by Adam Ant to manage his group, Adam and the Ants. Three members of that group left to form Bow Wow Wow, which McLaren also managed. Later, he managed Jimmy The Hoover, who would sometimes support Bow Wow Wow on tour.

In 1983, McLaren released his first solo LP, Duck Rock, which contained music based on African and American influences. Two singles from this LP, Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch, became top-ten hits in the UK. The following year, the electronic opera track, Madame Butterfly, reached number 13 in the UK charts.

His album from 1989, Waltz Darling, was inspired by funk and disco. It incorporated elements from his earlier works, and featured musicians such as Bootsy Collins and Jeff Beck. Its glitzy, Louisiana-style production was aimed at the US market.

In 1992, McLaren co-wrote the title song to the movie Carry on Columbus (it played over the film’s end credits), and in 1994 he released the concept album, Paris. Released by McLaren in 1998, Buffalo Gals Back 2 Skool, featured songs from Duck Rock covered by hip-hop artists like Rakim and KRS-One. In 2005, his song About Her (which was based on the Zombies hit, She’s Not There), featured in Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Kill Bill Vol. 2.

Much of McLaren’s solo work, especially from the Duck Rock era, has been sampled and used by numerous other artists. Also, his and composer’s Yanni arrangement of The Flower Duet was featured in British Airways’ “World’s Favourite Airline” advertising campaign during the 1980s and 1990s.

In addition to his music and band management activities, McLaren has been involved with several other projects, including several films and televisions shows (e.g., 1991’s The Ghosts of Oxford Street, 2006’s film adaptation of Fast Food Nation, 2007’s The Baron, and 2008’s Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack). An article in the December 1999 issue of New Statesman fuelled speculation that McLaren was considering standing for Mayor of London (ultimately, he didn’t run), and in 2003 he wrote an article called 8-Bit Punk, championing 8-bit music.

In 2008, nine pieces of McLaren’s 21-part sound painting series, Shallow, were premiered via MTV’s HD screen in New York’s Times Square. He spent much of his later years living with his girlfriend, Young Kim, in Paris and New York.