The music world lost one of its most charismatic figures yesterday (April 8) when former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren passed away. His influence spread far and wide, from work with the New York Dolls to the controversial near-nude pictures of 14-year-old Bow Wow Wow singer Annabella Lwin that decorated the band’s debut LP cover.
McLaren also had a notable music career of his own, which principally centered on the 1983 Duck Rock album. The record helped spread the word about hip-hop to some far flung corners of the globe, and that work pinged right back to the United States as his “Buffalo Gals” single became a much-sampled staple. His other single from that album, “Double Dutch” (above), paid warm tribute to a group of high-school age New York skipping champions, and remains a song of unbridled joy—it even pre-dates Vampire Weekend’s pilfering of “African” guitar rhythms by several decades.
Naturally, tributes have poured in to McLaren, even though he managed to ruffle so many feathers in the music industry that it’s a wonder he managed to sustain a career. John Lydon, who endured a feisty relationship with his former boss, said: “For me Malc was always entertaining and I hope you remember that,” in a statement touchingly signed under his Sex Pistols name, Johnny Rotten. “Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you.”
McLaren’s former girlfriend, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, said: “I thought he was beautiful and I still do. I thought he was a very charismatic, special and talented person. The thought of him dead is really something very sad.” New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain has also chimed in on his former associate, saying: “He always had a great sense of humor, he always had a smile on his face. He would cheer you up if you were down.”
Among the other tributes are a number of fascinating pieces that have emerged about McLaren, among them this article by former Creation boss Alan McGee, where he tried to persuade his idol to run for mayor of London, and this excellent 2002 interview with Momus. McLaren may not have been the easiest person to get along with, but he was certainly a hugely influential figure, and perhaps the saddest part about his passing is that it throws a stark light on the contemporary music industry, which could use a few more people like Malcom McLaren in it.