R.I.P. Malcolm McLaren, cultural provocateur

Former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren passed away this afternoon at age 64, and hearing the news brought a tear to my eye.

Some called him a charlatan—the Pistols certainly did not have nice things to say about their former impresario in their setting-the-record-straight documentary, The Filth & The Fury.

Despite that, I really liked this guy. He had moxie. McLaren sought out controversy—and for the most part came out smelling like a rose. And the dude facilitated a ton of important new connections within the music world, and also between music and cutting-edge fashion and art.

So if you’ve ever loved punk clothing, Adam & the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Boy George, early hip hop, Vivienne Westwood fashions…you have been enjoying the fruits of Malcolm McLaren’s Johnny Appleseed-like cultural wanderings.

For a Malcolm McLaren video retrospective (you will not believe how much great stuff he was a part of!), keep reading.

Here are a few of my favorite Malcolm McLaren video moments…

Oh, Malcolm, you were so naughty…The world had barely caught on to the Sex Pistols, and you were already putting out disco medleys of their songs.

Legend has it that McLaren was enamored with the pre-teen daughter of the proprietor of his favorite dry cleaning shop, so he built a band around her. Thus, Bow Wow Wow was unleashed on the world.

“Buffalo Gals”…one of my favorite tracks way back when. This track is still getting sampled/quoted. Truly amazing fusion of Westwood fashions and early hip hop street style.

You can see more of the great ’80s “Buffalo” fashions that McLaren invented with Vivienne Westwood here.

“Double Dutch”….This time, McLaren welded urban style to Fela Kuti-like African jamming, and another pop craze was born!

Okay, this was not so successful. McLaren’s attempt to graft Puccini and other opera legends onto ’80s club music never really took. But this song still gets stuck in my head, even 20+ years later.

Years before Madonna, McLaren promoted voguing (and the inimitable Willi Ninja).

Malcolm McLaren was also a decent singer, and I think this is the tune I will always remember him for. It’s really lovely, isn’t it? (I also adore the fact that he made a production number out of late night flyering—something most underground musicians have done a lot of!)

For more on McLaren’s many achievements, read this.

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