Malcolm McLaren, one of rock n’ roll’s greatest svengalis has died in New York aged 64 after a long battle with cancer. Best known as the controversy courting manager of the Sex Pistols, MacLaren was born in North London and largely brought up by his grandmother in Hendon. After a stint being kicked out of several art schools in London where he developed an interest in situationism and anarchy, he met teacher Vivienne Westwood with whom he had a child Joe. Joe, who is better known today as Joe Corre, head of the Agent Provocateur lingerie firm, was a child he had urged Westwood to abort, he callously told an interviewer recently.
Westwood began designing clothes out of sheer necessity as they were both poverty stricken, and the businessman and raconteur in McLaren came to the fore as they established their first clothing store, Let It Rock, on the Kings Road in 1971. After an abortive attempt at managing the remaining members of the car crash that was the New York Dolls – including dressing them in red leather and performing beneath a soviet hammer and sickle at the height of the Cold War, they renamed the store Sex and began selling the bondage inspired clothing that became the punk uniform.
Deciding to have another crack at band management, he put together the Sex Pistols using the street urchin punks that regularly tried to steal clothes from his store, memorable auditioning Johnny Rotten by getting him to screech along to Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen on the store’s jukebox. Going on to mastermind the Sex Pistols’ brief but incendiary career the unashamed self promoter went on to put together the group Bow Wow Wow by stealing Adam Ant’s backing band and putting a provocatively dressed 13 year old singer Annabel Lwin out front.
After that imploded he embarked on a then derided solo rap career, which included the now much sampled song Double Dutch on the album Pass The Dutchie. In his later years he occupied himself with any number of harebrained self-promoting schemes, including running for the position of Mayor of London in 2000.
While many in the music business won’t miss his artful scheming – most notably John Lydon who along with the Sex Pistols successfully sued him for missing millions in 1986 – he was a truly original icon in rock n’ roll.
Watch some footage of Malcolm McLaren
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