The Los Angeles Times reports that Malcolm McLaren passed away on Thursday, April 8 in a Swiss hospital after a long struggle with cancer. He was 64 years old. McLaren is survived by his son, Joseph Corré, his love-child by Vivienne Westwood, as well as his longtime girlfriend, Young Kim. While he was behind other bands of note, such as Bow Wow Wow (of mohawk fame) he’s best remembered for his association with the Sex Pistol’s. While the breakup was acrimonious, it does seem to exemplify McLaren’s controversial manner.
McLaren was a restless cultural entrepreneur and talent spotter whose ears were attuned to the discontented undercurrents, both in popular music and in British society, that gave rise to punk. LA Times
His relationship with Vivienne Westwood was more of business-like than romantic, as they opened boutiques that offered pre-torn tee-shirts and jeans with safety pins, as well as leather gear with a B&D flair. Their fashion sense can still be seen today from the streets of Hollywood all the way to the Big Apple and beyond. A well-placed mohawk is still a sight to see and will draw attention as if it were still 1978. Let’s not forget, he also helped Adam and the Ants gain recognition during their short-lived career.
It’s difficult to gauge McLaren’s impact on culture. I’m sure Vivienne Westwood’s boutiques would have prospered with or without him. The Sex Pistols? I’m not so sure. Annabella, of Bow Wow Wow fame described him as a genius. He certainly knew what he was doing when he plucked her out of a WestEnd hairdresser’s and put her in front of a microphone. Annabella also described McLaren as “a little boy in a man’s body,” who “was very much an intellectual,” with an appreciation of life’s finer pleasures, but who also “got bored very easily.” Perhaps he suffered from adult ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder). If so, he was able to parlay it into a successful career.
I am sad. I was a youth during this last gasp of originality in popular culture. It’s time to check another name off the list of my cultural heroes. As Freddy Mercury would say, “Another one bites the dust.” They say that Steve Jones, who never failed to spout brimstone and sulphur at the mere mention of Malcolm McLaren, has softer words for the brief arbiter of cool. You will have to hear that for yourself on Jonesy’s Jukebox. I stopped listening a few years ago.