If Dame Vivienne Westwood is the mother of punk then Malcolm McLaren was certainly punk’s bawdy, provocative father. With the recent passing of the iconoclast who managed The New York Dolls, helped form The Sex Pistols, and outfitted them all with the help of his main squeeze at the time, Dame Viv, it is only fitting that we spotlight the far reaching influence of the man behind the hype.
If you’ve been keeping up with your MISS readings, you already know in opening his shop at 430 Kings Road in London McLaren became responsible for helping to turn Vivienne Westwood from a school teacher into the Dame of British fashion. You also know that it was in that shop that McLaren met John Lydon, who would eventually take on the moniker Johnny Rotten and become the lead singer of the Sex Pistols, and John Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious. In this little shop, which went be several names since its opening in 1971, punk rock was defined and given its iconic look by McLaren and Westwood. It also goes without saying that through his work managing acts like the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols and his work as a solo artist and performer, McLaren has influenced a generation and will continue to do so.
However, while McLaren’s shop and Westwood’s fashions played a huge part in shaping the development of and look of the UK’s early punk movement, it was the Bromley Contingent, those fans and followers of the Sex Pistols that really brought punk to the forefront. Members included Siouxsie Sioux, Billy Idol and Jordan, who worked at McLaren’s SEX boutique. The fashion statements made by many of these artists continue to live on in today’s punk and goth circles.
As a child of the 80’s, it was McLaren’s involvement with the New Romantics that continues to inspire me. During the 80’s McLaren managed Adam and the Ants, the ultimate New Romantic band, whose front man’s elaborate tribal inspired/pirate make up has undoubtedly prompted many a cute hipster girl to take a brush to her face. McLaren also found a 13 year old girl singing while working at a dry cleaner’s and made her the lead singer of Bow Wow Wow, in an effort to promote Vivienne Westwood’s latest designs. With her exotic looks and stupid cool mohawk, she rocked the shaved side look waaay before Cassie, Lwin happens to be my choice for most underrated 80s style icon. While I’m at it, you can’t talk Annabella Lwin and Bow Wow Wow without mentioning the fact that at 15 Lwin posed fully nude on the cover of the group’s first full-length album, which of course caused a swarm of controversy.
After managing acts and helping to kick start a movement, McLaren went on to be a successful performer and self promoter in his own right. His singles “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch” became top 10 hits in the UK and his album Duck Rock, which mixed influences from Africa and the Americas, helped to bring hip hop to a wider audience in the UK. More recently his song “ About Her”, based on The Zombies “She’s Not There” featuring a sample of Esther Bigeou’s “St. Louis Blues, was used in Kill Bill Vol 2. In 2008, nine pieces McLaren’s 21-part sound painting series, Shallow, premiered in Times Square via MTV’s insanely huge HD screen and was the first installment of an on-going public arts project between MTV and Creative Time.
Although he may be gone, Malcolm McLaren’s work will continue to inspire musicians, artists and fashionistas alike.
Image layouts: Sarah
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