Thursday, April 29, 2010

Malcolm McLaren: Panties to Punks to 3 Stooges Disco

Belated though it is, the Illfolks blog certainly should pay tribute to Malcolm McLaren, a good old fashioned provocateur who knew what really mattered…sex, music and The Three Stooges. He passed away of Zevon's disease (mesothelioma) after the usual year or two of futile treatment. He was 64 when he died on April 8th.

McLaren naturally explored the two worlds where pretention, posturing and fakery are embraced with boa constrictor-like hugs: fashion and music. For his first brush with fame, the art school Svengali arched eyebrows via boutiques with trendy names including "Sex," "Let it Rock" "Seditionarie" and "Too Fast to Live Too Young To Die." (His son co-created the successful "Agent Provocateur" lingerie company). McLaren believed his Jewish grandmother's advice: ""To be bad is good... to be good is simply boring".

McLaren clothed rock bands that needed it, including The New York Dolls, and later packaged a certain band called "The Sex Pistols,"getting the group a record deal. How much Malcolm had to do with the actual music is debatable, but he certainly was ringmaster for the circus, though many wonder how much control he actually had over the violence and death that overshadowed the band's snotty initial hit, "God Save the Queen." His version of the tale is chronicled in the aptly titled documentary "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle." The band's version is in "The Filth and the Fury." He later took up with trendy Adam Ant, and tried to create a furor around Burmese beauty-cum-fashion-weirdo pedo-aged Annabella Lwin and her dopily named new wave group Bow Wow Wow. They had a hit with "I Want Candy" in 1983.

The following year, with the hardcore punks gone and disco and Studio 54 reigning, trendy Malcolm scored his own hits with garbagey dance music that fused whatever Bowie was doing with whatever the electronica nitwits did and the disco dunces. But on his "Swamp Thing" album he became an Illfolks fave by taking "Swingin' The Alphabet" (as it was called in a Three Stooges short) and turning it into the ridiculous "B-I-Bicki." Which was as deliciously sick as anything Ian Dury was doing with his rhythm stick.

McLaren continued to release albums from time to time, and to call attention to himself with radio shows such as "Malcolm McLaren’s Musical Map of London” and “Malcolm McLaren’s Life and Times in L.A.” As with any provocateur, McLaren's point was to shake things up. That's all that mattered, whether he was selling tarty underwear or rock bands with dubious degrees of talent, such as Bow Wow Wow and 99% of what Johnny Rotten was doing. When was the last time you listened to anything from a McLaren band, or from McLaren himself? Over here, the answer would be "Nothing." Although "B-I-Bicki" was so fondly remembered, the promo album (note the gold stamp on top of the back cover) Ill Folks got from the record company, complete with photo and bio, had to be hauled out for nostalgia's sake.

"B-i-Bicki" remains horrific fun, and a nice Stooge tribute. The Sex Pistols? Last year, the nostalgic Malcolm remarked, “I never thought the Sex Pistols would be any good, but it didn’t matter if they were bad.” According to his Korean girlfriend, McLaren's last words were "Free Leonard Peltier," who killed two FBI agents and is up for parole in 2024. Oh, that Malcolm, still edgy to the end. Over here, we prefer his Stooge music. Because here, Malcolm is considered more than a provocateur. He was a wiseguy.

Oh! Wiseguy! McLaren swings the Alphabet in disco mode. B-i-BICKI


rockymustard said...

I just stumbled across your Bob Dildyn Radio Theme Hour episodes.
I can't remember laughing so hard.
Would it be possible to re-up the episode on BOOBS?
Thanks a million.
Great (unusual) stuff here.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, Rocky!

Rapidshare's a bit quick on the trigger when a file isn't constantly being downloaded. Bob's BOOBS show is re-upped in two parts (naturally).