Thu 8 Apr, 2010 12:36 pm
Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren (22 January 1946 " 8 April 2010) was an English performer, impresario, self-publicist and most famously, former manager of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls.
McLaren was a "war baby" born to Pete McLaren, a teenaged war deserter, and Emmy (née) Isaacs in the suburbs of post-World War II London. His father left when he was two and he was raised by his grandmother, Rose Corre Isaacs, in Stoke Newington, the formerly wealthy daughter of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish diamond dealers. McLaren told Andrew Denton on Enough Rope, that his grandmother always said to him, "It's good to be bad and it's bad to be good". In 'The Ghosts of Oxford Street' he says Charles Clore (who bought Selfridges) became his mother's lover. When Malcolm was six, his mother remarried to Martin Levi, a man working in London's rag trade. When McLaren was in his forties, a Sunday newspaper tracked Pete McLaren down to a "greasy spoon garage" in England.
McLaren's stepfather and mother owned a shmatte factory in London's East End called Eve Edwards London Limited. They lived well but Malcolm and his stepfather never got along. By the time he hit his teens, Malcolm left home. Following a series of jobs (including one as a wine taster), he went on to attend several Art Colleges through the 1960s, being expelled from several before leaving education entirely in 1971. It was during this time that he began to design clothing, a talent he would later utilise when he became a boutique owner.
He had been attracted to the Situationist movement, which promoted absurdist and provocative actions as a way of enacting social change. In 1968 McLaren had tried unsuccessfully to travel to Paris to take part in the demonstrations there. McLaren would later adopt the movement's ideas into his promotion for the various pop and rock groups with whom he was soon to involve himself.
In 1971, McLaren and his partner, the designer Vivienne Westwood, opened a London clothing shop called Let It Rock on the Kings Road. The shop sold Teddy Boy clothes and McLaren and Westwood also designed clothing for theatrical and cinematic productions such as That'll Be The Day and Mahler. Let It Rock proved a success but McLaren grew disillusioned with the style of shop due to problems with the Teddy Boys who were the shop's main customers. McLaren's son by Westwood, Joseph Ferdinand Corré, co-founded the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.
McLaren traveled to New York City for a boutique fair in 1972 having already met the group the New York Dolls. That year he renamed the outlet at 430 Kings Road Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and supplied the group with stagewear. In 1975 McLaren designed red leather costumes for the New York Dolls and used a Soviet-style hammer and sickle motif for their stage show as a provocative means of promoting them. This ploy was not successful and the Dolls soon broke up. However, it was while he was managing the Dolls that he first saw the Neon Boys perform. The Neon Boys included Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell, who were later to form Television. In April 1975 McLaren returned to Britain, by which time he had renamed the store SEX, selling S&M (sadomasochistic) style clothing.
By 1975 McLaren had started to manage The Strand, the band who would later become the Sex Pistols. His assistant, Bernie Rhodes (soon to be manager of The Clash), spotted Johnny Rotten who was then sporting green hair, and torn clothes with the words "I hate" scribbled on his Pink Floyd shirt. His appearance and attitude impressed McLaren and Rotten was brought in to audition as a new frontman. Rotten joined, and the band was renamed The Sex Pistols (McLaren stating he wanted them to sound like "sexy young assassins").
In May 1977 the band released God Save the Queen during the week of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. McLaren organised a boat trip down the Thames where the Sex Pistols would perform their music outside Houses of Parliament. The boat was raided by the police and McLaren was arrested, thus achieving his goal to attain publicity.
The band released their album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols in October 1977 and played their last UK gig before embarking upon an American tour in January 1978. This tour saw the band split up after a series of arguments. During his time managing the band McLaren was accused by band members (most notably by John Lydon) of mismanaging them and refusing to pay them when asked for money. McLaren has stated that he had planned out the entire path of the Sex Pistols and in the film, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle he set this plan out. The film was allegedly criticised for being too skewed towards McLaren and for being a launchpad for McLaren's future career in music as a performer(he performs the Max Bygraves song "You Need Hands" in the film) as well as a manager.
McLaren kept the Sex Pistols' contract rights until Lydon took him to court in the 1980s to win the rights and unpaid revenues from McLaren. Lydon won and gained complete control from McLaren in 1987. McLaren and Lydon have refused to speak to each other since the band split and in the 2000 film, The Filth and the Fury, the surviving members of the Sex Pistols put their version of events on film.
In 1989 McLaren and composer Yanni arranged The Flower Duet into a work called Aria. The 'Flower Duet' theme, taken from the French opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes, had already been used by composer Howard Blake to accompany British Airways commercials since 1984. However, from 1989 McLaren and Yanni further arranged the Flower Duet and it featured in BA's "World's favourite Airline" global advertising campaign of the 1980s and 1990s
McLaren died of cancer in New York City on Thursday, 8 April 2010. His body will be flown back to the United Kingdom, and buried in Highgate cemetery, North London.