Malcolm McLaren: 1946 - 2010

I just heard this afternoon about Malcolm McLaren’s death from mesothelioma at the age of 64. The following is a repost from November 2006.


Malcolm McLaren: Clothing designer, impresario, rock ‘n’ roll swindler, and manager of some of the most unique musical acts ever to grace a stage.

He began his career as a rock and roll manager by attempting to resurrect the fading New York Dolls. He brought to this – and his other efforts – the philosophies of the French Situationist movement, which advocated provocative, even absurd, actions as political statement and performance art. Following the Dolls, he of course introduced the Sex Pistols to the world. After the Pistols’ crash landing, he launched the careers of Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow, and Boy George.

Always moving forward, McLaren began his own musical career in the early 1980s, with the single “Buffalo Gals,” which combined traditional folk music with hip-hop. The single was credited to McLaren and the World Famous Supreme Team, and became a Top Ten hit in the U.K. The remix mini-LP “D’Ya Like Scratchin’” gave McLaren his first American album chart entry in February 1984.

Which leads us to today’s music: A sampling from that EP, which was released in 1983. There’s a long, but interesting story about McLaren titled “The Unlikely Origins of UK Hip Hop” posted on a message board. In it, the author writes about McLaren’s discovery of hip hop while in New York: “It was extraordinary cos the sound coming out was totally inarticulate; it was a load of rough noises, noises that sounded a little like guitar, but had a sort of concrete chisel sound and the sound I realised was actually coming from the way they were messing around with their hands on the decks, moving records backwards and forwards [sic ].”

The posting goes on to talk about how the British initially dismissed scratching and other sonic experimentation (particularly from McLaren, a white man, of all things!). Ultimately it was the video for “Buffalo Gals” that changed the minds of the British youth and opened the floodgates for the British B-Boys.

D’ya Like Scratchin’.mp3
She’s Looking Like a Hobo.mp3
Buffalo Gals.mp3

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