Johnny Rotten Pays Tribute To Malcolm McLaren
by Gary Graff, Detroit | April 09, 2010 11:36 EDT
The end of the Sex Pistols in 1979 put them at odds -- legally and personally -- but John Lydon has stepped up to pay tribute to Malcolm McLaren, the group's manager, following news of McLaren's death on Thursday in New York after a long battle with cancer.
Re-adopting his Pistols moniker as Johnny Rotten, Lydon issued a statement saying that, "For me Malc was always entertaining, and I hope you remember that. Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you."
McLaren had put the Sex Pistols together in 1975, after meeting Lydon in his SEX shop in London and introduced him to a band called The Strand that he was managing at the time. In 1984, Lydon, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and the estate of the late Sid Vicious took McLaren to court to win back royalties and control of the band's image. McLaren had no role in subsequent reunions that began in 1996.
Other tributes to McLaren began pouring in as news of his death spread. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, his partner in the shop that became SEX -- and mother of McLaren's son, lingerie manufacturer Joseph Corre -- said that, "When we were young and I fell in love with Malcolm. I thought he was beautiful and I still do. I thought he is a very charismatic, special and talented person. The thought of him dead is really something very sad."
Leigh Gorman of Bow Wow Wow, a band McLaren put together to promote a New Romantic line he and Westwood were launching, told Billboard.com that McLaren "was a great influence on many lives including mine. To say he was unique is an incredible understatement. I worked with him on and off for several years on various projects...Much of it stressful but always an inventive and devilishly funny time." Gorman added that "a truly wicked sense of humor was essential to last more than a minute with Malcolm. At times he seemed as though he was finagling to get the very shirt from your back but, if he thought you were in trouble, he would quietly give you his. It's hard to think that we'll never again be conspiring and laughing on the couch at the back of some dark recording studio, upsetting and outlasting everyone with his unstoppable outrageous ideas, energy and demanding work ethic, resulting in music that was always in a way glorious. He didn't play an instrument but he could play a musician for certain. None of the bands he was associated with would have sounded or even existed as they did without his catalytic, terror-inducing, at least for me at the time, manipulations. Getting you to do things that seemed impossible was his forte; once you did them you realized that most of the time you ended up better off...sometimes not, but then, that was Malcolm getting you at it just for his amusement. I'm sure Malcolm enjoyed watching me and my bandmates trying to dance some stupid dance, wearing his girlfriend's pirate outfits or trying to sing like an elephant. They did actually seem like good ideas at the time, well they would if Malcolm McLaren said they were, because he may have already somehow got you to play better than you'd ever dreamed of, bullied you into writing and recording songs that ended up on Top Of The Pops and induced within you the confidence and audacity to take on the whole world. Goodbye Malcolm."
Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, who McLaren managed briefly during the mid-'70s, told the New Musical Express that the band planned to dedicate its performance of "Jet Boy" on April 19 in London to the impresario. The guitarist said McLaren "always had a great sense of humour, he always had a smile on his face. He would cheer you up if you were down."
Duran Duran bassist John Taylor posted a message on the group's web site declaring that without McLaren, "Duran Duran would have never existed. Before Malcolm being a musician in England meant you had to read music, and clock up years of dues and motorway miles, hours of practice and play interminable solos wherever possible. Malcolm's attitude changed everything. Without him, no punk rock revolution, no 'Anarchy in The UK,' no 'Never Mind The Bollocks,' no Sex Pistols, no Clash....He was a true artist, and a continual restless source of inspiration. There will never be anyone quite like him again."