Malcolm McLaren's send-off: They came in leather and studs to say goodbye

  • @tompeck

On Camden High Street in north London, the sunlight was glinting off a thousand body piercings in every imaginable size, shape and location. It was a swelteringly hot day to be standing, as hundreds were, in studded leathers and black knee-high boots waiting for the funeral cortège of the grandfather of punk.

Earlier, mourners had gathered at the One Marylebone church for Malcolm McLaren's colourful send-off. Among the 200-strong gathering were his former partner the fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and their son Joseph Corré, the co-founder of the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. Sir Bob Geldof, the artist Tracey Emin and the musician Adam Ant were also present. A blue-and-white floral tribute spelt out "Cash from Chaos", one of McLaren's famous slogans.

McLaren's body was carried in a black coffin upon which the words "Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die" – the name of the clothing boutique McLaren and Westwood opened in the King's Road in 1971 – had been stencilled in white. It was outside this shop that McLaren's assistant first spotted a young John Lydon, who was auditioned for the band that would become the Sex Pistols.

Inside that same shop, while he was smashing the ceiling to make it appear as if a bomb had hit it, McLaren is believed to have exposed himself to the asbestos that caused his death from mesothelioma – a rare and largely untreatable cancer which affects the protective lining around the lungs.

The mourners sang along to McLaren's version of the Max Bygraves song "You Need Hands", and were encouraged to dance. Dame Vivienne said: "I am very, very sad that, unbelievably, Malcolm is dead, and I just wanted to say on this cruel, cruel day... get a life, do something with it."

The Sex Pistols' guitarist, Steve Jones, whose tribute was read out by Mr Corré, joked about a fallout over royalties. "Dear Malcolm, did you take the money with you? Is it in the coffin? Do you mind if I come back tomorrow and dig you up?"

The cortège then made its way to Highgate Cemetery through Camden Town, now the spiritual home of the UK punk movement, which McLaren is widely acknowledged to have started.

"I feel like my granddaddy's getting buried today," said a purple-haired Chris Maber, 43, who had made the journey from Bradford. "He was the grand-daddy of punk. What he started lives on all over the world. There might be less proper punks now but that's because everyone's a punk. Everyone's got a punk attitude. He started that."

Four black horses drew the hearse past the tattoo parlours and alternative clothing stands of Chalk Farm Road as their patrons looked on. It was followed by a Routemaster bus, the destination sign reading "Nowhere", and the former Pistol Sid Vicious's version of "My Way" blaring out of the back to the crowd following behind.