Geoff Hoon: It's not what McLaren did, but what he started

Share
Related Topics

Rock'n'roll reinvents itself every generation. And to the leaders of the revolution comes musical immortality. Not least when the music is matched by harsh new attitudes, provoking and ultimately usurping the previous establishment.

Think Elvis Presley reinventing black music with hip-swaying tight-jeaned rock'n'roll; The Beatles rewriting rock'n'roll with long hair, boots and collarless suits; The Rolling Stones adding rhythm to the blues with even longer hair; the Sex Pistols annihilating prog rock with brash guitars, safety pins and an "I hate Pink Floyd" T-shirt. What did these musical revolutionaries have in common? Managers with attitude. Colonel Parker, Brian Epstein, Andrew Loog Oldham and Malcolm McLaren were visionaries who could see the next wave and who stayed on it long enough to make musical history.

Like all revolutionaries, they were admired and despised in equal measure. As a child, I remember my older Chuck Berry-loving cousins decrying The Beatles' watered-down rock'n'roll. As The Beatles and their followers turned from hate figures of the establishment into the new musical establishment, the stage was set for the evolution of a new species. The long tedious solos of prog rock gave way to punk rock. Instead of musical sophistication and years of practice, anyone could be in a band with the three-chord trick and lyrics of anarchy and hate. As the reaction to Malcolm McLaren's death has showed, some still haven't forgiven him for the Sex Pistols.

Not that he started there. As someone who bought the New York Dolls' first album because it was required listening for fans of David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, I doubt I was even aware they were managed by McLaren. He moulded their sound and style in a New York dry run for the Pistols.

For most people, though, punk could have come from outer space in 1977. It seemed to arrive from nowhere. But it was British. And it was loud. This was the year of the establishment, the Queen's Silver Jubilee with street parties and cucumber sandwiches. But the soundtrack was punk. It was the musical equivalent of a meteorite wiping out the dinosaurs. Never has a single debut album had such a massive impact. But unlike Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols came and went with no more than a handful of songs as their legacy.

They were one-album wonders. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols is the one must-have album of punk. It shouted defiance and anarchy, guided by McLaren's brilliant eye for a stunt. He got the Pistols to sign their contract in front of Buckingham Palace and perform "Anarchy in the UK" on the Thames next to Parliament. They were Number One and looked set for musical immortality.

But the Sex Pistols were eviscerated by the force of their own impact. Their real impact was on a new generation of musicians who started out as punks, but who have become pillars of the musical establishment – Paul Weller, Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer. It is difficult to imagine any of their music without the Sex Pistols. And, therefore, without Malcolm McLaren.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home