I didn't really know much about Malcolm McLaren, except that he had some sort of fashion boutique called "Sex" and that he put the Sex Pistols together. A Rolling Stone article marking his death referred to him as a "Punk Renaissance Man." Yeah, that works. Before the Pistols he was the manager of the New York Dolls. That's one hell of a frakking noise pedigree if you ask me.
But it was about more than noise. McLaren seemed intent on pissing people off. Yeah, right, so stupid. Eh, whatever. I've always thought it was kind of funny. Putting together a band that could barely play. Choosing the most abrasive individual he could find to front them. Johnny Rotten. The whole "God Save The Queen" stunt on the river Thames. Gawd, they were a mess.
I do remember that night when I saw the segment about the Sex Pistols on the newscast (pretty sure it was Walter Cronkite). The hair stood up on the back of my neck as Lydon brayed "God Save The Queen" over the band's squall. I'd never heard anything like that. My parents hoped they never would again. They did not get their wish. The album hit the States and I sure as hell got my hands on a copy. The band never really went anywhere, with a tour that imploded in true punk rock fashion.
Still, despite the mess that they were, that one record was truly influential. There will always be debates about who the first punk rock band was. My money is on The Ramones, but it doesn't really matter. So many of that generation were influenced by the mass of garage rock that came before them. They don't call Iggy the Godfather of Punk for nothin'. The Pistols surely influenced me to check out all sorts of other punk noisemongers including the Ramones, The Dead Boys, The Dictators, and The Clash.
All of these years later, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols still holds up. It's probably the only coherent statement that came out of that camp. But hey, if you want to sample the mayhem, you owe it to yourself to give The Great Rock 'n Roll Swindle a listen. Not only does it have the (iconic?) version of Sid's cover of "My Way," but it's got a hilarious rehearsal recording of "Roadrunner." It's totally worth the purchase price to hear Rotten trying to get Jones to cut the session short by bleating "AWWWWWEFULL!!!!"
I had never paid all that much attention to what McLaren was really about, so I discovered in the Times obit that he followed the French Situationists, who employed provocation as a tool for social change. I know that some folks think that made McLaren a jerk. Maybe so. All I know is that I owe him a debt of gratitude for the Sex Pistols thing.
So in the spirit pissing people off, how about a Sex Pistols/Lady Gaga mashup? Poker Face-meets-Pretty Vacant. Hell, yeah! Rest in peace, Mr. McLaren. Sixty-four was too young. Ever feel like you've been cheated?