Tag Archives: Malcolm McLaren

1981 ➤ How Adam stomped his way across the charts to thwart the nascent New Romantics

Adam Ant, 1980,Kings of the Wild Frontier

Not really Romantic: Adam Ant in his 1980 guise as a warrior-hussar

◼ THE ELEPHANT IN THE NEW ROMANTIC ROOM in January 1981 was Adam Ant. The previous autumn Spandau Ballet and Visage had ignited the ambitions of other clubland bands (Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell) who were to splash romance across the charts by the spring. Yet on this January day 30 years ago Adam and the Ants had, incredibly, two singles and two albums in the UK pop charts: on Jan 17, Antmusic hit the No 2 spot while Young Parisians was at No 23. In the album charts Kings of the Wild Frontier was at No 3 (rising to top the chart next week), while Dirk Wears White Sox entered at No 67 (a re-release from the first Ants lineup of 1979). This isn’t all. In the charts for week beginning Jan 24, TWO MORE SINGLES arrived to exploit demand, Zerox and Cartrouble at Nos 68 and 69 (reissues from the Dirk album).

The Ants had six records charting in the same month!!! January very much belonged to Adam.

Now, Shapersofthe80s has always drawn a clear distinction between Adam Ant and the New Romantics. As does Marco Pirroni, the Ants guitarist and co-writer of many of their hits. “Adam is glam-punk,” he told me emphatically at the bar of the Wag when Ant’s first solo single Puss ’n Boots was storming the chart in Oct 1983. “Americans don’t understand he was never a New Romantic.” In fact right now on his perambulation through our capital city billed as “The Good, The Mad And The Lovely World Tour Of London 2010/11”, Adam declares himself from the stage to be “the last punk rocker”.

What we have here is a re-run of the old dispute over differences between Bowie versus Slade, glam versus glitter. While true glam tends to fuel as much a fashion revolution as a musical one, Adam does tend to sit atop rock’s glittery party-music tree.

Adam and the Ants, AntmusicIn spite of Adam’s flash and camp and dressing up in daffy costumes and wearing tribal facepaint that every kiddie from six upwards wanted to copy, his roots were firmly in rock, whatever Wikipedia seems to think (wrong again). If anybody was advertising rock as pantomime in the aftermath of punk, it was Adam, who raided the wardrobes of the past for his colourful swashbuckling outfits.

In his first life in Adam and the Ants 1977-79, he was styled as hardcore punk, hooded in a rapist mask, by Jordan (née Pamela Rooke) who virtually singlehandedly invented the uniform for punk with her many shockers such as rubber stockings. She was an inspiration as well as a natural sales assistant and model for Vivienne and Malcolm’s boutique, Sex, and for a year or so actually managed Adam’s band until she grew disllusioned with punk.

Malcolm McLaren himself was adrift after the Sex Pistols imploded, and Adam tells the tale: “He said, Everybody’s wearing black, boy. Colour, heroicism, that was what it was about. Look at Geronimo, boy. Look at pirates, boy. Go. He said, Give me a grand [£1,000], don’t tell no-one, and I’ll manage ya. And he gave me an education.”

Things backfired when McLaren stole the Ants to create Bow Wow Wow. So Adam regrouped with the trusty Marco Pirroni and a new lineup, and on the back of an “Antz Invasion” tour of the UK, May-June 1980, they signed to CBS and released the single Kings of the Wild Frontier which charted humbly in August.

Yet despite its heavy Burundi-style tribal drumming, Kings [above] was not a dancefloor record, that’s the point. War-dance, maybe. Watch the hopelessly uncoordinated video where the band lurches shambolically around a studio, and just gawp at the way Adam goes hoppity-skippiting in circles for heavensake!!! Like the proverbial embarrassing dad getting on down at your party.

The video to Antmusic was just as eye-watering. There was his group, playing live in a “disco”. (London’s first uplit starburst glass dancefloor betrays the location as Yours or Mine in Kensington, where back in the early 70s it was the coolest glam haunt on Sundays, frequented by Ossie Clarke, the Bowies and the Jaggers. But by 1980 disco was not cool, at all.) The rent-a-crowd extras in this video must have been the least stylish Londoners within earshot of the Blitz club. Gawp again at how these kids can’t dance either! Not one person in this video would knock Ann Widdecombe off Strictly Come Dancing.
➢ View ♫ original video for Antmusic

Contrast these two with the carefully art-directed videos of Visage and Spandau Ballet in 1980 and Adam’s efforts score 5 points for energy, 5 points for fun, by all means. But for creative content, Nul points, and for style, Nul points! Where’s the artsy pretension, where’s the wordly irony? Where is style? These videos reveal exactly how Adam’s crew didn’t have a handle on the New Romantics ethos at all, which was about the ineffable pursuit of glamour. And their bass-heavy music was totally danceable — by diehard clubbers.

Of course Adam wasn’t a New Romantic. Nor did he tick the register by dropping into any of their clubs. Romantics were clubbers, the Ants were rockers. Yes of course Kings of the Wild Frontier went on to become one of the great slapstick albums of its time. No dispute. And with characters like Prince Charming and Puss ’n Boots, Adam treated us to year-round pantomime. If he left the rest of us all humming a bunch of glorious rumpty-tump tunes, actually living the buccaneering life affected Marco the guitarist more deeply. Last year he told Uncut magazine rather mystically: “I’m still untouched by the ordinary world, thanks to Kings of the Wild Frontier.”


Charge of the Light Brigade,David Hemmings,Tony Richardson,film

Charge of the Light Brigade, 1968: David Hemmings rides into the Valley of Death in a gilded hussar jacket identical to one that later became Adam Ant’s. © MGM

Adam Ant, Jordan, Jubilee, 1977

Instinctive punks, 1977: Adam and Jordan at the premiere for Jubilee. (Photo: Richard Young)

◼ IT WAS a post- punk Jordan who returned to style Adam’s second life with the new-wave Ants in upbeat 80s mode, but as the most iconic punkette of all, her roots lay in anarchy. Look at the pair of them in this picture from the premiere of the 1977 film Jubilee with Jordan showing her actual knickers — facepaint and no hint of coordination spell pantomime, in capital letters. Commedia dell’arte this is not.

The one stroke of genius about his revamp was Adam’s own — it was his choice to adopt the gilded hussar’s jacket that branded his reincarnation for Kings of the Wild Frontier. It saw him right through his first year, on stage and in videos, until he turned into a highwayman. This dashing 19th-century cavalry uniform had a heritage all its own. Adam says he found it at the London costumier Berman’s & Nathan’s who had acquired it in 1968 from Tony Richardson’s scathing anti-Establishment movie, The Charge of the Light Brigade – though if Berman’s had one such officer’s jacket in stock it probably had dozens. Despite this jacket bearing no resemblance to the style worn by the real-life 15th Hussars, one adorned the romantic young film star David Hemmings, playing the ill-fated Captain Louis Nolan who carried the order to charge before one of the most careless tragedies in British military history. The poet laureate Tennyson’s phrase “someone had blunder’d” was prompted directly by the eloquent eye-witness report by William Russell of The Times. It makes a thrilling read still. And Adam’s gilded hussar jacket undoubtedly had a romance all its own.

Adam Ant, 2011,World Tour Of London

“The last punk rocker”: Adam Ant on his World Tour Of London, 2011, photographed © by Alex Alexander

◼ TONIGHT ADAM’S NEW SHOW WAS BEING FILMED at Madame Jojo’s Club in Soho, with tickets priced at £75. His outings before Christmas have impressed some critics, by various accounts being underpinned by wayward sexuality and bad taste, but none the less galvanising for that. His message has long been raunchy and savage and tonight one fan declared on Facebook that “Madame Jojo’s was on fire!!” A two-night stand has yet to happen at the 100 Club on January 26-27.


2010 ➤ Index of posts for March-April

McLaren, O'Dowd,Shapersofthe80s,Index March April 2010

McLaren departs this world ... O’Dowd demands a place in the spotlight

➢ Kemp sets a new standard for rock memoirs

➢ Grace Jones turns her back on London ;-)

➢ Rich List puts George Michael top of the popstars from the un-lucrative 80s

➢ In Australia, Spandau make Jason feel like a kid again: one true pop fan reviews their show

➢ What a tear-jerker! McLaren mashes up his own musical ‘Requiem to Myself’

➢ Punk glitterati see McLaren noisily to his grave

➢ Nnnnn-na-na-na, nnnnn-na-na, Nineteen

➢ Midge stakes his claim as the weathervane of synth-pop who helped shape the British New Wave

➢ Sci-fi’s coolest Number 6 finds Gandalf in charge and relocated to 93-6-2-oh!

➢ McLaren — Svengali of Pistols and punk remembered by those who knew him


➢ Uh-oh, A2A is back and we’re about to be Quattroed in HD!

➢ Ex-jailbird George takes his first trancey steps on the path to sainthood

➢ A giant dies: Charlie Gillett, the man who defined rock’n’roll and world music

➢ Barcelona: Spandau wow lifelong fans in their other spiritual home

➢ Albums that defined the new 80s funk


2010 ➤ What a tear-jerker! McLaren mashes up his own musical ‘Requiem to Myself’


Hitchcock , Vertigo, The Mekons,

Romance and anguish: James Stewart and Kim Novak in the psycho-drama Vertigo (top), and the post-punk Mekons

◼︎ TWO UNEXPECTED RECENT VIDEOS have acquired poignant new life in the wake of Malcolm McLaren’s death, Svengali of punk that he was. Few people could have guessed that the soundtrack to one of last month’s Paris ready-to-wear fashion shows [in the video above] would be McLaren’s final creative achievement.

It was completed after his diagnosis of cancer and possibly in acceptance of his own mortality.

What seduces the listener is the overwhelming melancholy McLaren evokes, in what suddenly amounts to a Requiem to Myself. It was commissioned by Dries Van Noten – to set a deliberately discomfiting mood for his runway show amid the gilded opulence of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris on March 3.

After McLaren’s funeral, his partner Young Kim described the piece to Shapers of the 80s as “quintessential Malcolm McLaren – an entirely original and powerful, elegant but punk collage”. She gave us permission to run the full 13-minute mash-up in clean mp3 format, featuring the Vertigo theme, Mekons, Roxy, Raincoats and Burundi Beat.

➢ CLICK HERE for the full McLaren/Dries Van Noten soundtrack and background report on its creation on our inside page

➢ The Raincoats perform The Raincoats for Don’t Look Back in London, May 20, 2010, at The Scala in London

➢ More at Shapersofthe80s: Svengali of Pistols and punk remembered by those who knew him


McLaren on how to fail brilliantly
in this ‘karaoke world’

◼︎ “THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN TODAY is no more than a karaoke world, an ersatz society, which provides us with only the opportunity to revel in our stupidity… A karaoke world is one in which life is lived by proxy.” So said Malcolm McLaren last October, only days before he discovered he was unwell. He was presenting a keynote speech to 1,000 delegates in London at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 about the future of learning and education.

➢ Details from the Learning Conference also on our inside page


2010 ➤ Punk glitterati see McLaren noisily to his grave

Malcolm McLaren ,funeral, punk, 2010, London

Black horses, black plumes, black-toppered pall-bearers: In Camden, a tattooed punk honours the hearse carrying McLaren while sporting a God Save the Queen souvenir from his hero’s Jubilee collection of 1977. Picture © AP

❚ THE ARCHITECT OF BRITISH PUNK was buried in bright sunshine in London’s Highgate Cemetery this afternoon, not many plots away from that other revolutionary, Karl Marx. For all the cheering and irreverence and mild expressions of anarchy that made this an exuberant funeral for Malcolm McLaren, the former manager of the Sex Pistols, few people beyond the fashion world appear to have discovered his last musical creation, an astonishing romantic soundtrack to a Paris fashion show, aired only the month before he died. It can be heard in part on the fashion video in the post dated April 23 (above) and in full as an mp3 audio stream. The music now assumes near gut-wrenching poignancy.

funeral , Malcolm McLaren, 2010, London, Jordan, Mark Moore

Seeing Malcolm off: At the church club deejay Mark Moore met up with McLaren’s punk protégé Jordan, the platinum-blonde who appeared in Sex Pistols shows and starred in the movie Jubilee. Today she works as a veterinary nurse. Photograph © by Richard Law

Music was a constant accompaniment to today’s events. When told the mourners would be asked to sing You Need Hands, which McLaren immortalised in the Sex Pistols film The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, his ex-partner, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood said: “It’s actually better when you hear Malcolm’s version. He sang it so well and so beautifully. I’ve been playing that song more than anything since he died. It makes me cry.”

Boy George had sent a wreath of crimson flowers shaped in an A for anarchy sign which sat on the horsedrawn hearse during its four-mile procession from a secular gathering at the deconsecrated church of St Mary Magdalene in Marylebone, central London, northwards through Camden Town. Sex Pistol Sid Vicious’s version of My Way blared from the bus carrying celebrants.

Dozens of punks followed the black coffin sprayed with the mantra “Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die” — the name of the Chelsea shop McLaren opened in 1972 with Westwood. Joseph Corré, McLaren’s son with her, asked that people mark his passing with a “minute of mayhem” at midday. Among the selection of mayhems reported at Guardian Online was one from Gareth100 who wrote: “I managed to shrug my shoulders in apathy for a full minute. Now I’m going for a nap. Will this do?”

➢➢ McLaren’s funeral cortege videoed by irencid

➢➢ View the ITN video of McLaren’s funeral

➢➢ View The Guardian picture gallery of McLaren’s funeral

➢➢ Tributes following McLaren’s death, from those who knew him


2010 ➤ McLaren – Svengali of Pistols and punk remembered by those who knew him

❚ MALCOLM McLAREN, THE SVENGALI OF PUNK, DIED YESTERDAY AGED 64. One of his most quotable quotes was delivered to Shapersofthe80s in 1983: “What we create on the streets out of the dustbins of England is an extremely exportable commodity.”

❚ CHRIS SULLIVAN, club-host, Blue Rondo singer and author of Punk (Cassell) “I first met Malcolm McLaren in 1976. I was a naive 16-year-old hot off the bus from South Wales and wandered into his shop Sex, in the armpit of the King’s Road. He invited me to a Sex Pistols concert that night and it changed my life.” ➢➢ Read Sullivan’s full appreciation in The Times, April 10

Malcolm McLaren, 1977, Bob Gruen

Malcolm McLaren in 1977: Sex Pistols manager and punk’s Svengali

❚ GARY KEMP of Spandau Ballet was first to summarise McLaren’s influence for Shapersofthe80s: “He drew up the road map by which we all found success. I am shocked and reminded of my own mortality.”

❚ KIM BOWEN, fashion stylist and former Blitz Kid, said “Malcolm left his diary at my house once. I nosed, obviously: ‘There are Fashion Victims everywhere, I’m a Fashion Beast.’ He was.”

❚ RUSTY EGAN, deejay and former Blitz Kid “Malcolm was the Fagin of entertainment, teaching the young how to sell their youth for his benefit.”

❚ DEREK RIDGERS, photographer of the punk years “He had a lot of radical ideas but his true talent was the ability to wind up and goad the media.”

❚ GRAHAM K SMITH, TV exec “Talcy Malcy? The arch Situationist, cultural prankster and near-psychic futurist. He was a seer, who took glee in monetising tomorrow – classically, chaos into cash.”

❚ ANDY POLARIS, former singer with Animal Nightlife “A master manipulator, a magpie and a maverick.”

❚ JAY STRONGMAN, club deejay, said “Malcolm was a true cultural visionary … an alchemist who mixed history, politics, rock’n’roll and fashion to try and create an alternative future and had fun doing it. Some say Malcolm was Britain’s Andy Warhol but I think that does Malcolm a disservice… In terms of popular culture Malcolm was much more influential than Andy Warhol.”

Simon Withers, 1980, Neil Matthews

Simon Withers in 1980. Photographed © by Neil Matthews

❚ SIMON WITHERS, one of the original fashion designers who defined the New Romantic era, and in 1983 worked on the final Worlds End collection before McLaren and Westwood split “I am really shocked by the news. Malcolm was dangerous and inspiring. I have been lucky enough to work with five mentors, he and then Vivienne being the first. Nothing compared to the scale, ambition and sheer Dickensian cheek of what I was shown working with Malcolm and Vivienne. There was a fundamental inquisitiveness about them.

“I worked three days and two nights making stuff in Paris for the last Worlds End catwalk. Vivienne and Malcolm were about to split up, as was the company. What I saw working with them both was that Vivienne had the tenacity and the intense focus, but certainly it came to little without Malcolm. After Paris, I left Vivienne’s workshop for Malcolm’s. He, Andrea Linz and I worked for a year on two or three collections. We did some really good work to find that Malcolm sold our ideas to Jean Paul Gaultier.

“One side of Malcolm that seems to be little written about is that he was a remarkably generous and attentive host and was very kind in surprising ways.”

Read how Shapersofthe80s broke the exclusive news
of the Worlds End split in Paris, 1983

➢➢ Pictured together on the very day Malcolm and Vivienne parted

Vivenne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, Paris 1983, Worlds End, Picture © by Shapersofthe80s

Their last public appearance together, on a Paris runway in 1983... Westwood says: “Malcolm has one more chance to be good.” McLaren says: “I’m not incapable of designing the next collection myself.” Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s


❚ DAME VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, ex-lover and business partner and fashion icon “The thought of Malcolm McLaren dead is really something sad. 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. We hadn’t been in touch for a long time. Ben [her son] and Joe [the couple’s son] were with him when he died.”

Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corre, 2008, Condenast

Mother and son: Vivienne Westwood and Joe Corre in 2008

❚ JOSEPH CORRE, son and co-founder of Agent Provocateur “He was the original punk rocker and revolutionised the world. He’s somebody I’m incredibly proud of. He’s a real beacon of a man for people to look up to.”

❚ YOUNG KIM, his partner of 12 years “Everything he did was groundbreaking, as an artist he carried on the link from Andy Warhol. I think Malcolm recognised he had changed the culture.”

❚ BARRY MARTIN, his tutor at Goldsmiths college, 1968 “Where he was clever was in using other people to do his bidding without them realising. I didn’t like him much – I didn’t like the manipulation of people’s souls.”

❚ JOHN LYDON, ex-Sex Pistol “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.” ➢➢ Video: despite Fox News spoiling for some dirt on McLaren, Lydon does the decent thing “I missed him almost immediately I heard.”

❚ MARCO PIRRONI, Ants guitarist “He didn’t need to accept people who disagreed with him. He wasn’t a stroll in the park.”

❚ ANNABELLA LWIN, singer with Bow Wow Wow “He was a strange creature from another planet” ➢➢ Full interview with Annabella Lwin at EntWeekly

❚ JULIEN TEMPLE, who directed the 1980 Sex Pistols film The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle “Malcolm was an incredible catalyst. To be in the room with him was to be bombarded with energy.”

❚ SYLVAIN SYLVAIN, founding member of punk rock band the New York Dolls “Malcolm opened up the doors for punk music around the world. He was a visionary and took what was going on in New York City and made it global. His passing represents the final chapter in an era when music was exciting.”

❚ BOB GRUEN, veteran celebrity photographer “What he really wanted was for the New York Dolls to wear his clothes, but the Dolls were falling apart at that time. They credited him with saving their lives because he put [some of them] into rehab… and revitalized them for a little while – long enough to wear his clothes.”

❚ GARY ‘MANI’ MOUNFIELD, Primal Scream and former Stone Roses bassist “What Malcolm and the Sex Pistols started was a generation of musicians who had the balls to think for themselves and challenge the normal working practices of the recording industry.”

❚ TONY PARSONS, author and 70s music journalist “Malcolm gave us our haircuts, our direction and even our clothes. He gave us our look and our swagger.”

❚ NEIL SPENCER, editor of music weekly NME 1978-85 “Malcolm was a loveable rogue, but he wasn’t always loveable either.”


❚ MARK MOORE, club deejay “The man was always such an inspiration and a real pleasure to work with. So very sad.”

❚ JANETTE BECKMAN, photographer
“Malcolm McLaren R.I.P. – impresario, music and fashion genius.” See pix: “Hey DJ let’s play that song keep me dancin’ all night”

BBC REPORT, April 8, at 22:08 GMT

“Malcolm McLaren, the former manager of punk group the Sex Pistols, has died aged 64, his agent has said. McLaren, the ex-partner of designer Vivienne Westwood, was believed to have been diagnosed with cancer a while ago. He set up a clothes shop and label with Westwood on London’s King’s Road in the 1970s and was later a businessman and performer in his own right. The couple had a son, Joseph Corre, the co-founder of lingerie shop Agent Provocateur. His agent told the BBC that McLaren passed away on Thursday morning. He died in Switzerland, according to his family. His body is expected to be returned to the UK for burial.”

GOOGLE, April 9, midday

“Results 1 – 10 of about 83,200,000 for ‘Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren dies’.”

Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, 1971

Vivienne in her new spiky dyed-blonde hair and the newly graduated Malcolm in summer 1971 when he changed his name from Edwards to McLaren... They became home-makers and business partners in their first retail outlet done out as a 1950s Teddy Boy’s suburban sitting-room in Paradise Garage at 430 King’s Road, Chelsea. They named it Let It Rock and a great British subcultural saga had begun as they took over the shop, which evolved into Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die, SEX, Seditionaries, and in 1980 into Worlds End which is still there today


➢➢ Adam Ant on Malcolm “Skin like Napoleon and a nose to match” – MTV video from 1990 of Adam telling the story of how he met one of Britain’s most irrepressible cult figures
➢➢ McLaren’s Enough Rope interview for ABC TV, 2008 Q: What is it you actually do for a living? A: Somehow I remain permanently cool
➢➢ McLaren’s solo performances include the landmark Buffalo Gals video, which parodied a 19th-century US black-face minstrel standard in weird square-dancing style, complete with Westwood silly hats in 1982
➢➢ Inspiration for Madge? The Bootzilla Orchestra, Deep In Vogue, 1989

How punk bridged the class divide

❚ JON SAVAGE, music writer and author of England’s Dreaming (Faber) “That Malcolm McLaren’s death has made such an impact should not come as a surprise, as it reinforces the privileged place that punk had and still has on our national consciousness. Anyone under 40 or so will have grown up with this as a fact, but for those who were there at the time, there will always be a slight sense of wonder: how did a minority cult have such a powerful impact?”
➢➢ Read Savage’s full piece in The Independent, April 10


❚ JOHN TAYLOR on his band’s website “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. No Duran Duran…”
➢➢ Read on – “Just check out the playlist on the jukebox of ‘Sex’.”


➢➢ The Times of London McLaren, punk who shook up the Seventies
➢➢ New York Times “I Will Be So Bad”
➢➢ The Guardian Blood, spit and tears as the punk provocateur dies
➢➢ Financial Times Punk Svengali: “Beaten up several times during his time in the Sex Pistols, McLaren was an uncaring dilettante who treated the violence unleashed by punk as just another ironic stunt.”
➢➢ The Daily Telegraph Svengali and arch media manipulator
➢➢ The Independent Drab world of pop needs McLaren’s brand of anarchy
➢➢ BBC News “Charlatan, hustler, plagiarist and … the most evil person on earth”


➢➢ The Independent Asbestos from his punk shop “killed McLaren”