:: Article

Talcy Malcy Saved My Life

By George Berger.


It started with a text message from a 3:AM editor: “Rumours that McLaren has died”.


It was shocking, jaw-dropping news. Took a long time to transfer the words to their meaning. Unlike the ears nearer to the ground, I didn’t even know he was ill. A man who seemed to have barely aged over the last 30 years, a Peter Pan of the sixties who smuggled his raging individuality and political anger into the seventies and…

And now he’s gone. Cancered. Fuck.


The man who gave us the most legendary shop in Britain — 430 Kings Rd — which in turn brought together the kids who would — quite rightly — be the icons of a generation. Spewing forth great clothes, great phrases (Only Anarchists are Pretty! Never Trust A Hippy!) and of course a little band called the Sex Pistols.


Not content with that, he went on to give us the massively underrated glory that was Bow Wow Wow and a string of sometimes visionary and often ground-breaking solo musical outings (special shouts out to “Buffalo Gals” and Paris).


But you know all this, don’t you? You know because McLaren’s main contributions to the joys of our youth were ideas. Because whilst he sat on the outside, his ideas and visions were strong enough to penetrate right across the bored. Massive, rarely equalled. Love him or hate him, you’d always listen to him.

Whilst it is now fashionable to laud the Filth and The Fury as the true film record of the Pistols, the McLaren-inspired Great Rock’n’ Roll Swindle was enough of a classic of its time to have us (as in the punk rockers) scuttling back to the cinema on several occasions to enjoy its comedy. The crowds around us in those cinemas — be they punks, mods, skinheads or straights — lapped up the insolence like the home crowd they knew they were.

Interviewer: You’re sick on stage, you spit at the audience, how can this be a good example for chidren?
MM: People are sick everywhere, people are sick and fed up of of this country telling them what to do…

Of course, Malcolm was far too opinionated and mischievous to have been liked by everyone, but I’m sure you’ll read reams about that elsewhere. Personally, at a distance, he inspired me to be far braver than I would have otherwise been in my youth or indeed my life — his courage to stand outside convention was an inspiration up there with Rotten. Between them, they may well have saved my life.

His contribution to the achievements of those times is almost guaranteed to be understated. But Malcolm McLaren really did change the world. In these times of ever more suffocating homogeneity, where maverick behaviour and thoughts cause increasing social ostracization, and stepping out of line is increasingly difficult and frowned upon, Malcolm McLaren was an inspiration.

As such, the world is a far poorer and more boring place without him.


George Berger is a freelance writer, with Punk Rock DNA. He has written for Sounds, Melody Maker and Amnesty International among others. He has published two books: Dance Before the Storm: the Official Story of The Levellers (Virgin Books 1999) and The Story of Crass. George is the founder of Flowers in the Dustbin. He lives in Brighton with his wife. More here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, April 11th, 2010.