He was, of course, best known as the manager of pivotal punk band the Sex Pistols, which - in classic PR style - he formed in anticipation of Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. He also invented punk and fetish fashion and was one of the first European entertainers to embrace American hip hop (and jump rope!).
McLaren makes a cameo in his own video at the two-minute mark:
"When they do the double dutch, that's them dancing!"
He's also possibly the only musician - well, other than maybe Pete Townshend and Roger Waters - to convincingly meld opera with pop:
"Rub your tummy, guv'nor?"
McLaren's essential PR advice
NME published some of McLaren's essential advice - PR and otherwise - this week, which includes these timeless chestnuts:
- "Punk's authenticity stands out against the karaoke ersatz culture of today, where everything and everyone is for sale."
- "Be childish. Be irresponsible. Be disrespectful. Be everything society hates."
- "We're the con men...and that's what makes it exciting."
- "Rock n' roll doesn't necessarily mean a band. It's that question of trying to be immortal."
- "My intention was to fail in business, but to fail as brilliantly as possible."
- Punk rock was popular because "it made ugliness beautiful."
- "I was looking to turn art into action."
- "I try to make ideas happen. Ideas that could change life."
- "I think that all great artists are separated from ordinary artists by one thing: they are magicians."
- "Stealing things is a glorious occupation, especially in the art world."
- "Our culture has become a notion of boredom that is bought and sold, where nothing will happen except that people will become more and more terrified of tomorrow."
McLaren's death happened to coincide with the subject of "media relations" in our PR class this week, so we watched this classic hostile interview between Tom Snyder and John (Rotten) Lydon, McLaren's protege and lifelong adversary.
They don't make impressarios like McLaren or interviews like this anymore:
Update, Saturday, May 1:
As luck would have it, I found Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein's "The Book of Rock Lists" today.
Included in the book: "Malcolm McLaren's 10 Lessons of Rock Success:"
- Manufacture your group.
- Establish the name.
- Sell the swindle.
- Do not play. Do not give the game away.
- Steal as much money as possible from the record company of your choice.
- Become the world's greatest tourist attraction.
- Cultivate hatred. It is your greatest asset.
- Diversify business.
- Take civilization to the barbarians.
- Who killed Bambi?