Sunday, December 9, 2007

Malcolm McLaren, Madam Butterfly

45 RPM, 12"
Island 0-96915
Malcolm McLaren -- Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton
Betty Ann White -- aria, sung by
Deborah Cole -- soloist, nonopera variety
Robert Erdmann -- photograph

Let's stipulate the following:
  1. Malcolm McLaren did not create punk.
  2. The Sex Pistols did not create punk.
  3. If anything, the Sex Pistols killed punk.
  4. American punk was always more about the music; specifically reclaiming it from hippies and boring baby boomers
  5. British punk was more tied into the economic ruin at the and was wrapped up in class warfare and government protest. Even though many of the studios used were built with government grant money to give the youths something to do and keep them off the street.

Getting back to Malcolm McLaren, he is a particularly vile human being who didn't give a shit about the music or musicians or anyone other than himself. Everything he did was created for the sole purpose of creating a "scene" around him. Johnny Lydon's work with PiL was much more interesting than the Sex Pistols. When Adam Ant had his band stolen by McLaren, he took McLaren's ideas and improved upon them, turning out some fun and interesting music. Bow Wow Wow was created as a mouth piece for McLaren's anti-youth, anti-music tirades. Then there's how he treated the underage Annabella. From Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again, postpunk 1978-1984:
Vermorel believes McLaren's master scheme was "to create a child porn scandal implicating as many people as he could." Not just EMI, who was financing Chicken, but the BBC, too.A documentary crew headed by Alan Yentob had been following McLaren around for a program on the marketing of Bow Wow Wow. Partly impelled by his usual lust for maximum media mayhem, McLaren also wanted to make a serious polemical point, exposing pop music as porn for children...and pop as porn using children to titillate adults.

With typical ruthlessness, McLaren, in his eagerness to embarrass the music and media establishment, showed no concern whatsoever about the youngsters (Annabella and the other teenage models) or old friends (Vermorel) who would have been embroiled in the scandal. When he went to remonstrate with McLaren, says Vermorel, "alcolm just laughed and said, 'You should be telling all this to the judge! When the shit hits the fan, I'll be in South America.' So I told EMI what was going on. And they tld Yentob, and he freaked out, and those tapes have been in the BBC vault ever since."

...Chickennever hatched. According to Vermorel, the only physical evidence of Chicken's existence was the rate card for advertising in the magazine." But Bow Wow Wow's second release, Your Cassette Pet, continued to expolit the underage-sex angle.

I'll pick the rest when I get around to the Bow Wow albums. But for all his faults, and dislike of music, McLaren did have interesting ideas that sometimes worked. His 1989 album Waltz Darling, a marriage of funk and waltz, is quite effective in parts. But if I'm picking, I'm going with his 1984 opera/R&B work in Fans. Which began with the release of Madam Butterfly.

...Even though "My white honky I do miss him" is about the dumbest lyric ever.

1985 MIT review
Robert Christgau
Youtube video

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