Former Sex Pistols manager McLaren dead at 64

Malcolm McLaren, the punk rock mogul best known as the manager of the Sex Pistols, died after a battle with cancer, his girlfriend said. He was 64.

McLaren passed away on April 8 in a hospital in Switzerland following a fight against mesothelioma, a cancer that most commonly affects the lungs, Young Kim told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

Former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon led tributes to his ex-manager, issuing a statement signed “Johnny Rotten”, which was his stage name when he performed with the band.

“For me Malc was always entertaining, and I hope you remember that,” he said. “Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you.”

Kim said she was by his side when he passed away, as was McLaren’s son, Joseph Corre.

“He was a great artist who changed the world,” said Kim, who was the music mogul’s partner for 12 years, in a statement.

“Everything he did — his shop on the King’s Road [in London], his fashion, the music he created, the bands he managed … were expressions of his art,” added the 38-year-old.

McLaren was a leading figure in the punk-rock scene. As well as the Sex Pistols, the seminal British punk rock band of the 1970s, he managed other acts including the New York Dolls and Bow Wow Wow.

News reports said his remains would be flown back to his native London for burial in Highgate cemetery, in the north of the capital.

McLaren was a former partner of British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, with whom he set up a boutique on King’s Road in London’s hip Chelsea district, which they renamed Sex, selling fetish-inspired outfits.

Westwood — who said she had not been in touch with McLaren for a long time — remembered him as “a very charismatic, special and talented person”.

“When we were young and I fell in love with Malcolm, I thought he was beautiful and I still do,” she told the Daily Mail newspaper.

‘King of punk is dead’
McLaren, a one-time art school student, began to manage the Sex Pistols in 1975, bringing Lydon on board as frontman after spotting him in a torn Pink Floyd T-shirt and green hair.

The band released God Save the Queen in 1977, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee. Its provocative lyrics (“God save the queen/her fascist regime (and) there’s no future/in England’s dreaming”) propelled it to the top of the pop charts, despite the BBC banning it from its airwaves.

It was followed later in the year by the quartet’s only official studio album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

The Sex Pistols embarked on a US tour in 1978, only to split up after a gig in San Francisco.

The band fell out with McLaren, and he later lost a court case over royalties.

After his time with the Sex Pistols, McLaren continued to work on music, film and art.

Later projects included composing a theme tune for airline British Airways, BBC radio shows and last year he exhibited his art in Britain and the US.

He split his final years living between New York and Paris, according to his girlfriend.

Veteran music journalist Jon Savage, author of England’s Dreaming, a history of the Sex Pistols and punk, said: “Without Malcolm McLaren there would not have been any British punk.”

The British press remembered a man who, despite the controversy he stirred up when he first caught the public’s attention, had become a national institution.

The Times hailed him as the impresario responsible for “the punk movement that traumatised and thrilled 1970s Britain in equal measure”.

“King of punk is dead,” declared the Sun. — AFP

Sam Reeves
Sam Reeves
News editor for Malaysia and Singapore at AFP

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