I awoke this morning wondering what happened to my autographed copy of Malcolm McLaren's album "Fans," a collection of Puccini arias (and one Bizet aria) done in pop format.
My friend Michael, a die-hard and lifelong opera fan, hated McLaren's "Madame Butterfly." I really liked it. I respected Michael's disdain, though, and did not play the 12" single while he visited.
You probably know that McLaren was the svengali behind the rise and fall of The Sex Pistols, the excitement generated by the band and it's sad and ugly demise. Many people, though, don't know much (if anything) about his post-Pistols career which bordered on brilliant.
McLaren was interested in exposing his fans to musical forms they might not have heard.
His first release "Duck Rock" was an amalgam of New York scratch, Appalachian folk, and African tribal music. The single "Buffalo Gals" actually received radio play, and was heard in dance clubs around the world. The dub "Looking Like A Hobo," which was part of the "Buffalo Gals" song, could be heard in many different venues besides record stores.
The song "Punk It Up" featured African aboriginal women singing the chorus "Sex Pistols man, Sex Pistols man, that's what I am. Everybody knows he's a Sex Pistols man" over and over again.
The song "Double Dutch," which became an MTV staple, focuses on jump-rope culture and competition in the inner city and focuses on the Ebonettes crew and their jump rope competitors The Golden Angels, The Fort Green Angels, The Five Town Diamond Skippers, and The Pleasure of Rope Rippers (all of whom may or may not be real or fictitious double-dutch crews).
The marriage of McLaren and the Bronx duo "The World's Famous Supreme Team" is the compnent of the production that makes it a success. The team, Se'Divine the Mastermind and JazzyJust the Superstar, had a radio show on Newark's WHBI-FM 105.9 FM. Clips of their broadcasts are inserted throughout the album. For more current information about TWFST, see their page at myspace.com.
Notably, Thomas Dolby also appears on the record.
McLaren's next record was an attempt at mainstream pop that was really a bunch of outtakes assembled to meet contractual obligations, and was a total failure. I am unable to find any cuts from "Swamp Thing" in electronic format. Here's a tip, though: someone has posted it at youtube.com and if you now how to rip from You Tube, it's all yours for the taking. See, MALCOLM McLAREN - Buffalo Love
"Fans" was a more successful composition and release. It was on his tour for the album's release that I met McLaren and he autographed my copy of the record. What is the quality I most remember about McLaren this evening in 1984? He smelled. Yup! He smelled. He smelled bad. He wore a trench coat with deep pockets (we had been warned ahead-of-time that he liked to take things. He was both shy and aggressive, and I was fascinated by him and it was exciting to make his acquaintance if only for a handful of minuted before he proffered a humorous radio interview.
"Waltz Darling" was his mash-up of Classical and Rock, without coming-up with Classic Rock! He joined forces with Jeff Beck and Bootsy Collins to form the Bootzilla Orchestra and released an amusing record that should be heard by everyone.
At this point in his career, I sort of lost interest. Other releases followed, but nothing grabbed me until his mash-up "Love Will" that combined Joy Division's haunting "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and The Captain & Tenille's saccharine-sweet "Love Will Keep Us Together" (truth be known, I adore both songs). It used to be available on You Tube with a video of Gary Gilmore, but I am unable to find it these days.
I will now have to hunt down Paris, Jungk, Tranquilize, and Shallow – Musical Paintings; the records I have not heard.
Oh, and I hope my buddy Rich has that signed copy of "Fans"!
McLaren died yesterday at the age of 64. His death is a loss to the world's of art and music.
Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren dies in Switzerland aged 64