Thursday, 19 November 2009

An evening with Malcolm McLaren

Musical Paintings:
An Evening with Malcolm McLaren

I was buzzing to be asked to DJ at the launch party of the BALTIC's current exhibition of Malcolm McLaren's latest 'Musical Painting' titled 'Shallow'.

As it meant I got to attend to the 'Evening with Malcolm McLaren' event which was a two hour film preview and talk session with Malcolm himself - introduced by Michael Bracewell (who's extensive Roxy Music / Geordie Pop art book Re Make Remodel - I highly recomend).

The film that Malcolm showed and discussed was his brand new piece about Paris. In which he has used old discarded Parisian advertising commercials that had previously been thought trash, and by focusing attention on the fact that many of these throw away pop culture artifacts were made by many of Europe's great artists (undercover - for the cash while starting out) such as Max Ernst, re examines the nature and depth of the films/ad's - and elevates them from trash to art. On top of these gem's of unearthed past trash McLaren has inserted a soundtrack made up of tracks from his 1994 'Paris' album. The whole affair amounts to one giant love letter to Paris.

This is not the same film as the one that is on show to the public at the Baltic at the moment. The film that the Baltic has on display is a work titled 'Shallow' which is a series of so called musical paintings that are actually old amateur porn movies from the 50's and 60's that have been slowed down to an absurd often almost static pace, on top of which a collaged soundtrack of pop music moments and elements from McLaren's own musical career jar in a juxtaposing sequence of audio visual cultural 'ruins'.

Some of the tracks like the one I've included here, are clever musical edits/puns, the title of this one alone this one is fantastic - LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER / LOVE WILL TEAR US APART

Baltic themselves say..

This collection of musical paintings - portraits of people thinking, desiring, wanting, wishing, imagining having sex, have been dug out of the ruins of pop culture: pornographic films and pop music. McLaren has likened them to a map of feelings that navigate both the ‘look of music’ and the ‘sound of fashion’. Shallow has been shown to critical acclaim in Art Basel, London’s Royal Academy and in Times Square, New York.

Both the Paris film (plus post viewing Q & A) and the Shallow film were mesmerising delights.

And as a life long fan of Mclaren's mischievous manner it was also a pleasure to meet him.

Even for those who cant stand the man it's hard to argue against the sheer weight and importance of his greatest achievements. His influence spreads far and wide, the seed he sowed with the invention of British punk and the Sex pistols had a direct and lasting effect on many aspects of UK (and therefore global) music and fashion culture that we take for granted today.

His influence on Manchester alone is colossal, forever influencing Tony Wilson who freely admitted the debt to Malcolm while transforming the city from the grey and desolate post industrial landscape of the 1970's into the rejuvenated Northwestern metropolis of today.
While Factory records and it's bands would simply not have existed without Malcolm McLaren.

Like wise Creation records Alan McGee has always acknowledged his and his labels debt to McLaren. No Malcolm McLaren mean no Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain and certainly no Oasis.

(though that may not be a good thing).

Ok so we wont blame Malcolm for the dreary dull grey spot that is Oasis, but here's a quick list of some of his achievements.

• Studied at both Goldsmiths and Central St Martins.

• Opened some of London's most forward thinking, conceptual and cutting edge fashion boutiques with shops such as Let It Rock, Too Fast To Live, Too Young Too Die, World End, Sex, Seditionaries, World End, Nostalgia Of Mud.

• Through his 50's Rock N Roll revival fetish shop Let It Rock he supplied garments for the film 'That'll Be The Day' - one of British youth cinemas true classics.

• 12 year design partnership with Vivian Westwood

• His obsession with the Situationist's would not only lead to the creation of the Sex Pistols but also inspire Tony Wilson to create Factory Records and... build the worlds most famous club - the Hacienda. 'The Hacienda must be built' being a situationist slogan.

• Managing the New York Dolls at the sticky end of their career in the mid 70's. Dressing them up in Red Patent leather as would be Communist Transvestites. Although Shocking at the time the stunt didn't quite come off, how ever looking at it in retrospect it was an act of genius, that surely inspired not only the Sex Pistols Anarchy shtick but also the Clash's 'Red Army Faction' Rebel chic.


• Turned to old friend and fellow Situationist fan boy Jamie Reid to create the graphic imagery for the Pistols. Thereby creating some of the most successful and powerful imagery in pop culture. The 7" single sleeve for God Save the Queen being a stirring example.

• The Great Rock n Roll Swindle - last word on media manipulation and corporate hi jacking of 'youth' ideas, and a thrilling ride on the greatest rollercoaster in the fairground of popular culture. Also - one hell of an affecting and effective prank.

• Inspired by the Sex Pistols spark, McLaren's assistant Bernie Rhodes would manage and mastermind The Clash, and later work with The Specials and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

• Masterminded the subversive bubblegum pop sensation that was Bow Wow Wow. Causing offense by placing a nude 14 year old Annabella Lwin at the forefort of the band. Also an early member of Bow Wow Wow - and taking notes was Boy George.

McLaren was the force behind pushing the 'Burundi Beat sound' into the music world - an African Tribal beat that was taken up as the signature sound by both Adam & The Ants and Bow Wow Wow. McLaren would stay with African music, exploring many south African themes on his Duck Rock album which managed to make word music cutting edge in a pop format - years before the 'World Music' boom of the late 80's

• With his Duck Rock/Global/Hip Hop project he prove himself again one of the great pioneers of modern music by getting into NY hip hop on the ground level and importing some of that dynamite back to Britain via the Buffalo Girls track and video. Trevor Horn produced the music. Breathtaking. Bang on the money, Right on the pulse.

• For many in the UK the Buffalo Girls video was their first full and proper introduction to the might of HIP HOP culture. Here McLaren brings Rap, Electro, Breakdancing, Graffiti & Scratching together - a truly life changing moment for many. And just as influential as his invention of Punk some years earlier.

• From the incredible Duck Rock album came DOUBLE DUTCH using South African high Life sounds and NY Rap style to breathtaking effect. The video is a joyous celebration of NY street culture. LOVE IT.

• McLaren on a remix tip - Great DUB EDIT of Double Dutch.

• As well as merging Hip Hop with South African music McLaren also headed into the mountains of West Virginia to pilage some square dancing elements, with truly bizzare results... now thats Punk!

• The Duck Rock album sleeve was designed by NY artist Keith Haring who also takes up an important space in global pop culture.

• The musical and cultural alchemy continued with the meeting of Opera and Electronica - 'Madam Butterfly' - the number 13 UK hit lead to producer Stephen Hague becoming much sought after - and going on to produce outstanding records by New Order and Pet Shop Boys. The track itself is a fine example of the sample/sound collage heavy boundary smashing nature of new music in the late 80's.

• Letting no one catch a breath or ever second guess him Malcolm served up his
'Waltz Darling' project with which he explored the NY vogue phenomenon (prior to Madonna) to a pumping Disco Funk soundtrack including musicians such as Bootsy Collins, the blueprint of this album would be taken on by De-Lite who had their own Boosty Collins featuring Disco Funk smash a few years later..

• Capturing the romantic spirit of Paris with his concept album 'Paris' featuring Parisian legends such as Francoise Hardy and Catherine Deneuve. Musically mixing late night Parisian Jazz elements with a Serge Gainsbourg influence.

• Has worked on Hip Hop tracks with true Rap legends such as De La Soul, KRS One and Rakim.

• Running for Mayor of London. WTF??

Mclaren and Westwood's son Jospeh Ferdinand Corre is the mastermind behind lingerie brand Agent Provocateur.

• Produced the fantastic and magical TV film 'The Ghost Of Oxford Street' for Channel 4 in 1991, telling the thrilling historic tale of London's Oxford St in a format similar to his Rock & Roll Swindle. The film featured musicians such as Happy Mondays, Tom Jones, Kirsty MacColl and Sinead O'Connor.

• As early as 2003 he wrote an article called '8-Bit Punk' which championed the 8-Bit music sound.

• Was a producer of the acclaimed film documentary 'Fast Food Nation'

• Contributed this great 'Zombie's sampling 'track to the Kill Bill soundtrack.

• Staying on top of his game by turning to the artworld and creating the fantastic Musical Paintings works with such inspired artists as Jim Lambie.

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