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The announcement that the former Sex Pistols manager has died at the age of 64 has produced plenty of comment about the man and his work. Dave Woodhall pays tribute to the far-reaching influence of a controversial impresario.

It’s difficult to know what to say about Malcolm McLaren. He was a shrewd businessman, a trendsetter, a genius at getting publicity and also probably a lot of more negative things.

He managed the New York Dolls, ran the Sex boutique on the Kings Road, gave the world Bow Wow Wow, helped bring hip hip to a wider audience and did little of note for the past twenty years. But all of this is pretty much an irrelevance in the life and works of Malcolm McLaren.

Because what he was most famous for, of course, was shaping and managing the Sex Pistols. To what extent he influenced them is open to debate. Without him they may have still got together and history may have been no different. But probably not.

Malcolm McLaren was responsible for the Sex Pistols, and with them the explosion of punk both as a music and as a way of life. So many things became possible; music, publishing, writing. If there was something you wanted to do, you didn’t have to persuade anyone else any more – you went ahead and did it yourself.

Record companies, publishers, fashion houses - the means of production were now in the hands of the artists. As Jeff Horton, who went on to run punk’s spiritual home, the 100 Club in London, later said, “The Pistols changed the country from black and white to colour.”

As years went by and technology improved we got fanzines (music and football), blogs and independent news websites. Without the impetus provided by the punk revolution these developments might never have taken place.

I never met Malcolm McLaren but from what I’ve been told from people who did know him, I probably wouldn’t have liked him very much. That’s not the point.

The point is that without Malcolm McLaren my life and the lives of everyone in the creative and artistic world would be different. Very few people can claim to have had such an impact. We owe him our thanks.



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