Friday, April 9, 2010

A Homage to Malcolm McLaren

How sad I am to hear the news that Malcolm McLaren passed away yesterday from complications from a rare cancer. A music and fashion visionary who revolutionized both worlds. He was married to one my favorite British designers, Vivienne Westwood and together changed the face of British fashion forever. Then became the manager of The Sex Pistols and The New York Dolls, discovered Bow Wow Wow, Adam Ants and Boy George. "Without him the punk era would never have been the kind of focus that it did become" according to BBC's creative director Alan Yentob. "Malcolm was a man of ideas really - he was fascinated by ideas. He was always thinking about the next one. He was always ready to say something provocative". As far a music concerns, most of his releases where prolific, quirky, imaginative/left field collaborations with other musicians that were mostly concept records that are now considered timeless seminal footprints for other musicians and new musical genres. His first forays were into the field of hip-hop. Duck Rock, produced by Trevor Horn and featuring the rapping World's Famous Supreme Team was a vanguard album in the new music/rap crossover movement. It offered vignettes of hip-hop, Appalachian music, African music and merengue. Instead of assimilating the forms and reconstructing them, McLaren puts his actual source material on vinyl. He was totally ahead of his time here. "Buffalo Gals" sets a square dance call over a hip-hop scratch track. This song has been sampled to death from Nene Cherry, Eminem and in countless of mixes designed for break dancing. Next came Fans in 1984, one of my 80's dance favorites! I remember wearing a skirt and dancing to this LP during my first legal clubbing experience at a place called Xantus in Baton Rouge, LA. The single, "Madame Butterfly" fed us classic opera into a hip-hop blender that worked sweetly for dancing at any new wave club. In 1989, Waltz Darling was a funk/disco/vogue inspired album way before Madonna picked up on such trends. He incorporated elements of his former albums such as spoken verses, string arrangements and eclectic mix of genres. I remember dancing to "Deep In Vogue" at the New Orleans's Parade club and discovering the art of vogueing for the first time. Last, in 1994, he released Paris which included French artists such as Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Hardy and fashion icon Sonia Rykiel. A high-style travelogue that mixed strains of dance, pop, jazz, African and movie soundtrack music with an absurd amount of name dropping. The album managed a seductive appeal with my favorites song in it being "Paris Sept" (Listen here) the instrumental version is totally chic! Thank you Malcolm for your vision, ideas, creativity and genius. R.I.P.

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