Punk's Founding Father Is; Sex and Malcolm McLaren Are Inextricably Linked. So David Whetstone Offers No Prizes for Guessing the Theme of the Art He Is Bringing to Gateshead

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 1, 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Punk's Founding Father Is; Sex and Malcolm McLaren Are Inextricably Linked. So David Whetstone Offers No Prizes for Guessing the Theme of the Art He Is Bringing to Gateshead


IN THE mid 1970s, when Anarchy in the UK and the Queen's Silver Jubilee were part of the rich tapestry of British life, the name Malcolm McLaren was on many people's lips.

It was murmured in awe or hissed with contempt depending on your attitude to the new phenomenon of punk.

Punk music was loud, frenetic, raw and played by people who sneered, swore, spat and jumped up and down.

Punk fashion was worn by the above. It was stained, torn, graffitied and coupled with self-inflicted body piercing.

What you thought about punk had a lot to do with your age. Genesis or Vera Lynn it was not.

McLaren managed - you could say created - The Sex Pistols, punk's brand-leading band (led by John Lydon, alias Johnny Rotten).

They burst on to the scene in November 1976 with their track Anarchy in the UK.

McLaren also had a clothes shop called Sex on London's Kings Road, which he ran with his then girlfriend, Vivienne Westwood (previously it had been called Let It Rock and then Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die).

Sex, The Sex Pistols... the subject of the artwork McLaren will show at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art this month shouldn't come as a surprise, even if the title is Shallow.

"It's a piece of work that is basically about men and women about to have sex - wishing, wanting, anticipating, preparing, imagining, etcetera etcetera," says McLaren, on the line from his home in New York.

He works and revels in the city's constant flux before heading off to relax at his other home in Paris where, he says, things never change and your coffee will be served by the same waiter who served it five years previously. I didn't know what to expect of Malcolm McLaren. What sort of conversation do you have with a founding father of punk? But I ask one question, about the nature and inspiration of Shallow, and he leads me on a journey into his past and up to the present day that is eloquent, funny and self-deprecating.

McLaren is a poet and a raconteur with the voice of one who has seen and been amused by many things.

"I was asked about two years ago to contribute to a group arts show here in New York City. The title of the show was to be Shallow.

"I'm always being asked to do these things and more often than not I've turned them down because they can end up taking over your life. But at the end of the day, this person was incredibly persuasive. He was a Mexican.

"Sometimes your gut, your instinct or whatever, makes you smile and just say, 'OK'. You close your eyes, roll up your sleeves and think, 'now what?'" McLaren decided the most shallow thing he could think of was also the thing he knew most about - popular culture. He has been there, done that and certainly has the (ripped) T-shirt.

In his view, popular culture is pretty much always about one thing - that three-letter word beginning with 's'.

"Sex is so often the end story to any wishing, wanting, hoping, angst-ridden pop song and will always be in most people's thoughts.

"So I thought that if I were to make a statement using the word 'shallow', my best beginnings were in popular culture."

Since so much of pop culture was wrapped up in "what Mick Jagger called I Can't Get No Satisfaction", he focused on that word, that concept, that activity, which has served him so well and ensured the survival of the species.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Punk's Founding Father Is; Sex and Malcolm McLaren Are Inextricably Linked. So David Whetstone Offers No Prizes for Guessing the Theme of the Art He Is Bringing to Gateshead
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?