Sex Pistols manager: How Malcolm McLaren was the ‘arch-manipulator’ of punk rock | Music | Entertainment

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood ran their shop SEX on King’s Road, where many young youths congregated. From these young people the Sex Pistols were born, the band for which Malcolm became infamous. In the end, he and the band went through disagreements and ultimately lawsuits, breaking them apart.

In 1974, the Sex Pistols were born with four members: Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Wally Nightingale.

All of these were people Malcolm had met at SEX, who were part of the punk scene in London at the time.

A year later, Malcolm reportedly removed Wally from the group, as his look was not right for the band due to his wearing glasses.

Bernie Rhodes, his former associate and later manager of The Clash, spotted a young man who had the punk rock stylings they were looking for.

John Lydon, later renamed Johnny Rotten, was asked to audition for the band after Bernie spotted him, then a young man with green hair and a homemade I Hate Pink Floyd t-shirt, hanging around near Malcolm’s clothes shop.

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The group auditioned John, who mimed Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen while dancing and making some strange moves.

Those watching found it hilarious, so they quickly hired him and he became the main lyricist in the band, while Steve and Glen wrote the music.

Malcolm wanted his band to be dangerous, saying he wanted a name that sounded like ‘sexy young assassins’ to be their identity.

He claimed to have come up with their name, saying: “[I] launched the idea in the form of a band of kids who could be perceived as being bad.”

However, members have disputed this, saying the name was decided upon before Johnny Rotten or Malcolm were on the scene.

Over time, their punk rock style saw them swearing on national TV, making records which were banned.

Their punk rock image was added to further when they took on Simon Ritchie (named Sid Vicious.)

But their heyday was not long, and soon tensions between bandmembers and Malcolm grew.

Johnny hated the constant touring and the travelling, and on their US tour, he contracted the flu.

At the same time, Sid’s heroin addiction was growing worse.

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In the end, John’s anger at his manager, which he later called mismanagement in a lawsuit, saw him leave the tour and announce the Sex Pistols were over in 1978, without telling his bandmates or manager.

John wrote in his autobiography of this time: “It was a ridiculous farce. The whole thing was a joke at that point.”

The band continued for a short time, but Sid left before his death in 1979.

After this, the band members sued Malcolm for mismanagement, and John sued for control of the band’s name.

The case was settled in 1986 after a long court battle, with the surviving Sex Pistols and the estate of Sid Vicious winning.

In 1980, the film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle came out, painting Malcolm as ‘the embezzler’ and, ultimately, a Fagin-like character, though he starred in the movie himself.

He has spoken about this portrayal of him, telling GQ in 2000: “I don’t mind being accused of being the Fagin.

“In many respects, I was. So there you have it.

“I am a vilified creature because no one’s ever forgotten the fact that they believe I am this almighty scammer and stuntman.

“I seemed to be this guy who was playing with people, who wasn’t ‘serious.’

“That film caused punk to become an enigma, tried to prevent it becoming just another page in the rock’n’roll almanac.

“Going down in history as criminals all bent on destroying the music industry.

“That was our way of having the last laugh. It’s a mad film, innit? Completely mad!”

In the same interview Malcolm called himself the “arch-manipulator of people,” but the Sex Pistols did not stop him from going on to become a filmmaker and musician in his own right.





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