Charles Dickens and Malcolm McLaren…Spot the Difference

by |April 10, 2010

“My name is Malcolm McLaren. I have brought you many things in my time…. But the most successful of all was an invention of mine they called Punk Rock”.

The weekend press has been full of retrospectives, obituaries and reminiscences of Malcolm McLaren, impresario, anarchist svengali,  and iconoclast. McLaren, the enfant terrible of the British punk scene, manager of the  Sex Pistols, New York Dolls and Bow Wow Wow and former partner of Vivienne Westwood, died on Thursday at the age of 64.

Perhaps a measure of the time, most of the books about McLaren have come and gone. David Dalton’s El Sid: Saint Vicious which chronicles the rise and fall of his royal punkness Sid Vicious, himself a creation of McLaren, is no longer available. Nor is Paul Taylor’s Impresario: Malcolm McLaren and the British New Wave. No doubt Max Wooldridge is re-working his Rock ‘n’ Roll London as we speak.

However, amongst everything I heard and read in the last 24 hours, the most interesting has been McLaren’s claim that British rock and roll owes its genesis to Charles Dickens. He sounded completely serious when he said it.

According to the late Mr M, in an interview I heard not once but twice on Radio National (recorded in the late 90s) Oliver Twist has inspired more British rock songs than any other story. Mind you, while he quotes rockers near and far, he didn’t actually mention the songs to which he was referring. I had never thought of the seminal role of Oliver Twist before but clearly McLaren was on to something. Just look at the cover image of the Vintage Classic we have in stock. The dog collar looks like it could have come straight from Sex, the rubber and fetish clothes shop that he and Westwood set up in their original venture. I tell you, the man had a gift.

So if you really want to decode punk, or perhaps re-visit your frenzied youth, you don’t have to listen your way through a scratchy vinyl rendition of I am the Antichrist. You can just reach for your dog eared copy of Dickens.

Charles Dickens and Malcolm McLaren – bet you’ve never read those two names in a sentence together before.

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  • David

    April 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    To quote another classic – Homer S – I like your ideas and I will subscribe to your publication…….

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