Sunday, April 11, 2010

Duck, Duck, Duck! Malcolm McLaren: Sex Pistol Man, That's What I Am...

Only just a mere six or seven million years ago, I dined with Malcolm McLaren. There were others in attendance as well, like James Truman and Roger Trilling and so forth. It was a good deal like a Hollywood version of The Drones Club. I had nothing to do, I hasten to assure you, with the choice of location, with the food, with the mise en anytheeng. Of this you may be sure, because it was a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, which you can be double-damn-dead-certain I would never have suggested, thank you very much (and as Malc was famous for never even considering picking up the check, I don't know that we can blame him either) and I damn sure wasn't going to have us eating at a hoi-toi Chinese place in Beverly for God's sake Hills, when with a merest jaunt East on the freeway we could have been in Monterey Park, the largest assemblage of astonishing Chinese food on the North American continent. No doubt over the course of the meal I ingraciously mentioned this. I probably couldn't help myself.

More, I also couldn't help myself from butting in with a question or two, but not about the Sex Pistols, or Johnny R. or Sid the V, or even Sir Richard of Branson. What I wanted to know was what had happened, by this late date, to The World Famous Supreme Team. Because to my mind, as earth-shatteringly important as Les Pistoletes du Sexe were — and continue to be — what Malcolm McLaren achieved on Duck Rock, his own solo record, the album that pioneered hiphop album-ism and dovetailed it with South African mbquanga Zulu jive and hillbilly square dance and double-dutch jump rope songs and Cuban/Dominican voudon chants and all that scratchin' that was makin' us itch, and meant it, man, as emceed by two late-nite Newark-to-NYC deejay party-promoter knuckleheads that Malcolm's big Brit freckled ears had flapped wide enough open so as to be invited to the party as an honor guest and patsy . . . . well, it was a stroke of trouble-brewing genius even broader, even brighter than the Sex Pistols, if never as widely, whitely notorious. And it was even then still sending off ear-freckling reverberations in the culture, as it continues to do to this day. While he was discovering hiphop, he pretty much innovated that funny stuff, that greasy kid stuff called "World Music." And, remarkably for a Brit, did both without ever mussing his ginger hair with a pith helmet. And made super-silly '80s Britpop-poses for the photo sessions too.

Malcolm was all too plainly pleased to talk about 'em again, the World Famous Supreme Team: See Divine the Mastermind and Just(ice) Allah the Superstar, two high-pitched h/h hustlers who were absolutely capable of sweet-talking the frilly panties off lovely ladies from remarkably remote boroughs (and Philly, even! and Rochester! long distance!) with their magical radio-wave microphone skills. They were natural hustlers, born to brag and boast and to receive hot butter on their breakfast toast, and Malcolm's respect for such fast-talking past-masters of his own grand-ceremonial game just reeked and radiated and rattled forth. The last time he'd run across them — surely he hadn't been sharing any publishing checks with them, after all — they had headed West, to the Coast, to Cali, to Hollywood — just as he himself had done — and were now throwing nearly-official after-parties for the pre-HIV Magic Johnson.

I got in contact with Malcolm in Paris a couple of times a while ago with the idea of going back in and having a look at how Duck Rock came to be, exploring how it happened, and how all the variations on "Buffalo Gals" and "Double Dutch" and "Lookin' Like A Hobo" "D'Ya Like Scratchin'?" wandered their way back into the world, but now guess I was a little too late. (Which is fine; I'm usually the reverse, and it's nice to feel that other way. I guess that's why there's so much affection for nostalgia/nostalgie.) I regret it, but not entirely. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have afforded all the dinners. I know I wouldn't have let him choose the restaurants, that's for sure.

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