alking to Malcolm McLaren
involves a willing suspension of
disbelief. an immersion into a
Twilight Zone of half-truths.
inventions and good old tried and
tested lies. In the past. the man has regularly been parsimonious with the truth with the express aim of bolstering his image. selling a line and generally feeding the myth of his personality. So the likelihood that all ofthe following is genuine is slim. although it’s worth remembering that just occasionally some of his biggest lies have come true. Let’s face it. when someone has been a wide-boy selling rubber fetishist gear as high fashion, managed the Sex Pistols. attempted to publish a sex magazine for adolescents entitled Chicken. and made a hit album of beat-boxed waltz tunes. it’s inadvisable to write off his projects preposterous.
At 45. Malcolm McLaren. all red locks and affected grimaces. looks no older than the puckish urchin who invented punk rock (oh. yes he did) sixteen years ago. What is unsettlingly different is that the charming
10The List 20 December 1991 — lolanuary 1992
FEATURE MALCOLM MCLA REEL. ______
North London hustler’s spiel of the 705 has been replaced by a calculatedly camp drawl littered with girlish giggles and neat aphorisms. In his verbal technique McLaren has become Quentin Crisp and deploys that Englishman-in-New York archness as he talks about The Ghosts 0f0xf0rd Street. a
Channel 4 film going out on Christmas Day.
‘The Happy Mondays (singing a “Phil Spector on smack” version of Staying Alive) are hung at Marble Arch in a scene straight out of The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, Sinead O’Connor plays a 15-year-old nymphet prostitute.’
featuring McLaren in the unlikely (but strangely fitting) role of seasonal storyteller. part Fagin. part Fat Controller.
‘It's a bedside chat,’ he says. ‘A late-night ghost story in a documentary fashion. But as one evolves these things. what started out as a fireside chat took on a Christmas ghost story format. and ended up as a variety show, because the illustrations took on an
immense importance.’ The ‘illustrations’ revisit a number of McLaren’s previous obsessions. The Happy Mondays (singing a ‘Phil Spector on smack’ version of Staying Alive) are hung at Marble Arch in a scene straight out of The Great Rock 'n ’ Roll Swindle. Sinead O’Connor plays a fifteen-year-old nymphet prostitute. and John ‘Nick Cotton’ Altman plays Thomas De Quincey, the 18th Century opium addict. McLaren is deliberately muddying the chronology. as these ‘ghosts’ of historical characters wander the Christmas shops and arcades of contemporary Oxford Street. The Oxford Street project has been knocking around in McLaren’s cluttered head since his art school days in the 60s. competing for space with such projects as his teenage sexploitation film The Mile High Club. ‘Oxford Street was where I went as a young kid.’ he says. ‘That’s the place I‘ve known about for many. many years. That’s the place of my youth. my childhood. when I was a student and. when I started working with rock ’n’ roll bands. where I had my
, office for the Sex Pistols. It’s appeared
‘I think I am very theatrical. Even when I managed the Sex Pistols, they were in all respects a far more theatrical hand than the Clash or Buzzcocks, almost a fantasy at times.’