McLaren Family Values

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, 1981

I was surprised to hear that Malcolm McLaren had died in a Swiss hospital on April 8th. First because I had no idea that he was sick and second because I knew that it was Vivienne Westwood's birthday (it's on the same day as my own). It was rumored that Viv was at his bedside but then that turned out not to be true. Those present however did include their son, Joe Corré (founder of coolest lingerie line on the planet, Agent Provocateur), and Vivienne's elder child from her first marriage, Ben Westwood.

Ben Westwood
She made a brief yet poignant statement, below taken from
"[He was] a very charismatic, special and talented person," Westwood told the BBC. "The thought of him dead is really something very sad."

Corré on McLaren

As a mere fan, nothing I can say about McClaren and his impact on music, fashion and culture can hold a candle to the words of his own son. Here is what Joe had to say today in The Guardian.

Joe Corré and ex-wife Serena Rees, 2001

Malcolm McLaren, my revolutionary, chaotic, brilliant, messed-up father

People have so many stories to tell about my dad, and some of them are not the nicest, but even his detractors would have to admit that he changed their lives. He changed the world, man. He shook it all up with punk, not just musically but socially and politically.
If you look back at the reaction to the Sex Pistols at the time, you can see that. People were threatened by what they stood for. It's the last time music had that power. He was a revolutionary really. People say: "Oh, it was all about the music, the band." No it wasn't. It was about a revolutionary idea.
I know John Lydon was pissed off with the notion that Malcolm somehow created him, and that's fair enough; no one created John but John. But Malcolm did create the name, the look and the big adventure that was the Sex Pistols. He was the catalyst. His real good fortune was finding my mum (Vivienne Westwood) as a partner-in-crime, someone who believed in him and his ideas. She would have done anything for him, and him for her. Together, they were unstoppable: his ideas, her designs. I know they had problems, but I spoke to her last night and she only had good things to say.
We had a difficult relationship, but it was all right in the end. I went to Switzerland and we said what we had to say and we made our peace. I'm really glad I did that. It was such a release – for both of us.
It was hard for me because he never wanted to do the emotional stuff that comes with being a parent. He ran away from it and I found that hard to take. But, you know, he had a messed-up upbringing and he just didn't know how to do it. His mother rejected him so he was brought up by his grandmother, who was a lunatic really. She shaped his whole world view. She had him reading Jane Eyre by the time he was five or six. He told us he only went to school for one day in his entire childhood. They gave him a Peter & Jane book to read and he thought they were imbeciles. That was that. So he never learned the social and survival skills you learn in the playground. He made up his own rules, his own way of doing things.
He had a huge issue with his mother's rejection. He once ended up in a home for a few days because he'd been sick in hospital and no one had come to claim him. Mad stuff like that. He told me that he had got on the tube once and ended up sitting opposite his mother. He got off without saying a word to her. Sad, really.
I think he was damaged and I'm a bit damaged in turn, but it makes you strong. It's like your weakness and your force. You drive yourself on to prove yourself. If he hadn't been messed up as a child, would he have created punk?
My best memories of my dad are all chaotic but brilliant. The best thing was when he made up these wonderful adventure stories for Ben (Corre's half-brother) and me. I used to hate it when they ended.
I remember when, after the Sex Pistols swore on the Bill Grundy TV show, we were barricaded in our flat with the National Front trying to smash our windows. I don't remember being terrified. We were together as a family and it was exciting in a way.
I'm going to miss him. He went through some bad stuff at the end, but he was tough. And he kept his spirits up. My brother had this T-shirt on that said "Free Leonard Peltier" – he's that Native American political prisoner of conscience. Malcolm looked at the T-shirt and said, "Yeah – Free Leonard Peltier". It was one of the last things he said. Just great.
He wanted to be buried in Highgate cemetery. Quite right too. I'm organising that. I'm going to have to think about the farewell party too. Maybe a boat trip down the Thames in memory of the Pistols' Jubilee bash. We'll need a fleet this time, though.
Joe Corre was talking to Sean O'Hagan


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