Malcolm McLaren ruined Punk?

Joe was dispatched to a series of boarding schools, freeing his parents to pursue their unconventional business. Together Malcolm and Vivienne opened a clothes shop on the King's Road which eventually became Sex, the store that pioneered the punk look of bondage trousers, ripped T-shirts and spiked dog collars. 'We decided we needed mannequins to model our clothes and that was when we invented the Sex Pistols, with Johnny doing his audition there in the shop.'

Although McLaren protests that he was a mismanager, actually he proved to be inspired. The band had played only a few small gigs before being signed (with a large advance) by EMI in 1976. After a notorious appearance on Bill Grundy's early evening television show – in which they swore live on air – the Pistols were fired by EMI and then signed to A&M Records for another large advance. That contract lasted a week – the record company got cold feet after the band went on a drunken rampage, smashing up the A&M headquarters. It was then that the young (and brave) Richard Branson signed them up to Virgin, for another huge advance. To celebrate, McLaren organised a boat trip down the Thames so that the Pistols could perform 'God Save The Queen' outside the Houses of Parliament ('the fascist regime'), on the day The Queen ('she ain't no human being') was celebrating her silver jubilee. The boat was raided by police and McLaren was arrested – in another blaze of publicity. When the band split up the following year, amid the inevitable stories of heroin abuse, murder and destruction, McLaren kept the rights to Never Mind the Bollocks. John Lydon took him to court in 1987 and won the rights back. McLaren and Lydon have refused to speak to each other since. It is safe to assume that McLaren's name won't be on the VIP list for the anniversary concert.

'I thought the fashion was much more important than the music,' McLaren says of the Sex Pistols now. 'Punk was the sound of that fashion.' It seems a contrary thing to say, but then he is a contrarian, and the band was his baby – so I ask about the fashion, specifically the swastika T-shirt that Sid Vicious always wore, at McLaren's behest. In retrospect does he consider it to have been a gratuitous and sick provocation? 'Not at all.' Does he think he could get away with it today? 'Probably not, but back then we were still on the tip of Sixties libertarianism.'

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