Caught by the River

Malcolm McLaren

15th April 2010

by Andrew Weatherall

I’m listening to the D.J.Premier ‘tribute to Malcolm’ mix but it seems to be coming from a transistor radio on the counter of Marino’s barber shop on Dedworth Road. Sitting on a leatherette covered bench is a thirteen year old boy taking a last look at his shoulder length hair. On his lap the Sun screams ‘the filth and the fury’. I’d not seen the Grundy interview the night before, the lower middle class aspirations of my parents meant that we were a B.B.C. Nationwide, Michael Barrett household, but the fallout was everywhere. Lorry driver’s size nines through television screens,questions in Parliament and impressionable teenagers in barber’s shops. I put down the newspaper and sat in the chair. “About an inch long all over please”, I’d work out how to do the spikey thing when I got home. After the inevitable row with the parents.

I’m listening to the D.J. Premier ‘tribute to Malcolm’ mix and now it’s coming out of the home made speaker cabinets of the Brett Perry Roadshow on stage at Clewer church hall. The teenage disco is in full swing, Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now’ has soundtracked the demise of a few 3 week old relationships and it’s time to pick up the pace again. The Brett Perry Roadshow liked to keep all his customers satisfied and now it was the turn of the 14 year old proto-punks dotted around the hall.I think it must have been the second verse of ‘God Save The Queen’ that heralded the arrival of Johnny Strong and his gang of teddy boys (second in command Mick Ryan). They must have been on their way to a punch-up with the local squaddies when their imagined enemy’s national anthem had upset their delicate sensibilities. There was no point in me telling them that the parallel universe I had created to save me from stifling suburbia was sparked into existence by the drapes and creepers [supplied by “Let It Rock”] of 1974’s cinematic marvel ‘That’ll Be The Day’, the look in their eyes said “14 is old enough to punch”. Thank Jah for the arrival of Mark Wilkes and the Staines punks.

I’m listening to the D.J. Premier ‘tribute to Malcolm’ mix but now it’s pumping out of car stereos and ghetto blasters as I walk up the Kings Road from Sloane Square tube to’ World’s End’,a walk that would give me time to summon up the courage to enter the shop. I’d worked in the laundry for a month sorting out maggot infested kitchen cloths to get the money for one of those orange and black squiggle pirate shirts and had come too far to blow it now. I loitered outside for fifteen minutes, drew a deep breath, and went in.

I’m listening to the D.J. Premier ‘tribute to Malcolm’ mix coming from every chalet at the Vauxhall Holiday Centre in Great Yarmouth home to the ‘World Famous Caister Soul Weekender’. Pink quiffs and ‘Buffalo’ hats are cutting no ice with the jazz-funk cogniscienti who by 1983 seem to have forgotten that the soul scene was once a hotbed of outlandish frocks and trousers and were quite happy to sport Farahs and a t-shirt proclaiming their areas ‘soul patrol’. We weren’t exactly welcomed into the bosom of Chris Hill’s ‘Family’ and there was no point in telling them that the parallel universe I had created to save me from stifling suburbia at times featured a disco soundtrack, the look in their eyes said “that hat’s reason enough to punch”.

I’m listening to the D.J. Premier ‘tribute to Malcolm’ mix and thinking about this time last year as I stepped out of the lift and heard his voice. It was Malcolm alright, twenty feet away the other side of the metal security gates to my flats. I immediately turned on my heels,re-entered the lift, scurried back to the second floor, opened my front door and waited fifteen minutes. I figured this would give him plenty of time to hail a taxi. He was one of the architects of my parallel universe and if I’d have opened that gate and walked through…well by definition that universe would no longer exist.

In his tribute Glen Matlock said that “every misfit in London was drawn to Malcolm’s shop”, although a suburban boy I count myself amongst that number and my life changed forever because of it.

Thank you Malcolm.

“a catalyst, a revolutionary, an adventurer….a messed up kid”. Joe Corre