Rock ‘n’ roll is ethnic, pagan, and revolutionary
Malcolm McLaren, former manager of The New York Dolls, The Sex Pistols, Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow, is self-styled catalyst in the world’s musical revolutions. As market leader of the ethnic plunderers, he seemed the only choice to make sense of ‘borrowed music’ in a year in which neither nostalgia nor the African heartbeat was safe—
ENGLAND’S GREATEST TALENT was punk. It’s second greatest talent is being presenters, plunderers and pirates. We think with our heads and not with our hips. England is not the cradle of musical inspiration. It’s a fallacy that was born out of the Beatles. In any event, the Beatles best inspiration was to imitate black music coming from America and so it was with The Rolling Stones who used more rootsy origins like Africa. Rock’n’roll is ethnic, is jungle, is magic, is primitive, is in its origins African and in its inspirations African, and finally, black, pagan, anti-Western, anti-capitalist and unavoidably, revolutionary, but it only took one white presenter to change all that, Elvis Presley.
Music has a magical air and is, in essence, something that makes everyone want to step out. That’s what rock’n’roll is all about. And I need that. What has happened over the last few years is that the pre-conditioning and evaluation of what a pop record has got to be, has made all English music become something which doesn’t have in its essence rock’n’roll and I use that word not as a cliche, not as a term for old-fashioned music, but what music has been all about to date. Music that makes people want to step out.
It is the physical source, the true embodiment of what is magical inside your body. In America today, it seems to be that most people who buy music tend to be black, and the reason they buy music is because they still use it as a practical means of communication with each other. I think white people are in danger of losing that.
That practical use of music probably harks back to deepest Africa, to the oldest civilisation in the world, the African, and to their music. In essence, they were, and still are, the origins of rock’n’roll. It’s important to discover that point in order for us not to keep continuing to package music, with the advent of the producer being the most important person and guardian angel of an industry wishing to foster upon people only something that has been predetermined and considered saleable.
No great music in the course of rock’n’roll has ever been written from the point of view about selling it. It is interesting to note here that the beats of African music are often hidden in the spaces between the beats. This may have been done subconsciously to prevent them from being stolen, or indeed consciously, to retain the original unfettered unsaleable spirit.
The African tribes are the oldest civilisation in the world and its music the most sophisticated. Rock’n’roll existed long before Beethoven, Bach, Cole Porter, or indeed Jesus Christ. And we in England are still attempting in 1982, with a fifth generation of pirates to bottle this elixir of life. But the chemicals are so weak now and so poor that we have lost all understanding of what we are trying to cure!
Unlike The Beatles, unlike the Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols didn’t have it at all, it was too weak by then; Instead, what they demonstrated, was not a musical talent but something more traditionally English, story telling and styling attitudes more to do with Charles Dickens than Muddy Waters. That appears now to be misguided, but it was England’s most original contribution to rock’n’roll. And we therefore, as barbarians, continue to need to plunder and sell. We don’t get excited just moving with a constant rhythm, we always get bored. We constantly need to be entertained—
Punk was at its most spiritual in the Sex Pistols, and was at its most product orientated in The Jam. But rock’n’roll is always at its best when it has imperfections, and always at its worst when those imperfections are padded out by the celebrated producers that are around today. The original sin, the bum note, has vanished. The spontaneous vulgarity has been polished off.
We’re all perverts frolicking in our own shit without a care for the world outside and yet the world is getting smaller. We are closer in spirit to El Salvador than we are maybe to West Germany. Learning to live with less than more is the problem of the ‘80s—
Long live pirate Radio. Long live the winter and the summer and the rain and the snow and the Buffalo—