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Tuesday 7 September 2021

Dutch Butterfly

Malcolm McLaren has been painted as the villain in the Sex Pistols story for many years, usually by John Lydon who commands more air time and print inches than the rest of the participants put together. Malcolm was instrumental in that band's story but his wider contribution to popular culture goes way beyond the filth and the fury and subsequent crash and burn. Following the demise of the Pistols he kept running, straight into Bow Wow Wow and then moved on again, faster and faster, intent on mashing together disparate elements to create something new. This led to at least two further moments of inspiration and musical alchemy. 

In 1983 Malcolm put out his debut album, Duck Rock. His debut single Buffalo Girls was a genuine piece of cross cultural game changing with scratching and sampling, the World Famous Supreme Team, Zulu backing singers, Trevor Horn at the production desk, a record that was key in early hip hop culture. He followed it with Double Dutch, equally brilliant and further blurring cultural boundaries- skipping chants, a zippy bassline, hi- life guitars and South African vocals. He was sued by The Boyoyo Boys for that but a Top Three hit in the UK chart must have softened that blow. 

Double Dutch

Two years later he went further and deeper releasing an album called Fans that spliced opera with modern R & B. Madame Butterfly, a version of Puccini's famous work, a genuinely jaw- dropping piece of music- Stephen Hague now at the controls, crunching 80s synth drums, flutes, McLaren's speaking voice and hugely affecting vocals from Debbie Cole and Betty Ann White. 

Madame Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo)

This version, a remix by Morales and Munzibai, stretches it out for ten minutes with a much toughened up rhythm-  industrial/ hip hop drums and foregrounded metallic, slap bass and whooshing noises. 

Madame Butterfly (On The Fly Mix)

Malcolm's death in 2010 brought some correction to his story and his role in punk but there's much more to Malcolm than just the Sex store, bondage trousers and Johnny Rotten, a tale we've all heard a thousand times anyway. Double Dutch and Madame Butterfly are both moments of madcap 80s brilliance made by someone who had a hundred ideas a day and the wherewithal to follow them through. 


Echorich said...

I was way more impressed with Fans than Duck Rock. I certainly get Duck Rock’s importance, but there is a fascinating artistic gesture in Fans that I really appreciate. I would also rate Paris and The Ghosts of Oxford Street releases. He also beat Madonna to the Voguing finish line with Deep In Vogue in 1989.

londonlee said...

Paul Gorman’s recent biography of him is supposed to be very good. Haven’t got to it myself yet

Khayem said...

I posted a reply via my phone, which is either lost in cyberspace or awaiting moderation. Either way, great post, Adam and I'm 100% with your selections and Echorich's additional choices. I was a kid when Buffalo Girls came out so I had no idea who Malcolm McLaren was, or his connection to the Sex Pistols, but I was really attracted to all of the featured singles. An honourable mention for another favourite of mine, featuring the Bootzilla Orchestra, the brilliantly titled Something's Jumping In My Shirt.

Swiss Adam said...

Oh yes, Something's Jumping In My Shirt is great.