“He was a lovable rogue. Except he wasn’t that lovable”

Malcolm McLaren was one of rock’s more controversial characters. Partially responsible for the outpouring of anger and rage, wrapped up in a carapace of pure capitalism that was The Sex Pistols, he then went on to manage Adam And The Ants and Bow Wow Wow (with whom he behaved exceedingly dodgily, a fact which seems to have escaped most obituary writers). From then, he released the extraordinary “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch”, followed by “Madame Butterfly”. After that, he became famous more for his outspoken views than his influence on music, whereas before they’d been about evens.


The phrase “never one to shy away from controversy” was surely invented for him. His influence on modern music was undeniable; depending on who you listen to, he either invented punk singlehandedly or collected likeminded people to him, wound them up and set them loose; either way, without him, punk surely wouldn’t have had such a massive impact, or reached as many people. You only have to hear any Mancunian musician who attended the Sex Pistols show at the Free Trade Hall in 1976 to understand how history was made that night. He had something of a reputation as being hugely difficult, as well as being hugely amusing. Whatever he was, he certainly wasn’t boring. He died on Thursday, aged 64. I can only imagine what arguments he’s stirring up in heaven right now1.

Charlie Gillett was, like Malcolm McLaren, hugely outspoken, and in his own way, probably even more influential, though he was a much more likeable fellow. He helped the careers of everyone from Dire Straits to Ian Dury, Youssou N’Dour to Mariza. He is credited with inventing the term “world music”, and during his 40-plus year career wrote ground-breaking books, hosted many ground-breaking radio shows, and compiled and released ten superb world music compilations. Although he had to retire from broadcasting in 2006 due to illness, he continued to work and help countless musicians to be heard by a wider audience. Like John Peel before him, he was solely motivated by a passionate desire to spread the word of the music that he loved. He will be sadly missed.

Charlie Gillett (by Steve Double)

So here’s two tracks, one dedicated to each. The first needs no introduction, the second comes from one of Charlie Gillett’s “World” compilation CD’s – “World 2002” in this case. The song is by a band I’d never heard of before2, Mostar Sevdah Reunion, and makes me laugh at its cascading horns and strings every time I hear it; it sounds like a mariachi band having a punch-up in a souk. Which, given that they hail from one of the most ethnically diverse places on earth, is not exactly a shock. Wonderful stuff, and I urge you listen to it, and then go out and buy some of the compilations. They will enthrall and amaze, and leave you saddened at the loss of the man who did so much to bring such great music to a wider audience.

MP3: God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols

MP3: Pena by Mostar Sevdah Reunion

Amazon’s Malcolm McLaren Store

Buy “World 2002” (CD)

1 Ok, so I’m an atheist.

2 As you’d expect…

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