April 22, 2010 / 3:26 PM / 9 years ago

London crowds say farewell to punk pioneer McLaren

LONDON (Reuters) - Hundreds of people lined the streets of north London Thursday to say farewell to punk pioneer and former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who died earlier this month of cancer aged 64.

The funeral cortege for Malcolm McLaren passes through Camden, in north London April 22, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

His horse-drawn coffin was painted with the words “too fast to live, too young to die,” and Sex Pistol Sid Vicious’ version of “My Way” blared from a green double decker bus which was part of the sun-kissed funeral cortege.

On the front of the bus was written “Nowhere,” and on the side “Cash From Chaos,” one of McLaren’s famous sayings.

The procession was heading for Highgate Cemetery where McLaren was to be buried in a private ceremony.

There he will be laid to rest with the likes of Douglas Adams, creator of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and Karl Marx.

Fashion designer and McLaren’s former partner Vivienne Westwood was among the mourners, sporting a headband with the word “chaos.” She was joined by Adam Ant and Bob Geldof.

Ben Westwood, whose mother Vivienne had a relationship and a child with McLaren, said the flamboyant music producer was far from the perfect father figure in his early childhood, while understanding that McLaren was only 19 at the time.

“When I was younger he got in between me and my mum and he didn’t want me around,” Westwood told Reuters.

But Westwood also had fond memories of a man he always looked up to as “one of the bravest people on the planet,” and with whom he reconciled in recent years.

“There was one time he wanted to speak to his grandmother privately and so he gave us some plastic bags and water and told us to throw water bombs on people coming in and out of the tube (metro) station.

“Someone came to the door to complain and Malcolm and Rose told them it must be raining and to get an umbrella.”


McLaren was best known as manager of the Sex Pistols, which propelled the 1970s punk revolution. Their anti-establishment single “God Save the Queen” stormed the charts at the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The next year, the band toured the United States but split acrimoniously with lead singer John Lydon, otherwise known as Johnny Rotten, blaming the erratic behavior of bass guitarist Vicious as well as McLaren’s mismanagement.

Westwood said some of the criticism leveled at McLaren had been unfair.

“He didn’t stop Johnny doing what Johnny wanted to do,” he said. “Johnny got a platform, and a bloody good one. Malcolm’s idea of the band was that he was not interested in making money or having fans. I think it was an art thing.”

In the 1980s, McLaren released his own albums, drawing on such influences as African music and hip-hop, and many fans believe his influence is still felt in pop music today.

“Right now, Lady Gaga can be a direct descendent in certain ways of Malcolm McLaren’s big flash style,” said one punk fan who identified himself as “Lunatic Essex.”

Ben Westwood was with McLaren when he died of mesothelioma in Switzerland on April 8. The impresario had kept his illness a secret from the public, and even those close to him were shocked at how quickly his health deteriorated in the last few weeks.

“He’s left us in the lurch like he did with a lot of people ... by dying,” Westwood said. “He’s left us to make up the second half of the story ourselves like he did with his bedtime stories.”

Additional reporting by Cindy Martin; Editing by Paul Casciato

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