A non-interview
with
Malcolm Mclaren

BY SANDY ROBERTSON


Sounds. June 18, 1977.


I visited tbe office of Glitterbest (Sex Pistols management) recently, accompanied by Tony D. (editor of Ripped & Torn fanzine) to try and arrange an interview with the band for SOUNDS (an English rock weekly).

They've been reluctant to talk to anyone recently, although with the release of the legendary 'God Save The Queen' single and a forthcoming elpee ("Another Load of Bollocks From The Sex Pistols") their record company, Virgin, has been anxious to get them to do interviews. They've been especially pissed off wlth SOUNDS, though, 'cause the printers of the paper wouldn't print their ad without censoring It by removlng the Queen's picture.

I took Tony with me 'cause Glitterbest sometimes write to him, and I thought we might be looked on more sympathetically than more established writers. At the time of writing we stlll don't know whether we'll be Interviewing them or not.

This is an account of the talk we had with Malcolm McLaren, the Pistols manager, who is almost regarded as one of the group, and who gets almost as much press coverage as Johnny Rotton himself. Ex-Pistol Glen Matlock said being in the band was like being in the Monkees, but I personally can't help admiring the way McLaren pursues his megalomaniac vision with such devotion. The manager/bullshitter has always been an important facet of rock 'n 'roll (see Kim Fowley), and Malcolm is a fine example of this continuing tradition. I like him, y'know? Now read on ........

(Knock on Door...)enter ...

Tony: (inaudible) . . . interview with the Pistols?

Malcolm: Well, when? Not at the moment cause they're off to France. We're just gonna do a coupla promotional things cause we got a record being released there, ah yesterday.

Sandy: The thing is, you know how you haven't been ......

Malcolm: Yeah, where are ya from?

Sandy: Well, he does Ripped & Torn and I do a fanzine but the .....

MM: He does who?

S: Ripped & Torn, and I do a fanzine. The thing is, I do the occasional thing for SOUNDS, but you don't seem to want to talk to all those big guys down there . . .

MM: SOUNDS? Whose SOUNDS? Oh SOUNDS!

S: Yeah, you know them ! ! !

MM: Those arseholes, those bastards, you know, yeah ..... (talks business with someone else in room) ... yeah sorry ....

S: Thing is, you haven't been talking to the big papers recently, so I thought it might be a change ... the thing would be in Sounds .....

MM: Yeah, what do we wanna do it for anyway?

S: Well, you've got an album coming out.

MM: That's true, but . . . we don't want to say anymore, we tend to end up repeating ourselves. Unless there's a definite situation to talk about, like what happened at A&M and EMI, but we hate giving interviews for the purpose of giving interviews, there isn't any point, it gets a bit pointless, you end up losing not gaining cause you don't have anything to say. We don't want to talk about ourselves; if we talk about ourselves then its only a star conscious interview it's not about something, a fact. We don't like doing interviews about ourselves.

S: They have the album coming out . . .

MM: They HAVE the album coming out, the thing is, that's just an album, records. You don't wanna talk about your records, you wanna talk about something else.

S: Well like you say, the thing with A&M, EMI ...

MM: Yeah, well as I say, that's been done . . . if a situation comes up, or something arises . . . at the moment, this week, God Save The Queen, Jubilee obviously, so there's something to talk about, an issue. It's their first record out for awhile, jubilee period, whatcha doin', ya gonna play again, all this crap . . that's something.

S: So you completely want to avoid that syndrome of just doing interviews ....

MM: YEAH! Unless there's something to talk about, to me it's purely copy for newspapers and it sells newspapers, doesn't really help the band, it only gets them entangled in a trip which is totally star-concious orientated . . . doesn't really do anything for em ....

S:Doesn't not doing them make them seem a bit exclusive .....

MM: Not really, speak to anybody, but not on an interview basis. We just happened to do one this week with Allan Jones, not because we particularly love Allan Jones, because he's another journalist, right? Just that Virgin records drove us so crazy to do a blinkin interview with this fuckin' bloke Allan Jones that in the end, alright, we do one interview, we'll do one with this bloke Allan Jones. We turned down all the other things, the Dadomo bullshit, Tony Parsons .....

Tony: Why did you pick Melody Maker?

MM: WELL WE DIDN'T! It was random, arbitrary, it wasn't like, out of choice. He was the guy there, Virgin drove us crazy, Allan Jones says the greatest band in the world is Sex Pistols .... we don't wanna do twenty, we wanna do ONE if we do any . . . he was there, Virgin pushed that one, cause they kind of, I dunno, relate perhaps more to Melody Maker in terms of the way they do their business more than the other newspapers, I don't know the reason .... all I know is: we do the one, and we did the one.

S: Virgin records don't usually get panned by them?

MM: I dunno, wha . . . yeah, something, yeah, anyway . . . we did that one and there didn't seem any point in doing anybody else's . . . we'd certainly do something for Ripped & Torn, but I don't know whether we couold do it for Sounds really, see what I mean?

S: Well I know they messed around with yer ad .... MM: Yer, drivin' us fuckin' barmy . . .

S: That was the printer, I think . . .

MM:Yes, I know,....I dunno what they do, don't understand where they're at, don't understand their editorial policy .... a very mixed up paper ... dunno whether they're fuckin' comin' or goin', really, to be honest ... with Melody Maker you know its a straight business down the road paper . . .

Tony: It's a terrible paper . . .

MM: It is and it isn't . . . it's straight down the line, a business paper doesn't make any pretensions to be anything else, in fact. It's the establishment rock journal that covers folk 'n' rock'n' roll . . .

Tony: It doesn't do anybody much good . . .

MM: Well . . . it doesn't do anybody bad, and to be quite honest, world wide it holds much more authority than any other English rock journal . . .

S: It's the oldest, established one.

MM: It's the oldest, it's the one that covers international . . . the one you can find in shops in Australia 2 weeks later, the one you can find in Los Angeles 2 weeks later, you can't get NME or Sounds. In that way it's good, if you can get your ideas across.

Tony: That's the only way it's good . . . it's just so bad I just can't read it . . .

MM: Cause of the format 'n' everything? Yeah, they're not very good writers . . .

Tony: (inaudible) . . . Caroline Coon even, that would've helped it . . .

MM: Well, I'll tell you, they were the first people to really do a big number on this scene. Caroline Coon was the first person to get the front page and get an article inside. Dunno if you remember that, last year?

S: They cut her stuff around a lot.

MM: Yes, they do.

Tony: They've always got a new wave thing on the front, and nuthin' inside, it's just a rip off of the scene . . .

MM: (Laughs). I don't like kow-towing to music journalists, press . . . cause I feel that it's not papers that're read by ten year olds . . . it's not something that in the end . . . it only benefits a very minor section, believe me; it's only a certain type of persons who buys rock Journals; A lot of kids who go out on the street and buy records never read rock journals, that's a fact, tell you that 60% of the records sold in this country, that portion of the public have never HEARD of New Musical Express. And outta that 60%, at least 30% are young kids. So you got yer 30% there who just hear of something on the radio and say, 'That sounds good' or they saw it on Top of the Pops (a TV show) or Saturday Scene, or they saw their mate up the road looking strange with a record in his hand, so in order to be the second kid on the block, he goes and gets it. And THAT'S how most records are sold and its a fallacy to believe that they're sold in any other way, complete. . .

Tony: Apart from the new wave. . .

MM: AND THE WORST THING ABOUT THE NEW WAVE, I'll tell you now, is that the fuckin' music press generally will kill it, and are killing it a bit, simply because theyre O.D.'ing on pushing all the bands into a corner, rather than allowing them to spread out like that (makes spreading motion with hands) they're going in like that (opposite motion), and what's happening is a couple are ending up down here (indicates end of box shape) and there's a load up here can't get in . . . instead of going dowm that way they should be spreading out that way (spreading motion) . . . the rock press.

What I'm saying is they expose who these people are . . . Stranglers had cornflakes for breaktast . . . it doesnt make a kid interested in the Stranglers . . . don't mean anything . . . an' you have to be ever so careful, I believe that, I, my inspiration for working with any young band, an' I've only worked with this one cause that's enough for me, is if a 13 year old kid goes out and buys the record . Thats what I think is great.

I don't care if some university social secretary phones me up and says he played 'Anarchy in the U.K.' at his disco on Friday night . . . that don't mean nuthin' . . . 13 year old kid who lives in the middle of Hampstead Garden suburb in a 50,000 house walks out and buys 'Anarchy' then that's doing something, and if a kid, y'know, in the midst of Blackpool slums goes out and buys 'Anarchy' thats great .... and those are the kids ... (inaudible)...l don't allow 'em to play universities for that same reason, there's no point, you just got a buncha curiosity seekers, a few intellectuals.

What you want is playing the Gaumont in Blackpool at 6 in the evening for every 13 year old kid for 75p, y'know, and finish the concerts at 9 so even an 11 year old may be able to get in, too. An' that's great, and that's the way you're gonna open the scene and get it outside of the rock press to get to those real youn~ kids who don't give 2 wanks what Charles Shaar Murray says, or Jo Jo Kent . . .

Sandy: In that way, altho' it seems crummier, the old style of NME was better, like when it was just a fact sheet? Just told you what records were out, didn't express much opinion.

MM: I think it's very good to be factual. If you really wanna know what people read in all those music journals, the first thing they read and what they don't read, the consensus of opinion is the only thing they really read, first of all, is reviews. They don't read anything else.

Then they'll look, thru, and if a bit of content in the editorialal features pages interests them, an act that they like, they might read it. But everybody scans thru the reviews, that is the most vital thing and they look at the charts and they look maybe a little bit on the tour news. But they look at the news side and the reviews. They DON'T look at features. It's not a thing that they read. Only a few people.

You go to any record company: they couldn't TELL you what was inside those newspapers. They have them on their desk, but they just look in the charts, see if their ad got in that week, look at the review of the single on their label...

Sandy: They must scan them in some form ... they reprint stuff in their press kits.

MM: Oh THEY DO ! YEAH! BUT IT DOESNT SELL RECORDS! The industry is not that interested in it, it's a proven factor . . . what sells records is plays on the radio . . . what sells records is if you were on TV last week, singin it. Because you're livin in a generation brought up on radio and TV . . .

Tony: Its the next best thing.

MM: Its a dying medium . . . for a lot of young kids . . . in America it's much more extreme . . . we have 3 national weeklies . . . in America they only have monthly rock journals . . . reason being they can't sell 'em weekly, an look at the size of their country. Because the kids can't buy em...they literally don't have any effect: Creem, Rock Scene, Hit Parader, Circus, Raves, Rolling Stone don't have any effect.

Out of all of em, the one that has most effect is, believe it or not, Rolling Stone. That is the most powerful rock journal, that's the one people treat seriously. What they say, they treat with respect.

S: The Masses?

MM: No, the industry, the rock industry. The people who're really buying the records, they just listen to what's on the radio. And what's on the radio's what sells records. The Ramones dont sell records, they're not on the radio. It doesnt matter if they've got a 6-page spread in Creem with a front cover or . . . it don't mean anything.

Tony: It means something, but it doesn't mean as much.

MM: Yeah, it sells a few records to a few hardcore fans in the major cities, the hipper section. The 14-15 year old listens to his AM or FM, and what he hears is what he makes his value judgements on, not on what he reads.

Sandy: Do you think that the reason the Ramones are in the singles charts this week is because they've been played on Capital Radio?

MM: NO QUESTION ABOUT ITI Absolutely. And the only reason the Stranglers are number 4 is not because it was a great record, cause it wasn't a great record, but because it waaas played TO FUCK on Capital and other radio stations. That's why it sold. And it also sold because it was the least offensive and the closest to soft rock, gentle, y'know like the hippy rock, closest to their predecessors.

Tony: How d'you explain the Clash's success, then ?

MM: I think the Clash sold records cause they were around and an album came out when there wasn't anything else coming out . . it come out at a very good time, cause every one was talkin about punk rock in the national papers . . . it was TV news, it was radio news, everybody was talkin about it and they were set up . . . here's this band, they've got an album out, it sold.

It hasn't sold fantastic sales, believe me, the record sales in this country .... well, they're abysmal. They're so down, to get a number 1 today is nowhere near as difficult as getting a number 1 same time last year. You dont have to sell half as many records . . . you have to sell less than half of what they sold last year at number 1.

The bands are following into the channels of the music press when they should be forgetting all that and getting to 14 year old kids, fucking going crazy with radio ads, and the record companies should be spending huge fortunes, not on taking out back pages in Melody Maker, but puttin' out TV advertising, cause that's gonna get to 14 year old kids.

Bay City Rollers sold thousands and thousands of records; who is replacing them? What are those kids buying now? They're buying a bit of Sailor, they may be even buying Abba, they'll be buying some other thing that's top 5 . . . it's those kids that count . . . those are the kids you wanna change .... you don't wanna play to university students....

Sandy: It's fragmented at the moment....

MM: I think the Damned tried to (inaudible) but they didn't really happen. . .

Sandy: Would you rather mention the Pistols that they didn't always say 'new wave', just talked about them as a band?

MM: I think we're going for Punk Rock. I prefer the name. Everybody hated it but I think it's better, I think it's not so serious, in one sense, and I think it annoys people more and I think that's (inaudible). . .

S: Would you like them to refer to them JUST as a Band? .....

MM: I think that's too late, I think we are punk rock, cause people don't talk about us being new wave anyway, we're like the lunatic fringe, right? We're the guys who, you know, a bit Robin Hoodish, a bit . . . we're the con men, or we're hated or we're loathed or we cop out .... that's ok I think, cause that's what makes it exciting.

Tony: You're talking at cross purposes here . . . you're saying 'If you say 'punk rock'. it shocks people. But what shocks people doesn't get played on the radio . . .

MM: Oh RIGHT! Well I think they should play records that are shocking on the radio . . .

Tony: The fact is they don't.

MM: Well, to be honest, we had 'God Save The Queen' played two days ago on the Roger Scott programme, which is a 3 o'clock show in the afternoon for hapless housewives. I couldnt believe it. I didn't know it was gonna be played. It was played, so that was great.

Sandy: Isn't it a catch 22 thing, where you want the kids to hear it on the radio so they'll like it, but then you want them to phone up so it'll GET ON THE RADIO.

MM: Well, they either phone up to get it on the radio, or if it's on the radio in the first place, well that's great, but I don't think it wil be, like yer friend says ... you've somehow got to play to those kids ... if they don't want you ... if they dont like the music . . . well, then you're fucked anyway . . basically, you'll carry on playing to the few people who do. . .

I think the only reason for doin' it is to get those teenage kids really excited about something, instead of being handed the normal fodder from the industry, with bands that have little content or value. I think the only reason for being is to incite those kids to create more adventure in their lives and give them confidence to say what they think, that's the only reason for rock 'n' roll anyway.

Tony: That's the reason, but you've got to have some ideas to get through, and you're the manager of the Sex Pistols after all . . . its 5 months into 1977 . . you got to have some kinda concrete plan to at least. . .

MM: Well, the only concrete plan that's gonna happen, actually, is what I'm working on at the moment is, TV and film. That has the potential of being seen by a lot of people who normally wouldn't (inaudible).

We can't play in this country properly except for a couple of crummy universities, so I think its better to have a film out. If you can have a film and it goes round the circuits and young kids say oh lets bung in the back and see the Sex Pistols', cause they wouldn't be goin' to Southampton university but they can maybe afford 75p to go to their local . . . if they see it there, then they're seeing it in a very good context.

Sophie (the secretary): Do you want to pick Steve up on the way to Chrysalis ?

MM: Yeah, I'll come along.

Sophie: (to phone) HE'll come and pick Steve up at 4 o' clock.

MM: The only good thing about a manager is that he gets a clear idea of what's really happening. What I find with the band is that, ah ....

SID VICIOUS (BASSIST) ENTERS. . .

MM: Ahh! Vish! How are ya!

Sid: I feel really a lot better.

Sophie: While you're here. . .

Sid: By the way (inaudible) hasnt got that stack, I dont think its in the studio, cause I went there last night.

MM: He's hiring it for you to try out, isnt he?

Sid: Where is it then?

Sophie: He's got it somewhere, I'll ring him.

MM: Did ya get a single, Siddy?

Sophie: Has John been in?

Sid: Yer I got . . . Paul said that John's got flu (Johnny Rotten).

MM: Well he's out liggin' till till the middle of the mornin', innee?

Sid: I wish I could fuckin' go out sometimes.

Sid: yer. . .

Sophie: The ads there on the back of NME, havent seen MM.

MM: Melody Maker, its not in till next week.

Sid: (looking at picture of Pistols in a rock weekly . . NME) Aint that a good picture?

MM: That's one from that A&M thing.

Sid: (looks at picture of Heartbreakers Walter Lure) Old crater face!

Sandy: Walter's 23rd birthday, it said the other week . . . !

Sid: Yeh, he's about 50 that geezer, they're all really ancient (much laughter). John looks really mean there, dunnee?

MM: (TO SID) Didja see the thing by Lester Bangs . . . ? Thats gotta be the funniest write up I ever read! . . .

MM: Sa . . . oh I've seen an article in SOUNDS by you ....

S: A thing about the Boys. . .

MM: 'Bout the Boys, right....

Tony: Used to write for me, but I sacked him.

S: I do a fanzine about Patti. . . WHITE STUFF. . .

MM: Oh ! Is that yours ? White Stuff! ?

S: I'm supposedly doing stuff for this American fanzine, NEWORDER, based in Florida.

MM: Oh yeah! I know it, think I've seen a copy.

S: They got l issue out, another one soon. Its like rich kids (HA HA I hear ya say!) professionally printed, like Back Door Man.

MM: So watcha gonna do then? How ya living then, in London?

S: Oh, unemployment benefit. . .

MM: Great! Well you can stick up some posters for us if you want to make some money. Do you fancy doin that?

S: Sure. yeah.

MM: So give us a call later on. . .

Tony: Today? Tomorrow?

MM: Yeh, no tomorrow we're in Paris, and Friday .... Monday.

Tony: OK

MM: There should be a good thing on jubilee, y'know, maybe we hope to get a good party thing going.

S: If we do this thing, is it definitely not for SOUNDS?

MM: Well MAYBE! You see, if you can think of a good angle, y'know, a special fuckin' angle ...

S: You'll havta get in some more trouble ...


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On to the Jubilee boat trip report.