n°97/ Malcolm McLaren's Breakthrough

December 2013


by Nathalie Azoulai


Everybody thinks that the Punk movement comes from England and everybody is mistaken. Let's get back to the real story. A band called The Ramones begins taking shape in early 1974 in the New York City borough of Queens.The songs they play are very fast and very shore, most clocked in at under two minutes. Does it ring you a bell? Okay let's move on. In 1975, American Punk fanzine describes the impact of their first performance in a Manhattan club: "They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song...and it was just this wall of noise.... They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new." The same year, British music impresario Malcolm McLaren comes to New York always in search of what could boost his music business, waiting desperately for his big breakthrough. He has this girlfriend of his, Vivienne Westwood, who with he opens a store on King's Road in London called SEX that sells fetishwear and provocative garments inspired by what McLaren saw in America. Together they decide to launch the British Punk. You probably know what will come out of this: the Mohawk haircut, the needles, the Sex Pistols, the whole punk stuff that fashion and design still deal with. If America can be good at founding countercultural movements, British eccentricity makes the difference.

 Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren