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Eccentric McLaren 'a maverick national treasure'

By Simon Hooper, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren died of cancer on Thursday
  • Telegraph calls anti-establishment iconoclast a "great English eccentric"
  • Guardian says Sex Pistols could not have had same impact without McLaren
  • Pop music "needs entrepreneurs with McLaren's intelligence, wit, non-conformism"
RELATED TOPICS
  • The Sex Pistols
  • Punk Rock
  • Music

London, England (CNN) -- As the anti-establishment provocateur behind the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren once reveled in fueling outrage on the front pages of the British press.

Yet British newspapers were united Thursday in recognition of a man who had, according to the Times, "metamorphosed into something close to a maverick national treasure."

The Daily Telegraph called him a "great English eccentric" while even the Daily Mail, a newspaper which perhaps best represents the suburban conservatism which McLaren spent his life trying to antagonize, admitted that in his later years "it was easy to forget that McLaren was pop's ultimate iconoclast."

Westwood, Sex Pistols lead tributes to McLaren

Unlike other infamous music business impresarios, McLaren was motivated less by money than "by mischief, philosophy and style, by the egotistic belief that he could imprint his personal (and highly idiosyncratic) vision on the world through the agency of other people's talent," wrote Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph.

Without McLaren, most agreed, neither the Sex Pistols -- a band described by the Independent's Andy Gill as "a deliberately incompetent group wearing deliberately ugly clothes and singing deliberately offensive songs" -- nor the punk movement which they spawned would have become the "great folk devil of their era."

"Without McLaren's ideas, his art-school grounding in Situationism, without the clothes he and Vivienne Westwood designed for them, the Sex Pistols wouldn't have been the same band, nor would they have had the same impact. Neither party would ever admit it, but they needed each other," wrote pop critic Alexis Petridis in the Guardian.

But, Petridis conceded, McLaren's ability to stir up controversy for controversy's sake was not without his victims, calling the death of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious from a heroin overdose while on bail for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen the "greatest disaster of McLaren's career."

"McLaren knew exactly what buttons to press, but seemed to have no idea what to do once he'd pressed them: fatally so in the case of Sid Vicious, who was only too willing to play the monster role that McLaren wrote for him right up to a suitably grim conclusion."

McLaren's artistic career post-Sex Pistols saw him branch out as both a performer and a producer, although, wrote Gill in the Independent, in his final decade he had damaged his reputation by "falling prey to the blight of reality television."

"It seemed a rather inglorious conclusion to an otherwise colorful career," wrote Gill, "and his passing throws into even starker relief the drab, corporate nature of a pop industry in dire need of entrepreneurs with a little of McLaren's intelligence, wit and non-conformist spirit."