Malcolm Mclaren's Duck Rock - In His Own Words



Malcolm McLaren, the impresario, former Sex Pistols manager, haberdasher and designer who died one year ago, tells the extraordinary story of his 1983 album, Duck Rock.

McLaren's highly influential first album was a unique blend of hip-hop and ethnic music from America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

It contained the hit singles Buffalo Gals and Double Dutch and did much to introduce hip-hop, world music and sampling technology to the UK.

Over the course of two days in 2008, Malcolm gave an in-depth account of the making of the album to the BBC.

This interview can now be heard for the first time in this hour-long celebration of his groundbreaking album.

Tired of managing groups such as The New York Dolls, Bow Wow Wow and, most famously, the Sex Pistols, Malcolm felt the urge to become a performer himself: "I was never interested in being a nursemaid to a pop group and worrying about whether little Johnny, or little Billy or little Willie, is going to feel all right from one day to the next and it was clear that I would have felt fraudulent if I didn't attempt to do it for myself."

After the break-up of the Sex Pistols, and a court case in which he was vilified by the judge, Malcolm spent some time in self-imposed exile in Paris.

In the Beaubourg library, while researching music for possible use in erotic films, he discovered recordings of ethnic music including square dances and the Burundi drummers.

He was entranced.

On his return he was determined to seek out this exciting music for himself and quit as manager of Bow Wow Wow.

He felt that music and fashion needed to move on from the restrictive ideals of punk and the 4:4 beat.

Without having provided a demo or passing an audition, he signed as a performer to Charisma Records who engaged hotshot producer Trevor Horn to make the record.

McLaren, Horn and engineer Gary Langan (the latter two apparently believing that the whole idea was a Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle-style stunt and that no album would ever appear) then embarked on a bizarre and adventure-packed tour of the world recording with ethnic musicians and collecting source material.

First stop was New York, where they recorded with Cubans and Dominicans and Malcolm stumbled upon rappers and DJs The World's Famous Supreme Team, as well as all-girl skipping troupes including the Ebonettes.

Next were the mountains around Kingsport, Tennessee, where they met hillbilly Appalachian square dance band The Hilltoppers.

Later McLaren and his team travelled to Africa and spent time in Soweto and Kwazulu land recording with local musicians and singers.

"At one point Charisma never thought we'd be returning.

It was just like Livingstone and Stanley - out in the wilderness recording this mad stuff, with no hope of re-couping money or understanding what has this got to do with Top of the Pops?"

Somehow on their return to the UK, with the help of new sampling technology, they were able to combine all these elements into the hit single Buffalo Gals, which reached the UK top ten in December 1982.

This was the first that many in the UK had heard of hip-hop and the rich mix of extraordinary music and fashion was a revelation to many.

The album followed in 1983 and seemed to inspire many including Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Paul Simon.

More recently, Buffalo Gals featured in a mash-up with Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out.

And the sampling and piratical mix-and-match techniques pioneered on Duck Rock continue to influence music to this day.

Malcolm McLaren tells the extraordinary story of his 1983 album, Duck Rock.