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The Look and Vivienne Westwood: A question of attribution

Oct 15th, 2014

//Vivienne Westwood quoted on p85 of her new book written with Ian Kelly and published by Picador this month. This is also spoken in Westwood’s accent by the actress Paula Wilcox in the audiobook which has been published here and in the US//

The Look-p22 copy

//Westwood’s former partner Malcolm McLaren said this to me during a 1999 interview. Subsequently I quoted him on page 22 of my book The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion, first published in 2001, second edition 2006//

Jenni Murray: You’ve said ‘clothes were politics long before fashion’. What did you mean by that?

Vivienne Westwood: I have no idea.

Jenni Murray: Was it something you said to Ian (Kelly) and now you’ve forgotten?

Vivienne Westwood: No…is that what it says in the book?

Jenni Murray: Yes

Vivienne Westwood: Well then, he might have got a misquote from somewhere.

Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, October 14, 2014


I respect Dame Vivienne Westwood’s achievements; she has been a significant figure in shaping our collective visual identity.

As someone who is driven to investigate and interpret visual culture, that is important to me. I dedicated a chapter and sections to Westwood’s contribution to fashion with and without Malcolm McLaren in the 2001 and 2006 editions of The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion.

But she is ill-served by the sloppy new book Vivienne Westwood, recently published by Picador and written by actor/author Ian Kelly.

This is not just because it is riddled with shameful inaccuracies and poor attention to detail: “Jimmy” Hendrix, Pete “Townsend”, Scott “Crowley” (Crolla), Eric “Emmerson”, Jeremy “Healey” (Healy); “the first Paris show, the Buffaloes collection in 1981” (Pirate was the first show in 1981); “McLaren was just 56 when he died” (he was 64); “on November 6 1976 Vivienne attended the first concert by the Sex Pistols” (performed precisely a year earlier); the Soho gay bar frequented by punks was “Louisa’s” (correct spelling: Louise’s); Quentin Crisp was living at NYC’s Chelsea Hotel when she and McLaren stayed there in August 1973 (Crisp first visited in 1978 and lived there from 1980); etc.

The book contains several outright claims without base. As we know, John Lydon has picked up on the notion floated that Westwood came up with the concept and the title of the Sex Pistols’ clarion call Anarchy In The UK, while there is a suggestion that she named The Who back in 1964, and even that her first husband managed that group. Sections of the book insinuate that such Sex and Seditionaries designs as Cowboys, Cambridge Rapist, Smoking Boy, Destroy, Cash From Chaos and You’re Gonna Wake Up were solely created by Westwood (I imagine The Clash manager Bernie Rhodes – who came up with YGWU but is not mentioned – will have something to say about that).

Then there is the fact that the book credits to the Vivienne Westwood Collection many images which belong to others, such as the exterior shots of 430 King’s Road taken by Bob Gruen (p137) and Sukita Matayoshi (p122), portraits of VW and others by Alain Dister (p167), David Dagley/Rex Features (p159) and David Parkinson (pp115, 142); the architectural sketch for Worlds End by David Connor (p238); the Worlds End catwalk photography by Robyn Beeche (pp37, 254); etc.

Meantime, as reported in British fortnightly Private Eye, the book presents a serious libel by maligning a former employee of Westwood’s on the basis that he is dead. Apparently he is not, and nor is the married individual asserted to have been his boyfriend.

VW-p161 copy

//McLaren’s words from his introduction to The Look are compacted into an indirect quote attributed to Westwood herself on p161 of Vivienne Westwood//

The Look - MM intro copy

//The original text from McLaren’s introduction, p10, The Look//

My objection, and one which I am pursuing, is that the author helped himself freely to content from The Look, which is on reading lists for University Of The Arts London fashion courses (I am currently preparing the third edition).

In a couple of instances, astonishingly, words written and spoken by McLaren for that book are attributed in direct and indirect quotes to Westwood. There are eight passages alone from McLaren’s introduction to The Look.

VW-p133 copy

//Introductory quote for Chapter 6 of Westwood’s book is – by coincidence? – based on the same quote I used to introduce my book in 2006//

The Look - intro quote 1 copy

//The introductory quote I selected in the 2006 edition of The Look, beneath the dedication to my late brother David//

These and many other excerpts – close to 40 I warrant – bear too close a resemblance to text in The Look to let pass.

My book is credited with 10 references in the chapter ‘Notes’ section at the back of the book. Of these:

• 2 are not my work and not in The Look;

• 6 are given the wrong page numbers in The Look – if the reader were to look them up they would arrive at entirely different subject matters or, in a couple of cases, full-page illustrations of fashion businesses which have nothing to do with Westwood;

• 1 (the quote on p85 at the top of this post) is negated by the attribution to Westwood in the text. The impression given that these are words uttered by Westwood to Kelly – as opposed to the truth of the matter, which is that McLaren uttered them to me in the bar of the London School Of Economics during his London mayoral campaign of the early 00s (I have all my notes in my archive) -  is reinforced by the fact that it, along with all the other passages based on my material, is voiced in Westwood’s accent by actress Paula Wilcox in the audiobook published in the UK and US.

It is troubling that this leaves just 1 correct attribution out of the 10 which name me and the other 29 which do not. Yet even this sole example is problematic: confusingly, this note references the second edition of The Look  – the substantially different first edition is cited in the Vivienne Westwood bibliography.


//From p87 of Vivienne Westwood: Condensed version of quote I obtained during a 2000 interview with the late Tommy Roberts and featured in The Look. Judging by the tense used, the authors and publisher appear unaware that Roberts died in 2012//

The Look - Tommy copy

//Roberts’ quote as it originally appeared on p24 of The Look//

I am also named among those whose work has been helpful to Kelly. No kidding. Such acknowledgment I am advised does not justify the substantial (and the legal definition relies on qualitative rather than quantitative factors) borrowing.

VW-p84 copy

/P84, Vivienne Westwood. “Used to reminisce” is introduce to disguise the fact this was taken from The Look//

The Look - Dury copy

//From p20, The Look. I am advised that lifting third-party quotes is not a defence in itself, since my inclusion would have reflected the knowledge and understanding I applied in the first place//

As Private Eye reports, I’m not pleased. Nobody likes to have the product of their skill and labour appropriated, apparently quite casually. Another reason is professional. Like the kid with the pin and the inflatable cricket team, Kelly has let the side down.

I have published memoirs with such outspoken characters as Boy George and Goldie. They, and Westwood, are entitled to say what they want, particularly during the process of building books; it is the author’s job to protect them by steering and refining the material all the while ensuring the story remains a) well-told and b) free from potential claims of libel, plagiarisation, etc.

In not doing so, this author has seriously undermined the verity of the entire enterprise.

Of course, the publisher takes the primary role in all this, and I would hope that Picador – part of the worldwide Macmillan Group – asks of itself the relevant questions about how, to use one media lawyer’s professional opinion of the Westwood book, such “a dog’s breakfast” has been allowed to hit the shelves.

Whatever, the fact is that this opportunity to present a cracking tale of a fascinating individual (as delivered in Jane Mulvagh’s 1999 Westwood biography An Unfashionable Life) has been scuppered by several factors, including an over-reliance on “misquotes from somewhere”.

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‘The most radical designer of objects and furniture in the latter 20th century and early 21st century”: Jim Walrod on Gaetano Pesce in Bad Day #18

Oct 13th, 2014

pesce1The current issue of arts and culture magazine Bad Day is enlivened by an engaging interview with the eminent designer and architect Gaetano Pesce by one of his most vocal champions, design authority Jim Walrod.

Augmented by Jeremy Liebman’s photographs, the feature makes a strong case for Pesce’s significance. “He’s the most punk rock person I’ve ever met,” writes Walrod of the 74-year-old.

pesce2 pesce3


pesce4 pesce6

Issue 18 of Bad Day has sold out but visit the magazine’s excellent website for further elucidation.

Liebman’s website is here; Pesce’s is here.

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Curating: McLaren’s 1987 painting I Will Be So Bad one of the highlights of Art In Pop’s packed vernissage

Oct 11th, 2014

P1150850 10727782_552391041560176_1972300924_n 10691766_1483474925246002_1181559104_nThere was quite a crowd at last night’s vernissage to launch Art In Pop, the exhibition at Magasin – Grenoble’s Centre National d’Art Contemporain.

This features exhibits by  those working at the cross-hatches of popular music and artistic practice, including John Armleder, Alix Lambert, John Miller, Genesis Breyer P. Orridge, Mayo Thompson, Don Van Vliet, Alan Vega and of course Malcolm McLaren.

10693667_1553133341586150_1512152951_n 10724811_704156149670329_444922368_n 10724869_382701838546693_1619413910_n

One of the high points of curating the room dedicated to McLaren was publicly presenting for the first time his 1987 work I Will Be So Bad, one of a series he entitled the “Punishment Paintings”.

Visitors came from all over France for the preview, and told us they enjoyed the detailing of McLaren’s cross-disciplinary approach and collaborations across design, fashion, film, music and videos.

And I was tickled to receive this “souvenir” from the brilliant team who built the exhibition, lead by Eric Pourcel, featuring Richard acting punk:


Art In Pop is curated by Magasin’s Yves Aupetitallot with John Armleder, Young Kim of the Malcolm McLaren Estate, John Miller and I,  and runs from Oct 11 to January 4, 2015 at Le Magasin, Site Bouchayer-Viallet, 8 esplanade Andry Farcy, 38028 Grenoble.

Details here.


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Photography books: Punk Rockers! by Alain Dister

Oct 9th, 2014

//Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Paris, November 1973. (c) Alain Dister//

A photograph of Vivienne Westwood – credited to the fashion designer’s archive in the new Westwood book with Ian Kelly – put me in mind of an image I have in one of my many books in storage.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on the particular tome. Then bingo! Bought eight years ago on publication, the France-only publication Punk Rockers! is a compendium of the photography of the late Alain Dister from the early 70s to the mid-00s.


//Johnny Thunders, David JoHansen, Sylvain Sylvain, Paris, November 1973. (c) Alain Dister//


//Left: Westwood and McLaren. Right: Seditionaries frontage 1978. (c) Alain Dister//


//Book jacket photo of unidentified female punk rocker taken in Seattle, 1996. (c) Alain Dister//

Among the photographs Dister discusses in the brief foreword is one of Westwood with Malcolm McLaren when they journeyed to Paris to witness a gig by the New York Dolls at the Olympia Theatre in November 1973. This is clearly one of a sequence taken by Dister and featured in Westwood’s book.

As Dister writes, McLaren was “habillé en Teddy Boy années 50″. In photographs taken at the French capital’s Belle Epoque brasserie La Coupole – where we were happily ensconced with the Dolls’ confrère Marc Zermati only last year – the American proto-punk group is shown in all their glory, with guitarist Sylvain Sylvain resplendent in a zippered wool/mohair Let It Rock creation.


//London 1978. (c) Alain Dister//


//Fans at Sex Pistols reunion concert, Finsbury Park, north London, 1996. (c) Alain Dister//


//Left: Berlin 1998. Right: Seattle, 1996//


//Left: Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, 2002. Right: Sheena, Tokyo 2002//

Punk Rockers! is a valuable document; Dister cast his unstinting eye as punk mutated from London and New York in the 70s to blossom in such cities as Berlin in the 80s, Seattle in the 90s and Tokyo in the 00s.

Former Melody Maker journalist Chris Charlesworth provides a fascinating snapshot of the Dolls at their debauched peak in Paris here.

Buy copies of Punk Rockers! here.

Dister died in 2008; here is his website.

Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly is reviewed here.

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Malcolm McLaren’s 1969 Goldsmith’s paintings go on show for the first time

Oct 7th, 2014

//Berries – 8 Yellowy Green Female Forms, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Mixed media,
5 x 4’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

“I started out in art school as a painter. I studied there for eight years and most of my education was based around the visual arts. I learnt all my politics and understanding of the world through the history of art.”

Malcolm McLaren speaking on British arts documentary series the South Bank Show, 1983


//I Will Be So Bad, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Oil on canvas, 15 x 12”. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

Among the exhibits at Let It Rock, the Malcolm McLaren room at this autumn’s group exhibition Art In Pop at Magasin in Grenoble, are never-previously exhibited photographs of the late cultural iconoclast’s paintings taken by his teacher Barry Martin during McLaren’s student days in the 60s.

These are discussed in this extract from the exhibition introduction:

In the summer of 1969, at the end of his first year of the fine art course at London’s Goldsmith’s School Of Art, the 23-year-old student Malcolm Edwards showed 10 or so gestural paintings, mainly oils on canvas with some integrating text statements and others used as the basis for mixed media experimentation incorporating chicken wire, hammered wood planks and, in one case, an inverted paper envelope against depictions of leaf forms.


//Map Of British Isles With Yellow Star And Hole, Malcolm McLaren, 1969.
Oil on canvas, 7 x 4’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

During a 90-minute critical review by his teacher Barry Martin, Edwards (soon to revert to his birth-name of McLaren) declared his rejection of the limitations imposed by traditional art forms, in particular painting.

McLaren subsequently destroyed all but one of the works. In a symbolic statement the exception, the largest canvas – the 7ft tall Map Of British Isles With Yellow Star And Hole, into which he had already kicked a sizeable hole – was left to rot in the summer rain in the yard at the back of the college. Eventually it was torn apart and taken away by the dustbin-men.


//The Intangible Manipulation Of Minds, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Mixed media, 4’6″ x 4’6”. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

McLaren dedicated his remaining two years at Goldsmith’s to organization of events and film-making, one about his hero, the early British rock’n’roller Billy Fury merged into an unfinished commentary on consumerism centred on the history of London’s main commercial thoroughfare, Oxford Street.

In doing so McLaren was inserting himself into the lineage back to Duchamp which included such figures as the Dutch Situationist Asgar Jorn, who had proclaimed “Painting is dead” in 1958, and in particular Andy Warhol, who explained his sponsorship of The Velvet Underground in 1967 by saying: “Since I don’t really believe in painting anymore we have a chance to combine music and art.”


//Leaves, Nature And Cuts, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Mixed media, 4 x 3’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

McLaren later described his decision to open the boutique Let It Rock in London’s King’s Road on exiting the art school system in 1971 as “jumping into the musical end of painting”; here McLaren blazed the trail dictated by his formidable art education by creating new artworks as fashion pieces out of the juxtaposition of found objects.


//Words Trapped In Brick Compartments With Prostrate Figures, Malcolm McLaren 1969. Oil on canvas, 5 x 4’. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//


//14 Pink Figures On Moving Sea Of Green, Malcolm McLaren, 1969. Oil on canvas, 12 x 15”. Photo (c) Barry Martin/Malcolm McLaren Estate//

Thanks to Barry Martin for his insights and assistance in putting together the Malcolm McLaren segment of Art In Pop. Martin continues to practice as an artist and sculptor; this is his website.

Art In Pop, which opens on Saturday, is curated by Magasin’s Yves Aupetitallot with John Armleder, Young Kim of the Malcolm McLaren Estate, John Miller and I. The exhibition runs until January 4, 2015 at Le Magasin, Site Bouchayer-Viallet, 8 Esplanade Andry Farcy, 38028 Grenoble.

Details here.



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I Will Be So Bad: Malcolm McLaren in one of France’s leading contemporary art spaces

Sep 29th, 2014
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//With a couple of vitrines awaiting exhibits, the wall space on the left of this photo has been dedicated to one of McLaren’s so-called “Punishment Paintings” from the 1980s, titled I Will Be So Bad//

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//A wall vitrine constructed between two pillars displays original clothing from each of the six manifestations of the retail outlets McLaren operated with Vivienne Westwood at 430 King’s Road and 5 St Christopher’s Place in London//

As demonstrated by these photographs taken today by Eric Pourcel, head of production at Magasin, France’s Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, the Malcolm McLaren room at group show Art In Pop is really coming together ahead of next week’s opening.

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//Next to a recreation of the Let It Rock sign at 430 King’s Road  from 1972 we have positioned this tall box vitrine with five examples of the Let It Rock ties loaned by Adam & The Ants guitarist and songwriter Marco Pirroni//

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//The projection area is being set up to show a selection of films relating to McLaren’s work in fashion and music through the 70s, 80s and 90s//

Art In Pop is curated by Magasin’s Yves Aupetitallot with John Armleder, Young Kim of the Malcolm McLaren Estate, John Miller and I,  and runs from Oct 11 to January 4, 2015 at Le Magasin, Site Bouchayer-Viallet, 8 esplanade Andry Farcy, 38028 Grenoble.

Details here.

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Art In Pop installation underway: Malcolm McLaren lines up with Captain Beefheart, Daniel Johnston et al

Sep 25th, 2014

//Recreation of facades McLaren commissioned and created for the early 70s iterations of the boutique at 430 King’s Road: Let It Rock (1971-72) and Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die (1972-74)//

The installation of the ambitious new group exhibition Art In Pop is underway at France’s Centre National d’Art Contemporain, the Magasin gallery in Grenoble.


//Paintings by the late Don Van Vliet being readied for hanging//


//Giant recreation of Daniel Johnston’s artwork for his 1983 cassette-only release Hi, How Are You//

Malcolm McLaren’s visual works, from student paintings through his experiments in fashion design, boutique environments, music and film to the installations of his final years, will be shown alongside art by such musicians as Don Van Vliet and Daniel Johnston and musical investigations by such artists as John Armleder, Alix Lambert and John Miller.

Art In Pop opens on October 11 and runs until January 4 next year.

Details here.

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Let It Rock: Malcolm McLaren at Art In Pop – work begins on building the show

Sep 19th, 2014
magasin- WallPaintings

//Positioning the 430 shop logos in the Malcolm McLaren room at Art In Pop. Photo: Magasin head of production Eric Pourcel//


‘Black is the most exciting colour’ (Goya). Black when used in different ways appears the most infinite and mysterious, the most spatial and loose.
Malcolm McLaren, essay for course at Croydon Art School, 1967

It’s exciting. Work is underway on building the Art In Pop group exhibition which opens next month at Le Magasin, France’s National Centre for Contemporary Art in Grenoble.


//McLaren’s first logo at 430 King’s Road was featured on the side of a 12m installation at Let It Rock at CIFF this summer. Foreground image of McLaren in Central Park, spring 1975, by Bob Gruen. Photo: Jean Francois Carly/Malcolm McLaren Estate//


//The Too Fast To Live shop frontage in this 60 x 40″ blow-up at CIFF//

Featuring artworks by musicians such as Don Van Vliet and Daniel Johnstone as well as musical ventures by artists including John Armleder and John Miller, Art In Pop incorporates the sizeable space dedicated to Let It Rock, the show exploring the work of the late Malcolm McLaren.

This will focus on McLaren’s investigations into the visual arts from the 60s to his death in 2010 along with the engagements with commercial media such as fashion, film and music for which he is best known.

In line with Let It Rock’s manifestation at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair this summer, the pink-on-black Let It Rock sign will be recreated, this time at the entrance to the Malcolm McLaren room.

For Art In Pop the sign is being matched by a giant reproduction of the shop logo which followed Let It Rock at 430 King’s Road: Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die.

The dominant use of black behind these logos riffs on McLaren’s repeated use of the colour in his work and should make for an impactful introduction to the show, which will feature hundreds of exhibits from throughout the cultural iconoclast’s artistic life.

Digital StillCamera

//Founded in 1986, Le Magasin – Centre National d’Art Contemporain is housed in an industrial hall built for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair by the workshops of Gustave Eiffel//

Art In Pop – which is curated by Magasin’s Yves Aupetitallot with John Armleder, Young Kim of the Malcolm McLaren Estate, John Miller and I – runs from Oct 11 to January 4, 2015 at Le Magasin, 8 esplanade Andry Farcy, 38028 Grenoble.

More info here.

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Zippo Records: 13th Floor Elevators mural, Cope’s Droolian LP, MC5′s motherfuckers tee + The Conqueroo Dog

Sep 18th, 2014
Scan 1

//13th Floor Elevators mural inside Zippo Records, Clapham Park, south-west London, mid-80s, courtesy Pete Flanagan//

Pete Flanagan, owner of the long-gone Zippo Records in Clapham, south London, has sent me this photograph of the shop interior.


//Front cover, Droolian, Julian Cope, Zippo/Mofoco, 1989//

It sums up everything that was wonderful about this unique space, where Pete established a hub for like-minded souls. With staff including Edwin Pouncey (aka Savage Pencil), Pete also released otherwise hard-to-find records via his own independent imprints. These included Heartland, 5 Hours Back and MoFoCo for Julian Cope’s towering LP Droolian.


//Droolian’s back cover//

zippo label

//Zippo’s distinctive price label (this from The Many Faces Of Gale Garnett, an obscure 1965 release on RCA)//

I bought a lot of music and also an example of every one of the short-run t-shirts Zippo sold, including my favourite, this MC5 number (other owners, and there can’t be many because they were printed in very limited numbers, include Bobby Gillespie).


As a local I was a Zippo regular with our Battersea hound Tom. Pete christened him “The Conqueroo Dog” after the four-legged friend on the cover of his reissue of the Austin band’s 1968 release From The Vulcan Gas Company.


//Front cover, From The Vulcan Gas Company, The Conqueroo, 1968/reissued 1987 on 5 Hours Back//

When Zippo closed I bought a whole load of stock and had a few happy years trading in vinyl as a sideline, until my back gave out.

Pete’s still at it, running Soho Music which is now on eBay – see here.

I bumped into Edwin P a couple of years back; he was in the company of another great person who was also a former Zippo staffer. Can’t for the life of me recall his name but hopefully he’ll see this and get in touch.

See what Savage Pencil is up to here.

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Henry Hate curating Amy Winehouse show

Sep 18th, 2014

henryOur pal Henry Hate is London’s tattooist of choice.

Henry’s also a prolific visual artist, and his interests combine in his curation of the forthcoming charity exhibition When I Walk In Your Shoes, which opens at Notting Hill’s Westbank Gallery on Monday.

The subject of the group show is Henry’s late friend and customer Amy Winehouse. Named after a line from her song Help Yourself, When I Walk In Your Shoes runs from September 26 – 30 at 133-137 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RS.

More details here.

Find out more about Henry ‘s Prick Tattoo here.



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