Duck RockMalcolm McLaren
1001 Albums Generator Day 8 Firstly, Keith Haring painted the pink background of the sleeve, and yesterday marked 32 years since he died. He was just 31. If you only have a few minutes to spare, don't read my waffle, go and look at some of his work instead. Duck Rock makes me think of Malcolm McLaren as a rock ‘n’ roll fan who was slightly too young for the first wave. It was the era before pirate stations, when radio meant The Light Programme, so it would have been big brother music. It wasn't until he was 18 that Radio Caroline and Radio London started up, and I can only imagine how exciting that was. Perhaps as a teenager he shared singles with friends, and went to pubs that turned a blind eye to hear local bands who’d got hold of an import no-one else had to cover in their set. By the time of the British Invasion, maybe there was a new confidence among British pop fans that they too could innovate and take the lead but, even for The Beatles, there was nowhere more fascinating than America. When Malcolm visited New York and saw first-hand that pop was being reborn he wouldn’t have wanted to miss out again. With the samples of the World’s Famous Supreme Team woven through the music, Duck Rock captures some of the excitement at the beginning of the rap era with the feel of a lovingly compiled mixtape. The blend of diverse traditions – funk, mbaqanga, toasting etc – unpicks some of the threads of the culture McLaren was exploring. The addition of merengue, square dance and his own fake American accent emphasises the sense of an outsider looking in, trying to take in the whole city at once, and understanding hip-hop as a folk-dance culture while trying out something that could easily have sounded as corny as H-E-double-hockey-sticks. The mix of a white country tradition with Black South African music reminds me of the blend of televangelists’ frenzy and west African funk on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, but with a less anthropological and more playful feel. Of course, McLaren was always a provocateur, and for him the appeal of piracy was in the romance of rebellion and the celebration of theft. Never being in an underdog role, that pretty much always led him to some degree of exploitation. His advocacy of home taping through Bow Wow Wow is defensible; his ideas about “noble savages,” treatment of Anabella Lwin and the abandoned Chicken magazine much less so. Duck Rock brings up some huge issues with ownership and authorship in the emerging “world music” market which were already present in folk and blues and continue to be discussed with regards to hip-hop today. There’s also the question of how much McLaren had to do with this record musically. Vocals aside, I imagine him as the forerunner to Paul Morley in the Art of Noise, suggesting the concept, sitting in the studio chatting excitedly with Trevor Horn about their favourite records and then letting him get on with it. For a record made by a super-producer team, it has the feel of something a friend made for you by hovering over the pause button, and perhaps that’s where McLaren earned the credit he is due.