Bizarrely, the only time I met former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who died today, was outside the train station in the provincial Buckinghamshire town where I lived. I was a young reporter on ye olde Bucks Examiner when one Monday in September, my dad, who had an architectural practice on the corner of Station Road, Chesham across from the station, called me and, knowing I was punk music fan, said: “You might be interested in this – there’s a bunch of very strange people and film cameras outside the station.”
I raced across town to discover McLaren and entourage finishing a day’s shoot on what would become The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. By the time I got there, band members Steve Jones and Paul Cook had left but I did get to talk to McLaren, resplendent in red wig, woolly stockings and red boots. “It’s my new drag suit, darling. Do you like it?” he told me as he climbed into a battered old Hillman ready for a car chase scene through the local villages.
The film, he said, would be “the truth” about the band. Er, so why, I asked him, are you filming it in Chesham where even weekend punks were a rare sight? “It’s just a nice location near an airport,” he explained. At this stage in the Pistols’ saga, lead singer Johnny Rotten had fallen out with McLaren and he stared at me and walked off when I asked if and Rotten were talking. “There will always be a Sex Pistols,” he said, dismissing rumours that the band was about to implode.
Being a small local paper, of course, there wasn’t a photographer around when I needed one and in those days before ubiquitous camera phones, I have no visual record of the historic encounter, just this faded cutting.
Not everyone was impressed by the brush with movie stardom. “The Sex Pistols?”, the station manager told me. “Never heard of them.”