A B-Gal’s Open Valentine to Malcolm McLaren (January 22, 1946 – April 8, 2010)

2013/02/13

This Buffalo Gal will always remember your genius.  Without you, we Americans under age 45 wouldn’t know jack about British punk. You put punk’s edginess in rap/club music, and for that I’m so grateful. Recently I played my “Hey DJ” twelve-inch single so repeatedly that I nearly wore down the needle.  I couldn’t have known on that exhilarating weekend that you were so close to your transition.

We never would have crossed paths.  In my youth, I lived in a predominantly Black suburban community far from New York City’s urban core.  But in my district, as in the more densely populated  areas of the city, rap music increasingly became the music of choice — as well as a coded medium for freedom of expression — for many Black and Latino teens.

In those days, there weren’t many places where I didn’t hear “Buffalo Gals” — from summer block parties and house parties to inner-city roller discos and disco bowling alleys.  Your McLarenettes, not the Miss Americas of the past, were my American idols.  “Buffalo Gals” was pure sonic brilliance (“all that scratchin’ is makin’ me itch,” indeed).  I loved the studio-warped voices and thick synth beat loops.  I remember all of us would know whenever the song was starting because your primal scream would summon us to round up our rumps to the dance-floor-of-the-moment:  “Eeeeeeee-lelelelelele-eeeeeeee /HOLLLAAAAAA!!!”

Through your immense but underrated contribution to rap/club music,  I learned who you were and where you were:  at the fuckin’ top of the world of punk.

For those of you readers who are teens or twentysomethings now, please do your booties justice and check out “Eiffel Tower,” the best cut on the superb No Small Affair soundtrack.  Or, if you can’t find the cassette, wait out the credits at the end of the movie — or hunt down McLaren’s Swamp Thing CD. Then try to sit still as you listen to the feisty McLarenette rapping with love as if the phallic monument were her valentine bursting red-hot outta steel:  “I feel sexy/ Sexy Eiffel Tower/ You make me feel so tall, Eiffel / Hour after hour!”

The way homegirl goes “huh-huh!” is exhilarating! Although her tough-sounding interjection sorta mimicked (in an imitation-is-flattery kinda way) what New York City Black male rappers were doing in the first era of dueling MCs, when Kurtis Blow was a fuckin’ hip hop deity as Prince was to funk-pop and as George Clinton at the helm of Parliament Funkadelic was (Emperor) to pure funk, it (the “huh-huh!” on “Eiffel Tower”) also was the B-Gal response to George Michael’s testosterone-soaked, double-entendre of pumping-iron sounds (HUH!) in counterpoint to his own ad-libs on the fade-out of “I Want Your Sex.” I’m making this comparison now, in hindsight, so it doesn’t matter whose song — McLaren’s or G.M.’s — was released first.

And Malcolm, I would’ve never known about names such as Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, of the Sex Pistols, without first having been exposed to your spaced-out funky compositions. “Buffalo Gals” was a breathtaking detour — and escape — for a once-sheltered, though far from pampered, adolescent.  Among the youths, who needed drugs when one could dance and electric-boogaloo away the angst and sorrow?  Thumping beats like those in “Buffalo Gals” held the power to shock life back into a nihilistic existence when The Breakfast Club soundtrack couldn’t deliver an enduring dose of kinetic relief.

You waved your magic wand in the fashion world, too.  I would’ve never stuck safety pins in strange places and frosted my hair pink (the first of many colors) if it weren’t for the anti-attire that outfitted punk rock posturing.  It’s funny how these fashion statements (and let’s not forget the renaissance of the mohawk) are now so mainstream among teens and adults.  No doubt you envisioned that  happening … in your lifetime.

So glad you lived long enough to watch us — from all walks of life, and around the world — appreciate your legacy.  How ironic that today’s youth would compliment your amazing music, calling it “sick.”  I’ll be missing you like mad-crazy.

 
Lyrics near the end of “Buffalo Gals” (from the LP Back to Skool, Charisma Records Ltd., 1982), recorded by Malcolm McLaren & The World Famous Supreme Team:
 
   

” … Three Buffalo Gals

Three Buffalo Gals

Three-three-three-three

Three Buffalo Gals

Gals

Gals

Buffalo

Buffalo

Three-three-three-three-three

[Bridge]     Yo, girl

It’s a pity that you’re so dirty

You’re dancing just to be friendly

So pretty, you drive me loco

You’re so pretty, you make me blush so-o-o

Yeah, HAH, you’re a Buffalo Gal,

Yeah-ah-ah-heahhh

 It’s a pity that you’re so dirty

You’re dancing just to be friendly

So pretty, you drive me loco

So pretty, you make me blush so-o-o

(She’s looking like a hobo.)

 [Sonic scratching]

Harmony

Harmony

Harmony

[Sonic scratching]

 Harmony

 Three Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

‘Round the outside, ’round the outside (un-huh)

Two Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

‘Round the outside, ’round the outside (un-huh)

Three Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside (you know it)

Four Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

‘Round the outside, ’round the outside

Four Buffalo Boys goin’ ’round the outside

And do-si-do your PARTNERS! … “

This piece is dedicated to all those Buffalo Gals and Boys out there; it’s time to find a roller disco near you so you can do-si-do your partners.  It’s also dedicated, of course, to Malcolm McLaren, who’s probably jamming at a “sexy Eiffel Tower” in a hip galaxy where all high frequencies of his life’s music have eliminated the need for morphine drips to alleviate the pain.

First published on WordPress.com 2010-04-09

7 Responses to “A B-Gal’s Open Valentine to Malcolm McLaren (January 22, 1946 – April 8, 2010)”

  1. Gregory schwiesow Says:

    Since you’re a fan, please check out my new remix of “Eiffel Tower”.🙂

    https://soundcloud.com/gregory-groove/eiffel-tower-paris-by-way-of

  2. chantalereve Says:

    I am glad that my tribute to Malcolm touched you. Yes, his impact on all of music will last for posterity.

    Thank you for reading my blog.

  3. lazfreedman Says:

    I really love all of Malcolm’s music,
    What an amazing inspiration he was…still is
    He lives on…in us,
    Peace to you,
    Laz

    • chantalereve Says:

      I do appreciate your comment. It should open up dialogue as people converse about McLaren — the man and his music — all over the world.

      BTW, what you wrote about that “Klan” lyric, is there any way you misheard the word???

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