Friday in Music | You've Got To Get Your Groove | Steve Gold
A year ago today, the punk rock impresario and former Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren passed away. The anniversary of his death got me thinking about my own musical odyssey, and his influence on my path.
Los Angeles in the mid 80's was the epicenter of an exploding live music scene. My girlfriend at the time was always out at clubs meeting fascinating people. After a night of dancing she mentioned that she had met a very interesting man, and during their conversation she told him that her boyfriend was in a band. Before the night was over he gave her a torn piece of paper with his name and phone number scribbled on it. He said, "tell your boyfriend to call me."
I couldn't believe my eyes when I read his name on the paper. I had seen Malcolm McLaren the year before opening for the Clash. He was an innovator, and introduced scratching vinyl to the world. He had recently put out an album entitled, Fans, which fused opera and techno pop. I immediately called my music partner, Curtis Mathewson and told him about this wild card. Curtis was just as surprised as I was. Then I called Malcolm. He asked me about what kind of music I was into. I told him that I had been in a band for a few years with a friend, and we had 8 hours of original songs. Those were recorded on cassettes and quarter inch tape. We wrote mostly guitar and synth based electronic music. We loved The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order and anything British. At the end of our phone conversation, he invited Curtis and I to meet him for lunch in LA.
The following week Curtis and I drove to the Beverly Hotel in his mother's new forest green Jaguar. We felt like rock stars. We met Malcolm in the lobby and awkwardly introduced ourselves to this larger than life creative. He was wearing a white sport coat, a buttoned dress shirt, loose fitting yellow knickers that gathered at the knee, and blue suede shoes we called creepers. We asked if he was staying in the hotel and he casually replied, "No, I was just visiting Madonna. She performed a concert last night." We got in Curtis' car and turned on the cassette player. Curtis and I had selected our best tracks to play while we drove to The Border Grill on Melrose. I'll never forget this. While we rode together listening, Malcolm was speechless. What was even more unnerving was that while we were rolling up to the curb Malcolm opened the door and began to step out of the car while it was still in motion. Young, insecure and vulnerable, we assumed he hated our sound.
After lunch he invited us to his house at the top of the Hollywood hills to listen to music, and talk of possibilities. When we arrived he introduced us to his girlfriend, super model Lauren Hutton. I was only 19, and it was difficult to not stare at her. She flashed a smile and I was captive to her famous gap between her two front teeth. She said to Malcolm, "I'll be upstairs when you're finished with your friends." We all sat down in the living room where there was a turntable, a receiver and a cassette player. Malcolm handed me a cassette and speaking with his thick British accent said, "you've got to get your groove boy." What I didn't realize at the time of this meeting was that I was receiving an initiation into a kind of club, or band that I could never leave. Until that fateful moment my musical influences were mostly British bands from the 70's and 80's. The only other musical roots I had acquired were from listening to Beatles and Elvis 45's as a toddler. Before he started the cassette, Malcolm said one more thing that I have never forgotten either. Looking me in the eye intensely he said, "only steal from the best." For the next sixty minutes we listened to recordings by great American RnB and blues artists such as Robert Johnson, Son House, Jessie Hill, Link Wray, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and others.
When the music stopped Malcolm showed me the silver ring he wore on his middle finger. It was six sided, and each side had a symbol engraved in it. The symbol that caught my eye as he pushed the ring closer to my face was a pentagram. He then mentioned that this ring had been a gift from Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page. Jimmy had purchased it from the estate of occultist, Aleister Crowley. Needless to say, I was beginning to think I'd gone down to the crossroads and was about to sign a deal with the devil! Truly though, I never felt threatened by the Godfather of punk rock. He was mischievous but never evil.
After that meeting, Curtis and I began working with Malcolm for the next two years at CBS. We spent many hours recording songs while Malcolm groomed us to be a band of surf punks for a film project that he was working on. The film never materialized. The songs did though, and they were included in the first pro surfing video entitled, Wave Warriors (1985). As for the cassette, I still have it. The label is faded and the tape is worn thin. The songs and the grooves have become my roots and they're evident in my music today.
I am releasing my second full length CD Let Your Heart Be Known on 7.1.11. This album is a revelation into my past, and combines the blues, world, folk and mantra. I was never consciously thinking of Malcolm's innovative approach to fusing diverse styles when I set out to create this. But somehow, I can't help but feel like I've stolen from the best.
Thank you Malcolm.
Enjoy some samples from the cassette that Malcolm gave me: