Saturday, 29 October 2016

Malcolm McLaren's Duck Rock: In His Own Words

BBC Radio 6 Music broadcast: 23rd September 2016

As Don Letts choses Malcolm McLaren's Duck Rock as his "Crucial Vinyl" of the week, there's another chance to hear the impresario and former Sex Pistols manager telling the extraordinary story of its creation.

Malcolm McLaren's influential first album was released in 1983, and was a unique blend of hip-hop and ethnic music. It did much to introduce hip-hop, world music and sampling technology to the UK.

Tired of managing groups, Malcolm felt the urge to become a performer himself. With producer Trevor Horn and engineer Gary Langan he then embarked on a bizarre, adventure-packed tour of the world recording with local musicians and collecting material.

First stop was New York, where he recorded with Cubans and Dominicans and stumbled on rappers and DJs the World's Famous Supreme Team, as well as all-girl skipping troupes. Next were the mountains around Kingsport, Tennessee, where he met hillbilly square dance band The Hilltoppers. Later McLaren and his team travelled to Africa and spent time in Soweto and Kwazulu land, recording with local musicians and singers.

"It was just like Livingstone and Stanley - out in the wilderness recording this mad stuff, with no hope of re-couping money or understanding what has this got to do with Top of the Pops?"

Somehow on their return to the UK, with the help of new sampling technology, Trevor Horn was able to combine all these elements into the hit single Buffalo Gals. This was the first that many in the UK had heard of hip-hop and the rich mix of music and fashion was a revelation.

The album followed in 1983 and seemed to inspire many, including Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Paul Simon. The sampling and piratical mix-and-match techniques pioneered on Duck Rock continue to influence music to this day.

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