Joseph Corre remembers his late father, Malcolm McLaren: 'I'm immensely proud to have known him'
Image Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images; Camera Press/RetnaThe end came quickly for Malcolm McLaren. The punk-rock mastermind (pictured above, right) was diagnosed with mesothelioma late last October. This past Monday, his family flew in to be by his side in Switzerland, where he was being treated: McLaren’s son, fashion mogul Joseph Corré (pictured, left); Corré’s half-brother, photographer Ben Westwood, whom McLaren helped raise; and McLaren’s longtime girlfriend Young Kim. By yesterday, McLaren was gone at age 64.
Joseph Corré was kind enough to grant an interview today while he waited in a Milan airport for a flight back to London. “It comes in fits and starts,” Corré said when I asked how he was holding up. “I’m all right at the moment. It was very good to go [to Switzerland] and to see him. I think he really appreciated it. I certainly did.” The family is still deciding on plans for a memorial service. “We’ve got to see what to do about that,” Corré said. “My brother Ben had an idea that we should get another boat down the Thames, like he did the Silver Jubilee with the Sex Pistols, and do something on that. But I don’t know if it’s going to go to that extent or whether we’ll do something more personal. There’s a lot of people who want to say goodbye. So we’re going to try to organize an opportunity for them to be able to do that.”
Read on after the jump for the Music Mix Q&A with Joseph Corré about his late father.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like being with your father this week? Was he lucid?
JOSEPH CORRÉ: He came in and out of consciousness. The problem was that he had a very rare kind of cancer. It was very aggressive. It’s the same thing that Steve McQueen died of, actually. They don’t really know how to cure it. It doesn’t respond to standard treatments like chemotherapy, mostly because of where it is, on the outside lung lining. He went to a lot of specialists in the last month or two. He only very recently discovered he had it. I think he went to New York and found it very unhelpful there, went to France and to London, and ended up choosing an alternative kind of therapy in Switzerland, where they were really concentrating on his diet and special kinds of medication. It was actually quite effective for him. He was there around Christmastime. He responded very well. He then took some time out and went and checked out some other advice from other specialists, and came back to the conclusion that he was going to go back to Switzerland and continue therapy there. He got back to Switzerland just over a week ago and took a pretty dramatic turn for the worst, and was admitted to a local hospital there.
Was he able to continue with his work at all since being diagnosed?
I don’t really know. He had a few things that he was working on, I think, but he really spent the last few months thinking about how to deal with this situation. He spent some time, as I said, having this therapy. It worked for him. But as I said, it’s a very rare cancer. Not many people get it. And it’s very, very hard to treat…I mean, I think he was at peace with himself in the end. It was quite fast, and very sad. And he led an amazing life, and really did change the world. He’s the original punk rocker. He’s also like an old warrior. A lot of people have got a lot of stories to tell about him. Kind of a living legend in his own time. Some of the things people say or have said about him have not been very kind. But I think if people are honest with themselves, they would say that their lives would have not been the same without him. He really did some incredible work and brought a lot of color into the world. That’s what he believed in. I’m immensely proud to have known him and for him to have been part of my life. It was funny. Even towards the end, he did become quite lucid at certain stages. The last thing he said was — my brother was with me, and he was wearing this “Free Leonard Peltier” T-shirt. The last thing he said was, “Yeah, right, free Leonard Peltier.” You should print that and get Obama to free that guy, ’cause it’s ridiculous that this guy is still in prison after all this time.
When your father said “Yeah, right,” he was agreeing with the message on the shirt?
Yeah, absolutely. He was like, “Yeah, that’s right. You’ve got to stand up and make a point about something.” And that was very like him. You know, I think he liked to be considered as an artist. I don’t know that that’s what I would say about him. A lot of people want to be artists or say they’re artists these days. To me, to be honest with you, it’s kind of taken the shine off the word for me. I don’t know really what an artist is these days. But he was a very, very clever, very special man. He did some really special things, had some really brilliant ideas and followed them through. I think he’ll be sorely missed. I saw a nice quotation from Johnny Rotten. They’ve had quite a difficult relationship, let’s put it at that, for a long time. Certainly estranged. But he said a very nice thing I saw in the paper. It said, “I’ll miss him and so should everybody else.” I think that was really good.
You must have had a front-row seat when the Sex Pistols happened. What are your memories like of those days, growing up as your father’s son?
It was just an incredibly exciting time for me. I was a total soldier recruit. I was completely 100,000 percent into it. I was interested in the music, all the clothes, the attitude and really felt that I was part of something great. It was a strange time, as well. At certain points, we were public enemy number one. People really hated you. You have to remember, at that time, everyone looked really square, man. Everyone looked really straight. You walk around like a punk rocker, I mean, today it’s kind of normal, but then people thought you were from outer space. And they hated you for it. There were times when we were growing up, Ben and I, probably after the Pistols were on the Grundy show. It was National Front, which is like the Nazi Party, came outside our house, started smashing our windows and everything. We had to hide. [We got] death threats and all kinds of stuff. It was very exciting, and a lot of special people around. It was a shame in the end that so many people got into drugs and stuff. It kind of tore the art out of it, really. There was a particular thing that happened when some of those American bands came over to the U.K. and brought heroin with them. It was a bad move.
Do you have a favorite piece of music that your father was involved with?
I thought about that the other day. He had requested to be buried in Highgate Cemetery, which is a beautiful old cemetery in London. That’s where we’re going to take him. It was the cemetery that features in [The Great] Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, when he sang “You Need Hands,” the cover of Max Bygraves. Malcolm covered that, and he did a great cover version. So I thought we’d maybe play that, and then definitely Sid [Vicious]’s version of “My Way.” I think that’s a really fitting track to play for him. But then again, it’s really hard. I mean, God, he did so much. That Duck Rock album was brilliant. The Fans album was great. I don’t know. There’s so much to choose from.
Have you spoken to any of the other musicians your father worked with?
I spoke to [Sex Pistols guitarist] Steve Jones the other night. I called him and we had a good little cry on the phone. It was nice to speak to him. One of the things with Malcolm [is], when you do some of the things he did, and you create that kind of scene and that kind of resolution in people, along the way some people get a bit hurt and they get a bit bruised. They all have their own problems to deal with. And later in life, it’s like an army. Some of the generals and soldiers and corporals, they get a little bit bitter with each other. They remember a few things. But I think when something like this happens, that all goes out the window. It kind of puts everything in perspective. What I’m really finding and seeing is that people really — in the end, when they look in their heart — they really loved him. They really, really cared about him and they thought he was really great. I’m not sure that the old boss of EMI Records might feel the same way [laughs], or A&M or any of those other music industry people that he terrorized. But I think generally people have got a special place for him in their heart. Like I said before, he really stood up for something. And he made it look good, and he made it fun and made it interesting.
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