Malcolm McLaren, and his grave in Highgate Cemetery, just 100 yards from that of Karl Marx
Published: 17 April, 2013
EXCLUSIVE by DAN CARRIER
HE was known as a ground-breaking fashionista and impresario who played a key role in shaping late 20th century British punk culture.
Now, in death as in life, Malcolm McLaren, the manager of the Sex Pistols, has created an eye-catching stir.
This is the first picture of a new headstone commemorating the life of the man who was one of the chief players in the invention of punk music.
It was installed this week in secrecy at his grave in Highgate Cemetery. McLaren’s grave – he died in 2010 aged 64 – can be found in the eastern cemetery site on the main path, 100 yards from the grave of Karl Marx.
The new monument, which replaces a temporary marker, includes a bronze death mask cast by Nick Reynolds, an acclaimed maker of casts of dead people’s faces, who also happens to be the son of Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds.
The shield on the gravestone, which bears his initials, is inspired by the 1980 film The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, made by former William Ellis pupil Julien Temple.
In the film, McLaren plays an embezzler and the shield is found above the door of his mansion he has bought with his ill-gotten gains. It became a personal logo.
The tombstone is cast in black granite and includes an epitaph reading “Better a spectacular failure, than a benign success.”
The cemetery’s chief executive Dr Ian Dungavell told the New Journal the memorial was a fitting addition to the famous Gothic masterpieces already in place.
He said: “We like to have monuments that are individual, that celebrate people, ones that are commissioned and are not off the peg. This is a really special monument and no other has a death mask like this.
“It is so much nicer than these terrible tacky things that you get out of catalogues.”
Dr Dungavell said that the Victorians, who put up many of the best known and striking monuments in the cemetery, were not afraid to celebrate a life with a unique headstone but the trend died out after the First World War.
He said: “With the many deaths of the Great War, it became harder to commemorate death in the same way. Now, we are rediscovering memorialisation.”
He added that the headstone would no doubt attract fans of the Sex Pistols and punk aficionados.
He said: “It will be interesting to see if it becomes a place of homage.”