Ah, Jubilee time. Fireworks, flags a-flutter, and BBC TV series about that other fond memory of 1977: punk. (That jubilee coincided with my seventeeth birthday: specific memories are hazy, but bunting, sausage rolls and pogo-dancing were involved.) Our old acquaintance – in the Auld Lang Syne rather than the sedan chair sense – Peter Cook has already made the connection, understandably given his own Punk Rock People Management micro-book (and series at HRZone). So excuse me a little while I wax briefly nostalgic about what all that stuff about Mohican haircuts, bondage trousers and ‘No Feelings’ was all about at the time. (And I’ll try not to wax poetic about doing so with a Melody Gardot CD and a book about gardening at my right elbow. Everything gets old – even, pace Andrew Marr, bloggers.)

As the BBC’s Punk Britannia series helps to explain to those younger than me, the ‘explosion’ of Punk had a longer fuse than casual observers might have noticed. As a musical phenomenon, it had rather long roots – including the American garage bands chronicled on the Nuggets CD series, the New York bar band scene earlier in the 1970s, and British mod bands of the 1960s. “Here’s three chords, now start a band” is not only a popular misquote, but a misquote of a fanzine published long after a long, long fuse had finally connected with the powder-keg. Whatever it might have been, it was no epicentre of musical originality: even the Sex Pistols played cover versions. Versions shorn of musical finesse and infused with a splenetic vigour that was a deliberate assault on ear-drums attuned to the prevailing musical forms of the time, but cover versions none the less. (Were I so minded, there’d be a very bad taste joke about extra-ordinary renditions to be had …)

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A line from a song, of course: The Sex Pistol’s “God Save The Queen”, still provocative all these years on. And a line written by John Lydon, although it was hard not to think of it watching the television coverage of the funeral of Malcolm McLaren, his former manager and the human catalyst that brought punk to the streets of London in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year. For most people, that’s probably McLaren’s legacy in a nutshell: ripped t-shirts, Her Majesty with unusual nasal jewellery on a poster, and all the other little visual icons of that summer that you can still, remarkably, buy on postcards in many parts of London. But even at just a level of fashion, he left a bigger mark: describe someone as ‘punky looking’, as most of us have a pretty clear visual picture of what you mean. Not a bad achievement for a man with one little shop at the wrong end of the King’s Road. But there was more to McLaren than that: for good and bad, there are plenty of reasons to spend a few minutes looking back at his life now that it has ended.

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