Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock (1983)


The fact that McLaren didn't have much to do with this work isn't often debated.  He blatantly stole from musicians of South African, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, as well as New York's World's Famous Supreme Team, Afrikaa Bambaata and the emerging hip-hop genre.  In the time-honored rock music tradition, McLaren wanted to take the work of others, do something only slightly derivative with it, call it his own, and make a huge profit.  As Robert Christgau writes: "Culture may be collective, but (in this culture) wealth ain't."  On this album, McLaren's entrepreneurial genius is evident in two ways: 1) it was his idea to combine all these sounds into a new dance music, and 2) he hired Trevor Horn to do the combining.

But it's very easy to ignore McLaren altogether and just enjoy what Trevor Horn has given us here.  And he's given us alot to enjoy - I think it's a fun listen from top-to-bottom.  For all intents and purposes, this is the first Art of Noise album.  The story goes that the first AoN album was recorded alongside Duck Rock and I have no idea of that's true, but it's an easy story to believe. Bonus points for utilizing the talents of Thomas Dolby and Keith Haring.

If you want more on McLaren (and can find a copy), pick up the book The Wicked Ways of Malcolm McLaren by Craig Bromberg (1989). As you can guess by the title, it's incredibly slanted against McLaren and his "ruthless methods," but helps you understand what was going on at the time.  I'm not a big fan of McLaren's unethical business practices, but he sure did give us a lot of good music during my favorite decade.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks:  The first time I heard this album, the DJ patter from the World's Famous guys bothered me, but now I kinda like it in a flashback/historical way.   Buffalo Gals was the lead single, but not a hit in the US, charting only on the dance chart at #33.  I've always liked that one, but these days I prefer the more AoN-type tracks, Obatala and Legba. Because of the similar South African "influences" (read: source material), some of the songs sound like something from Graceland, including Double Dutch, Punk It Up, and Jive My Baby.  The final track, Duck For The Oyster, is easily skippable, but it's harmless fun and since you've come this far, you might as well finish it off.  This could be the most disjunct concept album in history and somehow it works.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:

2 comments:

  1. Mark, enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this one. Here are mine if you are interested: http://mcmaenza.blogspot.com/2011/04/malcolm-mclaren-duck-rock.html

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  2. This album opened the door to hip-hop to millions of pale faces three full years before the Beastie Boys tore the poor door off its hinges, making rap and hip-hop safe for Caucasians everywhere.

    It also predated the world music sampling movement of Enigma and Deep Forest so we have no one to blame except ourselves.

    Above all, Duck Rock stands as yet another testament to the mighty production prowess of Trevor Horn who miraculously managed to weave the many disparate sounds together as a seamless whole.

    HERC is of the notion that this album deserves the Super Duper Deluxe Special Edition treatment like the one below proposed by Mike D. over at The Second Disc:

    Disc 1: Original LP and some B-sides

    Obatala – 4:17
    Buffalo Girls – 4:22
    Double Dutch – 5:53
    El San Juanera– 1:56
    Merengue – 3:52
    Punk It Up – 4:11
    Legba – 4:03
    Jive My Baby – 5:35
    Song for Chango – 2:49
    Soweto – 3:53
    World’s Famous – 1:41
    Duck for the Oyster – 2:57
    Buffalo Girls (Trad Square) – 3:43 (7” B-side – Charisma MALC 1, 1982)
    Zulu’s on a Time Bomb – 3:23 (7” B-side – Charisma MALC 2, 1983)
    D’Ya Like Scratchin’ (with the Red River Valley Girls) – 5:25 (12” B-side – Charisma MALC 212, 1983)
    World’s Famous (Radio I.D.) – 3:20 (U.S. 7” A-side – Island 7-99790, 1983)

    Disc 2: Swamp Thing (Charisma CAS 1170 (U.K.)/Island 90481-1 (U.S.), 1985) and more remixes

    Swamp Thing – 6:17
    Duck Rock Cheer – 7:12
    Buffalo Love – 4:00
    Supresto –1:13
    B.1. Bikki – 3:42
    Eiffel Tower – 3:46
    Boom Boom Baby – 4:45
    Duck Rockers/Promises – 5:56
    Buffalo Girls (Split Stereo Scratch Version) – 3:30 (7” A-side – Charisma MALC 1, 1982)
    She’s Looking Like a Hobo – 3:35 (U.S. 12” promo A-side – Island DMD 374, 1982)
    Double Dutch (12” Version) – 8:21 (12” A-side – Charisma MALC 212)
    Hobo Scratch (12” Version) – 9:25 (U.S. 12” B-side – Island 0-96999, 1983)
    D’Ya Like Scratchin’ (Special Version) – 3:43 (U.S. 12” A-side – Island 90124-1, 1983)
    Would Ya Like More Scratchin’? (New York City Remix) (12” A-side – Charisma CLAM 1, 1984)

    Apparently, such an album was readied, given a catalog number and then shot down during the clearancing of the myriad samples. HERC would also add a few tracks from 1990's Round The Outside! Round The Outside!, the quasi-sequel to Duck Rock.

    Thirty years down the line and surprisingly none of the tracks from Duck Rock rank among the top 2 Malcom McLaren tracks in HERC's digital library:

    #2 is his 1984 opera/breakbeat fusion "Madam Butterfly"

    #1 is "Eiffel Tower" from 1984's No Small Affair soundtrack album which lays claim to the title of first song ever digitized from vinyl by HERC. The song was originaly done in a decidedly deifferent fashion by Bow Wow Wow as "Sexy Eiffel Tower". (It is also on the aforementioned Swamp Thing album from 1985.) Martin, you always mention albums and songs you listened to while getting ready for a night of clubbing back in the day - for HERC, this has always been that song.

    McLaren's sundry (alleged) crimes against specific artists and pop music in general will never be forgiven but somehow the resultant synthesized works (McLaren called them "customizations") help us forget somewhat.

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