In early October of 2009, Malcolm McLaren was nearing death but didn’t know it yet. He showed up at the 2009 Handheld Learning conference feeling fatigued, but managed to deliver a provocative and heartfelt speech titled, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Txt Pistols,” in which he reflects on his life growing up in post-World War II England and expresses dismay over the rise of what he called “karaoke culture.”
“All popular culture today,” said McLaren, “goes to great lengths to promote the idea that it’s cool to be stupid.” He championed instead the “messy process of creativity” in which struggle, failure and the acquisition of skill and knowledge are valued above instant fame. You can watch the complete speech above. A few days after it was given, McLaren went into the hospital and learned that he had cancer. He died six months later, on April 8, 2010. The next day Handheld Learning founder Graham Brown-Martin wrote:
The talk from Malcolm at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 will, I believe, stand the test of time. The speech doesn’t elaborate about the period of the Sex Pistols, New York Dolls, Vivienne Westwood, his impact on design, fashion and music culture and many other important achievements of Malcolm’s life that will be reported in obituaries over the coming days. Instead and in keeping with the theme of the conference, Malcolm discusses in his inimitable style–his life, learning, authenticity vs karaoke culture and what we gain from the experience of failure. Ironically, failure was something Malcolm never achieved. The talk was anything but ordinary, it polarised our audience and instantly trended globally on Twitter but what else would you expect?