I’ve grown whiskers waiting for a DLX RM of the great “Duck Rock” album curated by the master trickster Malcolm McLaren and made with musicians who would soon become Trevor Horn’s ZTT Theam [Anne Dudley, Louis Jordan] as well as luminaries like Thomas Dolby. And over the years these whiskers have turned white, but this year, to mark the 40th anniversary of “Duck Rock,” the state 51 Conspiracy along with McLaren’s estate are finally releasing a package containing what Malcolm himself had curated for what would have been the 25th anniversary of the album in 2008…had it ultimately happened then. Two years later Malcolm was dead [just two months before PPM began publishing] and the notion was lost to the mists of time. Until now.
Given that the original materials as designed by Nick Egan and using Keith Haring artwork were lost to the four winds, original designer Egan painstakingly re-created the elements needed to reproduce the colorful artwork even including their fluorescent elements. Actually, Egan took the effort to goose certain elements that were less than ideal 40 years ago, owing to improved press technology, so it’s not a straight clone of what it was. I can say that the US Promo LP I had was in no way fluorescent, though it did have a unique version of the album with all of the songs banded out for radio play and lacking the World’s Famous Supreme Team segues that emulated their radio shows between each track. One can make the case that I’ve yet to truly experience this album as intended by the artists!
Meanwhile, I’ve developed a policy of buying any McLaren discs I see out in the wilds for the last 20+ years, with the goal of making my own BSOG of the “Duck Rock” adjacent material which tended to sprawl all over the place. Plus any other Malcolm mixes I could round up. The sad fact was that I have not have the LP itself since the Great Vinyl Purge of 1985! I naively imagined that the CD of “Duck Rock” would be an easy score sooner than later, but the fact of the matter was that to date I’ve never seen one. There’s allegedly a US CD from 1990 but that’s just hearsay. Given the horizon stretching Trevor Horn production that saw a wildly eclectic sprawl of music encompassing the disparate styles of Township Jive and Hip Hop [with Afro-Cuban Styles and Square Dancing jammed in there to boot] it was telling that at the start of 1984, Lenny Kaye himself famously said the following in the pages of Trouser Press.
Malcolm McLaren: Duck Rock DLX RM – UL – 2xLP 
- Buffalo Gals
- Double Dutch
- El San Juanera
- Punk It Up
- Jive My Baby
- Song For Chango
- World’s Famous
- Duck For The Oyster
- Roly Poly
- Hey DJ (World Famous Supreme Team) [7″ mix]
- Zulus On A Timebomb
- D’Ya Like Scratchin’
- Franz Buffalo
The album was a champ. Say what you will about cultural appropriation, and McLaren was neck deep on that score, but it took a vision to thread the needle of commonality through the sounds of so many different cultures. And the fact that he pilfered from Appalachian Hillbillies showed he was at least colorblind in his exploitation!
Actually, according to Trevor Horn’s recent autobio, they paid session fees to the musicians who played on the album comparable to what UK union members would have gotten, which in some of the regions in Africa [or even rural Appalachia∆] were comparatively enormous amounts of money. Famously one of the players on the titanic “Soweto” could now afford to get married and honeymoon [with their entire wedding party] at the tourist hotel that McLaren and Horn were also staying at. But yeah, the writing credits for the album also cite McLaren/Horn, or McLaren/Dudley for all of the tracks! So that knife cut two ways.
∆ – I’ve lived in Appalachia for the last 22 years and I still can’t spell it without looking it up… what’s wrong with me?
The second disc has six bonus tracks; three of them previously unreleased. “Zulu’s On A Timebomb” and “D’Ya Like Scratchin'” were the B-sides to “Soweto,” which is still on my want list. I have the latter on the “D’Ya Like Scratchin'” EP but still have yet to hear the former. The NYC DJs The Worlds Famous Supreme Team also made a single apart from McLaren, with Stephen Hague producing that was maybe the third Hip Hop video I ever saw on MTV, after “Buffalo Gals” and RUN-DMCs “The King Of Rock.”
Where things get interesting is with “Collaguas” and “Roly Poly.” Each are heretofore unknown tracks. Apparently, “Franz Buffalo” was a mashup between “Buffalo Gals” and Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out!” Yeah, okay. Whatever. But I would like to get my mitts on those first two tracks. If you want to get your mitts on this 2xLP it’s not cheap. £40.00 [$50.50] plus the cost of shipping from the UK. Let’s say close to $70. The street date for the reissue is May 27, 2023. Just 18 days away.
SuperDeluxeEdition have a good price in their store; £38.00 for the album and they give good service. I don’t know if its in the cards for me right now, but I should at least get that holy “Soweto” single on 12″ as I have “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch” already on the racks in the Record Cell. As much as I enjoy the latter two singles, there’s little that can best the awe-inspiring “Soweto.” Hey D.J…hit that button.
The World’s Famous Supreme Team made an entire LP apart from our Malc, “Rappin'”, Charisma CAS 1169, from which “Hey DJ” was the single. It’s one of the last Charisma releases. The Charisma LP was a bugger to get; I think it was this millennium when I finally got hold of one. For years all I had was an Island US cassette.
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N.B. From State51 Conspiracy’s site: An image of the Duck Rock manifesto (type written by Malcolm McLaren at the time of the 1983 release) is printed to one face and presages the page layout of a book accompanying a more elevated boxed edition due later in 2023.
Might be worth holding off pre-ordering this for now if you’ve been dreaming of something more special for this album. I’m torn as I think Duck Rock is a landmark album and would like to order this release, but might hold off to see what the boxed edition brings. But then I could end up being disappointed.
Andrew – I saw that on the state51 Conspiracy site. I believe that it is an insert along with the original liner note booklet for the album, though it’s hard to be certain right now, but it’s the 21st century. Plan for disappointment.
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Favorite line from this record. “All that scratching making me itch!” Great record. The shout outs during the radio segment reminds me of a local radio station where I grew up. WCIG in Marion, South Carolina!
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Mel Creighton – I remember the Smash Hits interview headline… “All That Scratching’s Making Him Rich!”
Too much of that Snow White!
A great record with “Double Dutch” being just the best thing ever.
But I’ll wait to see if it gets reissued when the hipsters finally go broke and start having to buy the far more sensibly-priced shiny CD format again. Assuming I live that long.
I was holding out for a deluxe cd, but this will have to do for now. (as much as I hate vinyl only reissues)
Maybe the fabled box set will have a cd. Who knows…
What’s really sad is that it’s taken this long for this or any reissue.
They could just take all of Malcolm’s recordings and put them in one big box…of cds.
elektrolad – Welcome to the comments! Like your handle…what are your powers? [Will he save the universe…or destroy it?] Sadly, it looks like I’ll have to make my own CDs of McLaren rarities. I really would have thought that the Trevor Horn/ZTT connections would have meant that this would have happened decades ago already. But even this was in limbo for 15 years!
My super power is making music no one listens to.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
I have earned 28¢ via various streaming services.
I really was hoping for an immersive set full of unused bits and other tracks like ‘First Couple Out’.
But maybe everything else was released on Swamp Thing (which still remains vinyl/cassette only)
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elektrolad – I remember seeing “Swamp Thing” in Crunchy Armadillo Records in 1985 and wondering what it was! It looked… suspicious and I’d not heard the first word about it so I passed at the time! 31 years later I saw another copy and didn’t hesitate!
Wow lucky me . I still have my Duck Rock LP, still sounds good, Duck for the oyster is good fun, that Hillbilly thing. Hillbilly version of Buffalo Gals on the 12″ I like as well. I have the cassette of this album as well and it still plays. So that’s £30 saved.
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“Roly Poly” was included in the Duck Rock VHS, I don’t know if it’s the same version though. On the VHS it’s an a capella song performed by the Mahotella Queens.
Alexi – Welcome to the comments! I have the “Duck Rock” ßeta and I didn’t remember that! Thanks for the tip.