Joe Corré, Son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, On Why He’s Burning His £5 Million Punk Collection

This week, Joe Corré, son of punk provocateurs Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood proved that rebellion runs in the family. In response to the ongoing Punk London year of events, gigs, films, talks, exhibits, celebrating 40 years of punk – which Joe claims has been endorsed by the Queen – has announced his plans to burn his £5 million collection of punk memorabilia this November 26, on the 40th anniversary of the release of the Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy In The UK’. NME visited Joe at his London HQ to find out more.

What about the Punk London events made you want to burn your own collection?
Joe: “I don’t know why 40 years is more important than 25 years or 50 years or 10 years. It’s just some arbitrary thing, backed by all of the establishment, basically. You’ve got a few old grey haired, spiky topped blokes pulling together various events with bands you’ve never heard of and pub walks. If that’s what it’s come to, it’s really sad, and it’s meaningless.

“People are more interested in the monetary value of these things that are going to get burnt, than what it is and what it means. It follows on in the tradition of the K Foundation – Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond from the KLF, who burned a million quid [in 1994] – and it’s a statement. It’s about saying these artefacts in themselves don’t have value. I’m burning a load of Seditionaries [the boutique run by McLaren and Westwood] clothes and stuff that’s actually my family heritage, but at the same time, what was great about punk rock was that you didn’t need any clothes – all you needed was a packet of safety pins.

“You talk to people about it these days and it’s almost like Antiques Roadshow. ‘I wish I kept those bondage trousers, they’d be worth a fortune now’. What’s that got to do with anything? That’s why I think it’s appropriate – to say punk rock is extinct. Otherwise, it’s all going to end up in some tourist shop, in a glass case, like the Hard Rock Café or something, and they’ll be selling ‘God Save The Queen’ mugs with a safety pin through her nose at Buckingham Palace. People don’t remember that in the 1970s people hated punk rockers – they were public enemy Number 1. When I was a little kid, grown men would spit in my face for dressing like a punk rocker – we had the National Front come ‘round and smash all our windows at home because we were against the establishment. You had to run the gauntlet every day.”

You’ve said that the Queen has given her blessing to the Punk London events?
“I understood that the British tourist board sanctions or discusses what their focus is going to be for each year – and the Royal Family are heavily involved in deciding what is going to be the official tourist attraction for the year. I’m not saying that the Queen personally gets involved in that, I don’t know if she does. When I say the Queen, I mean the establishment.”

What else will burned, alongside the clothes?

“I’ve got so much bloody stuff. I’ve been wondering why the hell I’m collecting it. I’ve got everything from the door handle of Sex on Kings Road [McLaren and Westwood’s shop], the first ever ‘Anarchy in The UK’ record, which is on acetate [pictured above]. I’ve got all sorts.”


Does none of it have sentimental value to you?

“It does, it does, but yet… it’s a bit sad because I’ve got all this stuff, I look at it from time to time in the cupboard and think – what the hell am I going to do with this bloody stuff? It was, obviously, of some importance to me and my family, but I thought the best thing to do was to burn it.”

The burning’s going to take place in November in Camden – any place in particular?
“There’s people at the Stables Market who’ve offered us a venue to do it there, so that’s on offer. I’m also thinking we might do it on a barge down the Thames.”

What response have you had to the plan?

“All I’ve had so far is begging letters saying ‘don’t burn it, sell it and give me the money’. I’ve had people saying ‘you’re acting like a spoilt brat’, or I’ve had people going ‘brilliant, fantastic, what a good idea’. It’s polarised opinion, and that, I think, is really great. If nothing else, people are really arguing with each other about what this is all about. I’m really pleased, because otherwise, this whole thing is going to be like some kind of jamboree for old punkers and a few bemused tourists. To see punk ideas appropriated by the establishment… punk rock was never that.”

Have you talked to your mum about the idea?
“Yeah, I’ve mentioned it. She thought it was a good idea – she’s thinking about what she could add to it, in terms of what she’s got to say about it. We’re still discussing that, but we’ve got time.”

What’s your response to people suggesting you sell everything and give the money to charity?

“Whatever I did with the thing isn’t going to change anything. Why don’t they take all the money they’re spending on this fucking year of punk and give it to the homeless? Why doesn’t the Queen or the British tourist board give the money to the homeless? It’s time we question what we think of value. When the KLF burned that million pounds, it’s exactly what people were saying then and they missed the point. The point is that we don’t pray to that altar, we don’t pray to altar of money.”