Jon Savage is a leading UK based writer and cultural historian. In 1976, he published a fanzine called London’s Outrage and during the following years he has written widely for British and American newspapers and magazines on music, pop culture and social history including: Sounds, the Village Voice, Melody Maker, the Guardian, The Observer, the Face and Mojo. His book England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (1993) won the Ralph J. Gleason Book Award in 1993 and is now regarded as the definitive history of the late seventies. He has also published a collection of journalism, Time Travel (1996), and co-edited (with Hanif Kureishi) The Faber Book of Pop (1995). His film and television credits include the BAFTA award-winning documentary The Brian Epstein Story (1998) and Joy Division (2007), a history of group, time and place premiered at the Toronto Film Festival (2007). His most recent book, published to great acclaim, is Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875–1945 (2007). England’s Dreaming: The Jon Savage Archive, the largest single collection of Punk related material in the world, is housed at Liverpool John Moores University. Jon Savage is the chief consultant and research associate on all aspects of the archive.
Jon Savage Black Hole Compilation
This compilation celebrates the first wave of California Punk that briefly flourished between 1976 and 1980. Before then, there were a few glitter + cuspy street rock/ power pop bands – in Los Angeles, the Pop, Zolar X and the Nerves, in San Francisco, La Rue – while afterwards came the deluge: Hardcore, Rockabilly Revival, Industrial, and mainstream Power Pop.
So there were two to three years where – while admitting a generalised loud and fast punk template – almost anything went. Anyone who visited California in 1977 and 1978 could see that the major labels would never give the new generation of groups access to proper funding, television, radio and supported tours. They existed in a black hole. But in that vacuum they found freedom.
As the co-founder of key LA punk zine Slash Claude Bessy remembered, ‘the record companies and media were all hippies who had made it, and they were very hostile. But that’s when it got really good. We decided it was our party, nobody is interested, let’s go wild. It definitely seemed that we were going to be rejects forever’.
Californian punks were self-starters, creating an infrastructure out of nothing: venues like Brendan Mullen’s guerrilla club, the Masque; fanzines like Slash, Flipside, Search and Destroy out of San Francisco; and of course groups, ranging from sped-up rockers and pure punkers to synth experimenters and agit-prop consciousness raisers, leavened with the theatre of the absurd.
Having experienced a taste of this squalling subculture – I was very disappointed that it got almost no media attention in the UK. I’d get sent the records by Search & Destroy’s V.Vale and I couldn’t believe how good they were: easily as good as anything being produced in the UK, if not better in their black humour and earthy swing.
It was chauvinism of course, and nationalistic chauvinism at that – doubly nauseating. England had become ‘the world’s Punk Rock Centre’ – never mind that the idea, or a variant thereof, had also occurred to the alert and the alienated in New York, Cleveland, Paris, maybe even Chickasha, Oklahoma. And so its music press had to maintain the position. By slagging off the Yanks.
As if it was needed, this compilation should address that historical neglect. It has been gratifying to see Cali Punk given its due by recent oral histories like Brendan Mullen’s “We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A.Punk” (with Marc Spitz), and “Lexicon Devil – the Fast Time and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs” (with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey 2002).
But the music contained herein needs no further justification than the fact that it rocks; that it contains ideas, tunes, anti-establishment rants, sharp comments about the world, attempts at transcendence and plenty of savage wit. Because it has remained an open secret, it hasn’t become a cliché, and so sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded.”