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Jon Savage

Jon Savage is an author, filmmaker, journalist and broadcaster. His books include England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock, Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, and 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded. His film credits – as writer and consultant – include The Brian Epstein Story, Joy Division and Teenage. He writes regularly for the Guardian and Mojo and has released several compilations including “Meridian 1970”, “Dreams Come True: Classic First Wave Electro 1982-7”, “Black Hole: Californian Punk 1977-1980”, “The Shadows Of Love: Jon Savage’s Intense Tamla 1966-68” and “Perfect Motion: Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Second Wave Psychedelia 1988-93”.


Selected releases

  • Link Wray – 'Early Recordings'

    I got totally obsessed with this album in the hot summer of 1983. Yellow cover, Link rocking out: on the record, 14 slices of vicious American minimalism that didn’t stop. Right from ‘Batman Theme’, through ‘Cross Ties’, ‘Jack The Ripper’ and ‘Black Widow’, the guitar cut through the simple melodies like a switchblade, holding all the promise and threat of first wave rock’n’roll – electricity and juvenile delinquency. Then there were the semi-crazed vocals on ‘Hidden Charms’ and ‘The Shadow Knows’. This late 1965 single was the gateway in, with its lazily chorded verses and minimalist back beat. 30 years after its release I saw Link play at Shepherd’s Bush and he was as billed: all dressed in black, with monstrous shades, like an evil insect. No chat, no frills, just hard rock: exactly what everyone wanted.

  • The Count Bishops – 'Train Train'

    Nobody talks much about this single but it was one of the finest Chiswick ever released. From 1977, but it could be any time from the mid-50s to the present day. Just a melodic mid-paced groove rolling on that old train trope (for further elucidation, see Ace’s new release “All Aboard! Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations”) with an upping of intensity into the heartfelt guitar solos: simple, tasteful, nothing to do with punk and all the better for it. When it ends, you want to play it again. Timeless.

  • The 101’ers – 'Keys To Your Heart'

    This really meant something when it appeared in early summer 1976: an upping of intensity that matched the onset of the first Ramones album and the availability of records like Television’s ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ and the Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘You Tore Me Down’. Something was definitely about to happen, and it was available over the counter at the Rock On shop in Camden Town and the Rocks Off stall in Soho Market. It wasn’t matey or American-styled like a lot of pub rock, but something transitional: I always loved the lyric “I used to be a teenage drug-taker/ I used to hate the taste of cheese”.

  • Arthur Alexander – 'Sally Sue Brown'

    Ace’s 1982 comp on Arthur Alexander was a revelation, not just for collecting ‘Anna’, ‘You Better Move On’ and ‘Soldiers Of Love’ with less familiar songs like ‘Dream Girl’ and ‘Go Home Girl’ but for dropping this wonderful song as the second cut on Side 1. It’s so simple, but so heartfelt: from summer 1960, a melodic blues becoming something else, the start of soul. What a voice!


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  • Maxine Brown – 'All In My Mind'

    In the late 1980s, I visited Dave Godin in Sheffield and – like the great educator he was – he decided to tell me some history. He gave me three 45s: the Hitsville U.S.A. ‘“Greetings To Tamla Motown Appreciation Society’, Eddie and Ernie’s ‘I’m Goin’ For Myself’ and an original Nomar copy of ‘All In My Mind’. I quickly fell under its spell. It’s a strange record: almost too slow, half in the bobbysoxer era (“we’ve been going steady so long”) yet pointing towards a more complex and sophisticated future. Here’s what Godin had to say about one of his favourite ever songs: “I think the keynote change was probably Maxine Brown’s ‘All in My Mind’, primarily because it was a hit in America. (It peaked at #19 in March 1961.) Everything revolves around that. I think why ‘All In My Mind’ was such a key record was that it almost sounds like an experimental record.”

  • Ike & Tina Turner – 'I Can’t Believe What You Say'

    Guy Stevens deserves a book, but in the meantime you can read about him in Shake It Up, Baby’ – Norman Jopling’s great history of writing for Record Mirror throughout the 60s – and in the sleeve notes for all four volumes of the “The UK Sue Label Story”, written by Rob Finnis, Mike Atherton and Ady Croasdell. Too many possible choices from these great comps, but this exhilarating 1964 beater hits the spot with its call/response vocal and simple drum/handclap verse instrumentation. Dusty sang it on Ready Steady Go! but even she couldn’t outshine the original.

  • The Sonics – 'Louie Louie'

    When I first visited Los Angeles in August 1978, I met the writer Gene Sculatti, who kindly pressed into my willing hands a copy of Mark Shipper’s 1974 “Explosives” Sonics comp. As well as containing the immortal sleeve note entitled Five Great Musicians!!! Three Great Chords!!! – a crucial pre punk artefact – the track listing filleted the filler from the Sonics’ two albums and presented 12 monstrous mid-60s hard rock tracks with absolutely no redeeming social value. Sounded good to me, and it still does: nothing matters here but the riff and the brutal big beat, as every sinew and fibre in the musicians’ bodies bear down on one point. It slices through everything.

  • The Olympics – 'Secret Agents'

    One of the great pleasures for me in writing the 1966 book was immersing myself in the R&B and soul from that year. I knew a lot about the beat, garage and early psych material, but there were so many wonderful black American records from that year that I’d never heard. This is one of them. Nothing very deep or world shattering, just a killer drum intro and a pumping, fundamental bass underpinning a sharp lyric that combines creative variations on the spy trope (Get Smart, the FBI) and the news media of the day (The Huntley/Brinkley Report, Walter Cronkite). Enormous fun and joy, with such a dirty sound.

  • Kak – 'Rain' (45 version)

    Recorded in LA the day Robert Kennedy was shot, this early version of a key Kak song belies the charge that hippies couldn’t handle intensity. Anything less mellow you could not imagine. Beginning with a monstrous bass line (from Joseph Damrell), ‘Rain’ is all manic pace and liquid guitar – modulating into that piercing, acidic tone that defined San Franciscan rock for a few seasons. Kak were the furthest out of all the SF groups – except Moby Grape at their Skip Spence wildest – and this matches out-there classics like ‘Electric Sailor’. From the excellent compilation “Kak-Ola” that is mandatory listening for any psych head.

  • The Beau Brummels – 'I Grow Old'

    Ace’s “Nuggets From The Golden State” series was a total revelation when they appeared in the mid to late 1990s – a complete archival examination of an incredibly fertile and still misunderstood cultural moment. From the first compilation in the series, this is such an odd song: opening with 12-string jangle and wistful harmonica, it begins with the words “In my room are demons/ on the ceiling” – certainly not standard 1965 fare. Sal Valentino’s voice – as so often – is the perfect expressive vehicle for Ron Elliot’s tricksy melody and astonishingly downbeat lyric. And suffused throughout is that sense of space and openness that you get in the best San Franciscan music.