Various Artists ‘Fame: Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk 1977-81’ – album review, interview & launch party…

Various Artists ‘Fame: Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk 1977-81’ (Caroline True Records)

Dbl Gatefold Coloured Vinyl (500 copies only)

Digital Dropcard

Free 7″ with first 50

Launch at Rough Trade East – Saturday March 24th 2012 at 12 with Jon Savage DJ-ing and autographing albums. And then from 18.30- 1.00am at the Vibe Bar, Brick Lane E1 (next door to RTE)

The art of the good compilation album is one that is finely balanced between selecting the familiar and the obscure. Uncovered recordings that may open up exciting new areas ripe for contemplation. When Caroline True Records (CTR) embarked in 2006 in selecting the tracks for the definitive Post-Punk comp album with Jon Savage curating, things were certainly never going to be neither humdrum nor boredom inducing”¦..” says the Press Release.

I reviewed a pre-release cd-r of this compilation four years ago, (its taken six to get the collection finalised) – From the label that brought us Prefects and Manicured Noise reissues comes a personal selection from the scholarly Mr Savage. The theme could well be the “No more rock’n’roll for you” refrain from Orange Juice’s Poor Old Soul, as we get early electronica (Human League, Cabaret Voltaire) no wave (Mars, DNA) the sound of young Scotland (Josef K, Orange Juice) proto-industrial (This Heat) and 16 other strange and wonderful artists who owed nothing to Chuck Berry and rock and/or roll.

Prefects, Wire, Joy Division and Pere Ubu are at the cerebral core; Kleenex provide light relief with their joyfully unique Swiss-femme-nadsat; Cowboys International contribute a Blitz club synth-pop gem; Nigel Simpkins is a 1978 bedroom version of Fat Boy Slim. Elsewhere, Noh Mercy pre-empt riot grrrl and use the expression “politically correct” for the first time in song, and the Flying Lizards track will be a revelation if you only know them from their Money novelty hit.

These are only the most seriously new-sounding, intense and uncompromising sounds from the era and no mere exercise in pure nostalgia. As well as being the hippest, most obscure of mix-tapes it also throws down a gauntlet to today’s post-everything bands.

An accompanying interview conducted at the time was never published. Here it is.

A brief interview with JON SAVAGE (author of England’s Dreaming, Teenage etc)

LTW: ”ËœFame’ seems a perverse title? ”ËœI’m gonna live forever ”¦’

JS: The title came from John Kertland (Caroline True Records MD) It was a 1979 fanzine produced in Telford which was spiky and bolshy in the spirit of the time and the time’s music ”“ e.g. the Prefects and many of the tracks on the comp.

No PIL? Magazine? Subway Sect? Licensing complexities I imagine but which of the conspicuously absent would you have liked to included?

JS: I would like to have produced a double CD but as you know, things are hard to license (money, finding the rights holders and then getting some/any sense out of them). It’s a long and tedious job and John has my thanks. Sometimes the choices just run out. I’d have loved to include a track by Chrome, from “Alien Soundtracks”, or something by PiL. Oh, and Rema Rema, who fell by the wayside. And I still love Subway Sect, but they’ve been well comped.

Given that categorisation is (arguably) a necessary evil – Where do you draw the line between what is punk and what is post-punk?

JS: Well punk stripped everything down to the basics and then became a Ramonic straitjacket so Post Punk opened everything out again. So it was a period of great discovery.

What a joy to hear Noh Mercy and Nigel Simpkins again ”“ any particular tracks you are extra-delighted to have unearthed?

JS: The Screamers, a great lost group. And I love the sheer brutal rhythmic drive of Mars’ 3E and the Method Actors’ The Method.

Was there really any need to include a Joy Division track, and why choose Autosuggestion?

JS: Well these were the tracks I actually liked at the time and the compilation, as they often do, came out of a couple of post punk CD-Rs that I made for my own and my friends’ amusement. Joy Division were a very big part of that time and Autosuggestion was a very important record for me. I liked the fact it was 6 minutes and so claustrophobic: it racked alongside PiL’s Home Is Where The Heart Is and impLOG’s Holland Tunnel Drive. Then you have the very short tracks: Noh Mercy, the Middle Class Out Of Vogue EP, the Urinals Sex ”“ all about a minute or so. Anything went.

Is ‘England’s Dreaming’ on the National Curriculum yet?

JS: No. But thanks for asking. It’s very strange what an issue punk has become. But I did think it might become so at the time.

2012 update

The full track-listing now includes tracks by Rema-Rema, Chrome and Subway Sect I believe ”“ but the full track-listing still hasn’t been released. Only way to find out; buy a copy of what I have no doubt is an essential, if not the near-definitive collection of its kind.

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


  1. FINAL Tracklisting is:
    Side A:
    Pere Ubu-Heart Of Darkness
    Chrome-Chromosome Damage
    Nigel Simpkins-Times Encounter
    File Under Pop-Heathrow
    Subway Sect-Imbalance (Rehearsal)
    Kleenex-Ain\’t You
    Side B:
    The Prefects-Total Luck
    Rosa Yemen-Herpes Simplex
    Wire-A Touching Display
    Joy Division-Autosuggestion
    Side C:
    Cabaret Voltaire-Partially Submerged
    Robert Rental & Thomas Leer-The Hard Way In
    The Human League-The Dignity Of Labour Part 3
    A.C Marias-Drop
    Noh Mercy-Caucasian Guilt
    X_X-No Nonsense
    Side D:
    The Urinals-Sex
    The Method Actors-Do The Method
    Rema Rema-Rema Rema
    Judy Nylon-Dateline Miami
    DNA-Blonde Red Head
    This Heat-A New Kind Of Water (Edit)

    the Cowboys International, Josef K and Orange Juice tracks that were on the ‘pre-release cd-r’ and mentioned in the review have been dropped for whatever reason. ( GB )

  2. Does anyone still take Savage seriously. He´s the self appointed guardian of “punk´s legacy according to himself”. He´s even vain enough to put his name to this compilation.

  3. i always had faith in savage and knew that if he liked it there was a good chance it would be my type of thing as well.
    i think this album proves he was good at his job and quite rightly deserves to put his name to it.

  4. Yeah, I take Savage very seriously, he’s a great writer, and – crucially – really seems to love music. This tracklist certainly avoids the obvious, and contains enough under-appreciated gems from the period to make me want to hear the ones I don’t remember. (It’s really great to see Chrome included here – what a band!)


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