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England's Dreaming is the ultimate book on punk, its progenitors, the Sex Pistols, and the moment they defined for music fans in England and the United States. Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs. This fully revised and updated edition o England's Dreaming is the ultimate book on punk, its progenitors, the Sex Pistols, and the moment they defined for music fans in England and the United States. Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs. This fully revised and updated edition of the book covers the legacy of punk twenty-five years later and provides an account of the Pistols' 1996 reunion as well as a freshly updated discography and a completely new introduction.


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England's Dreaming is the ultimate book on punk, its progenitors, the Sex Pistols, and the moment they defined for music fans in England and the United States. Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs. This fully revised and updated edition o England's Dreaming is the ultimate book on punk, its progenitors, the Sex Pistols, and the moment they defined for music fans in England and the United States. Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs. This fully revised and updated edition of the book covers the legacy of punk twenty-five years later and provides an account of the Pistols' 1996 reunion as well as a freshly updated discography and a completely new introduction.

30 review for England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond

  1. 4 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    It is a REAL question if I will finish this, and it's about one of my favourite periods of musical history! Page 6: "Evocations of the thirties environment characteristic of the babyboomer childhood -- a process which would peak with that palace of fun, Biba's superstore -- went hand in hand with the fine-art codification in 1968 of thirties styles under the term Art Deco." Who the fucking fuck writes like that? Did he program a robot? (Also, NO, clothing did not 'become' costume in fucking -1968 It is a REAL question if I will finish this, and it's about one of my favourite periods of musical history! Page 6: "Evocations of the thirties environment characteristic of the babyboomer childhood -- a process which would peak with that palace of fun, Biba's superstore -- went hand in hand with the fine-art codification in 1968 of thirties styles under the term Art Deco." Who the fucking fuck writes like that? Did he program a robot? (Also, NO, clothing did not 'become' costume in fucking -1968.- Moron.) Words I never wanted to read in this lifetime right there on page 56: "....another commission, this time for Ken Russell's flamboyant 'Mahler.' Asked to work out something for the climactic dream sequence where the Jewish composer confronts his Aryan anima...." PS Dear Savage: Describing any Ken Russell film anywhere ever as 'flamboyant' is not only bloody redundant it is INADEQUATE. And wtf is up with all the real dodginess about fixating on people as Jewish and attributing various character traits to that and so on? Terribly offputting. No reference (yet) to the bondage scene which I always thought was a big inspiration -- and wasn't Pynchon's Oedipa Maas drawn from that whole Nazi/bondage scenario? And that was in 1966.... Still continuing, hundreds of pages later. Now I'm thinking of all the other books I wish I had read instead of this one! A history of women in punk! A history of minorities in punk! Johnny Rotten's/John Lydon's autobiography! (I have that around here somewhere....) Hell I went and reread about a third of Please Kill Me the other day in desperation. And here, right here, on page 435 -- I had skipped ahead in despair earlier only to read: 'After the demise of the Ed Sullivan Show, there was no concentrated, nationwide TV exposure of pop until MTV in 1981.' Seriously this is so wrong, it is staggering. Three words. AMERICAN. FUCKING. BANDSTAND. Or hell, Soul Train. Just a few months before MTV there was Night Flight, and for years I watched Night Flight a lot more regularly than MTV (and the USA network also had Video Concert Hall). And besides that, there was stuff like SNL and a dozen other variety shows bands appeared on including the fucking Muppets, for Godsakes, and people were certainly making 'music videos' even before there was MTV. And if you looked at what MTV first showed, they had something like twenty fucking clips they played over and over, and it wasn't even available in a lot of places -- and it wasn't the only thing, there was Friday Night Videos on NBC too and at least a couple of other video shows. It wasn't like MTV sprang up out of a vacuum and it wasn't like it was EVERYWHERE when it first started. At this point the book is just NOT EVEN WRONG. I am sure anyone reading this (not that there's anyone reading this) will have the inevitable question, But why are you reading this, Moi? Research partly. I love this era and have read a lot about it. Also -- and this is why I don't actually read books I don't like v often -- I have to compulsively finish a book once I start it, or it really fucking bugs me. But I also wanted something with which to occupy myself during the long holiday (ugh) weekend because I was bored and miserable and going through personal crap. And in the service of that desire, getting frequently annoyed with this book to the extent of writing pissy lengthy pseudo-scholarly annotations all over the margins succeeded admirably in distracting me. Chewing through the bibliography (yes I am one of those freaks who reads all the footnotes and sits through the end of the film credits) - DEPT OF THINGS I NEVER WANTED TO KNOW, Virgin published a 'Sid Vicious Family Album' in 1980. Good fucking God. OTOH, there are apparently now several books about Vivienne Westwood, who struck me as a far more interesting figure than MM. You can view my extremely misguided attempt to enter the entire sixty-five-plus-page discography as a streamable last.fm tag station here: http://www.last.fm/user/the_red_shoes...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Geevee

    This an insightful record of the Sex Pistols' formation and their short and frantic career that helped change British music and challenged on aBritish society on a number of levels. The author has given readers a very well written account with many good, and for me unseen, photos. It provides social, economic and music/fashion background from the 1950s through to the explosion of Punk on both sides of the Atlantic (including some interesting info on France). On reading this I was reminded at how This an insightful record of the Sex Pistols' formation and their short and frantic career that helped change British music and challenged on aBritish society on a number of levels. The author has given readers a very well written account with many good, and for me unseen, photos. It provides social, economic and music/fashion background from the 1950s through to the explosion of Punk on both sides of the Atlantic (including some interesting info on France). On reading this I was reminded at how the group were barred from almost every town in the country: councils and other venue owners sitting and passing bans with the police being called to stop gigs or ensure entry was refused. It is why there are few people (before 1996)in the UK who can really say they saw the Pistols play with audiences of just 20, 40 or just a couple of hundred, and many of those were regulars and later became band members in groups or personalties in music and the media. The sale of the their records was also banned - I recall how difficult it was to buy the single God Save the Queen and the album Never Mind the Bollocks - and the charts were fixed to ensure they did not reach number one; lucky old Rod Stewart stayed a couple more weeks thanks to the Pistols. It is hard to believe today that a "pop" group could be so hated, reviled and indeed feared and yet they were and it scared people witless. Of course Punk and the Pistols didn't do anything to lessen the bile and angst with violence accompanying gigs and wearing emblems such as the Swastika guaranteed to light fires under many a person. The Sex Pistols' greatly helped (it is too strong to say they alone) changed how music was played and written, how bands were signed and promoted, how records were sold and marketed, how music was read about and how fans treated their idols and their movement including its involvement in politics. The machinations at record companies and the frankly mad, bad and downright chaotic behaviours of Malcolm Mclaren are fascinating and well told. How the band interacted (or not) with their manager and each other and well as with others within the Punk movement and without is also interesting. The US tour is another interesting chapter and the author's treatment of Sid Vicious's demise and death is told with clarity and sympathy, and include comment from Sid's mother. One of the book's strengths aside from the author's ability and first hand connections to Punk, are the interviews and comments from key characters that helps provides a fascinating insight into what became the Sex Pistols and the movement/fashion/music called Punk: Maclaren, Lydon, Cook, Jones, Matlock, Strummer, Jones, Siouxsie, Devoto, Shelley, Sylvain Sylvain, Richard Hell, Capt Sensible, Adam Ant, Jordan, Viv Albertine et al they're all there, as are many people who were involved in managing the group. The author's politics comes through at times a little more than is required, but that is a minor point. He perhaps over blows Punks significance to the UK at large but only then when you consider my comments above, and that the Pistols remain a focal point in music and media whenever the 1970s is discussed then he may be justified. Highly recommended to anyone who likes the music or wants to know more about a strand of music and fashion that changed music, the industry, society and the people involved.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I really liked this book when I read it. I would probably hate it now and put it in the same league as anything Griel Marcus has written on punk.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Baal Of

    "Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols" is one of my long-standing favorite punk albums and I have fond memories of jumping around and slamming at parties back in college with my friends Jeremy and Troy as we mutually discovered this music. This book gives a perspective on the chaotic, abusive, vulnerable, and frequently violent environment that spawned this album and hundreds more. It goes deep into the calculated approach of Malcolm McLaren, political push back of the Thatcher era co "Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols" is one of my long-standing favorite punk albums and I have fond memories of jumping around and slamming at parties back in college with my friends Jeremy and Troy as we mutually discovered this music. This book gives a perspective on the chaotic, abusive, vulnerable, and frequently violent environment that spawned this album and hundreds more. It goes deep into the calculated approach of Malcolm McLaren, political push back of the Thatcher era conservativism, the ineptitude of the music industry, and the incompetence of the punks themselves. (see Moira Russell's review for a counter-perspective and an excellent breakdown of all the problems with this book.) Like with many of the albums that I hold dear, it is astounding that "Never Mind The Bollocks" ever made it out into the world, and the same can be said for many of the other foundational UK punk albums. This mirrors the same fragile contingency of the American scene from a few years earlier, as I learned from reading "Please Kill Me" (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) One of the interesting contrasts was how much UK punk centered around fashion, something that I was only vaguely aware of before. Much like in the US, UK punk started off relatively inclusive and broad based, and then quickly became codified and commoditized: Throughout 1975 and 1976, a large, amorphous group of teenage stylists and social outcasts of all ages, sexes and sexual persuasions had gathered around the Sex Pistols and Sex, and around the other groups and shops on the King's Road strip as well. This was a milieu of some complexity, reduced within twenty seconds of the Grundy interview to white, male Rock. This book does discuss punk as in part a reaction against the excesses of progressive rock. Part of me understands how some people can become dogmatic about that kind of stance, but I find that attitude to be narrow and limiting. I have listened to hundreds of releases of both punk and prog rock and I embrace both. As with any genre, there will be a small percentage of great work, and a vast sea of mediocrity. Finally, one of the best parts of this book is the extensive 47 pages of discography covering not just punk but also glam, no-wave, reggae, new-wave, post-punk, and other related splinters.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katey

    If you aren't interested in punk or the Sex Pistols, obviously skip this one. If you are, ask yourself "How interested am I?" before delving into it. It's long, and, at times, trying and tedious. I realise that even the briefest of historical moments can be long and winding when written about, and I appreciated all the precursory info about McLaren and Sex, and the most enjoyable for me was middle of the book, the section about the Pistols forming and gathering momentum; punk gathering momentum. If you aren't interested in punk or the Sex Pistols, obviously skip this one. If you are, ask yourself "How interested am I?" before delving into it. It's long, and, at times, trying and tedious. I realise that even the briefest of historical moments can be long and winding when written about, and I appreciated all the precursory info about McLaren and Sex, and the most enjoyable for me was middle of the book, the section about the Pistols forming and gathering momentum; punk gathering momentum. But as the author states again and again in not so few words "The end was nigh," the writing keeps it in a stasis of decline for a couple hundred pages. The focus was not only the Sex Pistols, but other punk bands in the UK and US, so the linear flow of the book could be rather muddied at times. The book ended, much like the original movement, with a whimper and not a bang (not counting the 80 or so pages of appendices and bibliography/discography, which I did read). For me, it's been about a decade and a half since I was really, really into the Pistols, and I while reading this book I felt compelled to dig out some of the music. The Great Rock n' Roll Swindle is a horrendous soundtrack to an even worse film; even in my youth I felt a twinge of listener/viewer emabarrassment, and I agree with the author that listening to NMTB straight-through is not enjoyable- only with this book I learned of the tracks released as singles timeline. The X-ray Spex album was fantastic to mine ears back in the day and even moreso now. I still don't like the Clash, despite how Savage goes on and on about them. I tried. Again. And... while I appreciate and understand the necessity of giving the socio-political background of the times, as a non-Brit who wasn't even born during this period, there was a whole lot of googling of acronyms and events on my part. Be prepared for that if you're ignorant yet determined not to be so. All in all, a really good view of what happened. Or some of what happened. According to a few people. What they said at the time, anyway.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Godzilla

    It's taken me a while to get through this, not because the book was dull or hard work, but because of the sheer volume of information inside, covering a relatively short time span. plus the fact it was too unwieldy for reading on my commute (how punk does that sound!) I'm giving it 5 stars on the basis that it covers the subject matter so well, plenty of other people seem able to find fault with it, but to my mind they're merely nit picking. If you have any interest in the punk era this book will It's taken me a while to get through this, not because the book was dull or hard work, but because of the sheer volume of information inside, covering a relatively short time span. plus the fact it was too unwieldy for reading on my commute (how punk does that sound!) I'm giving it 5 stars on the basis that it covers the subject matter so well, plenty of other people seem able to find fault with it, but to my mind they're merely nit picking. If you have any interest in the punk era this book will genuinely inform you and make you re-evaluate your preconceived ideas. I was too young for punk the first time around, but following my early teen heavy metal stage, I got into it in later years. The econcomic situation was different at that time, but that's the beauty of this book: it sets everything in a social, political and musical context, which enables you to grasp how and why it was so provocative and important. You may not love the music or the attitide, but it gave society a kick up the backside and reset the priorities for young people. Given the wealth of musical genres that followed it, off shots of the bastard son punk, we have gained inumerable benefits. In these times of woeful X Factor/Pop Idol karaoke, manufactured dross I yearn for something to reset the social agenda again. The recent "riots" (looting) have also provided an interesting parallel to the events around the mid to late 70s. Who said history moves in cycles?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Tole

    Jon Savage has managed to produce a very excellent and readable book. This must have been quite a task given the plethora of material but the complete, and in some cases deliberate camouflaging of events and reasons, that could have led to either some kind of hero worshipful bible-like book or to the usual skim, have generally been avoided. Mr Savage has made an excellent review of the period and analysed the precursors whilst managing to keep the sense of wonder that was there all through the p Jon Savage has managed to produce a very excellent and readable book. This must have been quite a task given the plethora of material but the complete, and in some cases deliberate camouflaging of events and reasons, that could have led to either some kind of hero worshipful bible-like book or to the usual skim, have generally been avoided. Mr Savage has made an excellent review of the period and analysed the precursors whilst managing to keep the sense of wonder that was there all through the punk years. Having been there (but hardly 'in' them) I found his book to be absolutely fair and very astute in it's analysis. This really is an excellent well-written book and as a bonus contains an excellent discography and bibliography.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike Clarke

    'Face front, we got the future/Shining like a piece of gold/But I swear as we got closer/It looks like a lump of coal' - The Clash: All The Young Punks. Any book whose first word is 'juxtaposition' is going to struggle from the outset to shake off the chains of pretension. And larded with plaudits such 'a claim to be the definitive work on the subject' (The Times, no less) and 'flawless' (Esquire), a book could very well sink beneath the weight of its own cleverness and self-regard. That Jon Sava 'Face front, we got the future/Shining like a piece of gold/But I swear as we got closer/It looks like a lump of coal' - The Clash: All The Young Punks. Any book whose first word is 'juxtaposition' is going to struggle from the outset to shake off the chains of pretension. And larded with plaudits such 'a claim to be the definitive work on the subject' (The Times, no less) and 'flawless' (Esquire), a book could very well sink beneath the weight of its own cleverness and self-regard. That Jon Savage's England's Dreaming stays afloat (just) is due to two things. First, that the times about which he writes are so vibrant, real, close yet distant and fundamentally dirty, makes for exciting copy. And second that his obvious enthusiasm for the people, the music and the events, shines through bright enough to burn. That enthusiasm almost fucks him over, if you'll forgive a punk way of putting it. Rock writing has yet to produce great literature. Sure, there are some articulate and trenchant critics and commentators, but even the greatest - the Marcuses, the Shaar Murrays, the Nick Kents - are too close to their subject, too a little in love, to present full objectivity and balanced description, evaluation or judgement. The majority finds it difficult to lift itself above the mundanity and self absorption of Adrian Mole-level teenage scribblers - NME, the last remaining of the great triumvirate of British rock weeklies has always been a stew of teenage hormones and spite ponced up as critique. Savage's completism, the recounting of every detail he's garnered - enthusiastic and all too often uncritical - can get wearying. And repetitious. How often, for example, do we need a roll call of the various extremist flag carriers of each of the main western European nations, just to reinforce his thesis that punk was part of some wider nihilistic surge sweeping the developed world? Faults aside, a strong narrative thread makes this pretty much the biography of the Sex Pistols, something it does more effectively than being a (rather weak) analysis of punk as musical, cultural or historical phenomenon. It's particularly dramatic in the closing stages - the disintegration of Sid Vicious in a welter of unstoppable drug use, compounded by music industry indifference, Malcolm McLaren's ruthless yet comically inept scheming, co-dependency with his fucked up (sorry again) mess of girlfriend and the input of his appalling drug-addled bat of a mother, whom Savage inexplicably defends. You wont like a lot of the characters - McLaren is unpleasantly self-serving and less of a genius than he thinks, Vivienne Westwood is deluded and unpleasant, and only Jhnny Rotten seems to have a modicum of self-awareness though this is spoiled by his being consumed with hate. I was agog. Riveting stuff and almost enough to make you forget that the promise of the irony in the title isn't quite realised. Not a good book in the conventional sense - it's too chaotic, sprawling and ill-disciplined for that but Not quite 'ever get the feeling you've been cheated?' Either. I suppose given the subject, that's scarcely a surprise.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Faber Forty-Fives are a series of six short e-books which attempt to tell the story of British popular music from the birth of psychedelia in the late sixties to the post punk era of the late 1980's. This book concentrates on the formation of the Sex Pistols; the influence of Malcolm McLaren, early venues and the whole Punk lifestyle. Much of this essay is taken from the longer book, “England Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock,” and this is certainly an interesting introduction to that era. Faber Forty-Fives are a series of six short e-books which attempt to tell the story of British popular music from the birth of psychedelia in the late sixties to the post punk era of the late 1980's. This book concentrates on the formation of the Sex Pistols; the influence of Malcolm McLaren, early venues and the whole Punk lifestyle. Much of this essay is taken from the longer book, “England Dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock,” and this is certainly an interesting introduction to that era. Several things strike you about the Sex Pistols during that sweltering summer of 1976. First, is just how young they were and, really, how vulnerable. Although they obviously came across as very stroppy and opinionated, it is obvious from reading this that they were actually quite unsure of themselves. There is a story of one young punk rocker being challenged about wearing something which a member of the public found objectionable and being physically attacked in the street for instance – it is clear that he himself, on looking back, felt that it was too outrageous. Much of the clothes worn, obviously came from McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop, which again shows that some of the adults involved were manipulative, rather than nurturing. There are stories of amphetamine use, the sheer joy of provoking a reaction, violence at early gigs and being banned from just about everywhere. This ends with the Sex Pistols signing with EMI, but it is an interesting perspective on a fashion, and music, which seemed to come from nowhere and sparked an enormous reaction at the time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Darin Campbell

    I like cultural and social context with my music history and this book has it in spades. This fascinating account of the creation of one of music's most notorious and influential bands during the economic meltdown of 70's England is one of the best music books I have ever read. Savage was there from the beginning as a teenager in Manchester and offers firsthand knowledge of his subject. Sometimes heavy going, particularly in its account of the dada art movement of the early 20th century but over I like cultural and social context with my music history and this book has it in spades. This fascinating account of the creation of one of music's most notorious and influential bands during the economic meltdown of 70's England is one of the best music books I have ever read. Savage was there from the beginning as a teenager in Manchester and offers firsthand knowledge of his subject. Sometimes heavy going, particularly in its account of the dada art movement of the early 20th century but overall an excellent read. I continue to refer to the excellent discography in the appendix for essential listening.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    brilliant history, not only of the sex pistols, but of the whole punk movement and cultural turmoil in britain at the time. i would love to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat with jon savage, his knowledge is encyclopaedic.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Raegan Butcher

    All you ever wanted or needed to know about England's nascent punk scene. A must have for fans of the Sex Pistols. All you ever wanted or needed to know about England's nascent punk scene. A must have for fans of the Sex Pistols.

  13. 5 out of 5

    James

    This may be the longest thing I have ever read. This is almost a day-by-day account of the Sex Pistols. I am particuarly fascinated by Malcolm Mclaren and want to read more about him.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Detailed and comprehensive history of punk; well researched and well written. Hang on a minute; this is a history book and it's my youth they're talking about. Getting old !! Detailed and comprehensive history of punk; well researched and well written. Hang on a minute; this is a history book and it's my youth they're talking about. Getting old !!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    it's not Please Kill Me, but the Sex Pistol weren't the Stooges. Still pretty great. it's not Please Kill Me, but the Sex Pistol weren't the Stooges. Still pretty great.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bishop

    A detailed look at the factors that fired the short lived Punk Movement and it's principal actors. How anger, individualism, nihilism, and elements of feigned extremism, fused with creative genius expressed in music and dress code was the story of adolescent youth and culture during this socially turbulent period. This book traces the rise and fall of Punk through its highest profile band 'The Sex Pistols', and it's exploitative and cynical manager Malcolm McClaren. Punk will be remembered for i A detailed look at the factors that fired the short lived Punk Movement and it's principal actors. How anger, individualism, nihilism, and elements of feigned extremism, fused with creative genius expressed in music and dress code was the story of adolescent youth and culture during this socially turbulent period. This book traces the rise and fall of Punk through its highest profile band 'The Sex Pistols', and it's exploitative and cynical manager Malcolm McClaren. Punk will be remembered for its uncompromising voice, its savage energy, and 'I don't give a damn' portrayal. It should also be remembered for its challenge to existing convention and protocol, and it's undoubted contribution to the life of music. Punk failed to destroy what it despised, but it did shine a light that others , in their own way have since followed. From the ashes ...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Boyken

    An exhaustively researched book surrounding the English punk movement of the 70s. Jon Savage was there when it happened, which gives the book its authenticity without trying to rewrite history or produce a patchwork narrative. Finally it’s almost impossible to see Malcolm McLaren as anything but a scoundrel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tom Nixon

    I don't know when I fell in love with punk music, but I did. Probably because of Green Day's album Dookie more than anything else, though at the time, I didn't know what punk was, much less have an appreciation of Green Day's place within the genre. But Green Day eventually lead to The Cure, The Cure to Joy Division, Joy Division to the Sex Pistols and from there, out to the Clash, Rancid, Social Distortion, Siouxsie and the Banshees. The emotional energy of punk, the sheer raw power of its soci I don't know when I fell in love with punk music, but I did. Probably because of Green Day's album Dookie more than anything else, though at the time, I didn't know what punk was, much less have an appreciation of Green Day's place within the genre. But Green Day eventually lead to The Cure, The Cure to Joy Division, Joy Division to the Sex Pistols and from there, out to the Clash, Rancid, Social Distortion, Siouxsie and the Banshees. The emotional energy of punk, the sheer raw power of its social rebellion and the anti-establishment message at its core appeal to me on several levels, both politically and personally. So many things in this country fall short of what I believe them to be capable of. We can do great things, we can be better, eventually events will force us to change, but I think waiting to forced into a corner is laziness. We can be better. And the fact we aren't makes me want to scream sometimes, hence my love of punk. In England's Dreaming, I finally found the book that told me everything I ever wanted to know about the punk movement but was afraid to ask. The perfect compliment to the biography of Clash lead singer Joe Strummer, Jon Savage's tome (yes, it is a little bit of a doorstop, but a worthwhile doorstop) focuses more on The Sex Pistols than anything else, but within the wider lens of the punk movement as a whole. And what surprised me more than anything? Punk wasn't about music right at first, it was about fashion. And more specifically, punk impresario (the late, great) Malcolm McLaren's drive to sell clothes that shocked, rocked and would shake the world. Operating from a shop called (strangely enough) Sex he pushed his fashion outwards into Britain and from there the world- and crafted punk and more specifically The Sex Pistols as a vehicle to help him hock his fashion wares. A digression: another surprise? Punk wasn't a British thing. No, the New York Dolls started it and the Ramones and Dead Kennedys followed and THEN The Sex Pistols took the stage, because McClaren was desperate to make his band work, make his band hit big and bring his sense of fashion and music back to London- and incredibly, with Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious and company he single-handedly moved the center of the burgeoning cultural movement back from New York City to London. Then, it blew up in a major way. What follows chronicles the heady days of punk in that short sprint between 1975 and 1979, where the Sex Pistols went supernova and then shattered like broken glass. Anyone vaguely familiar with the history of rock n'roll (or for that matter, Gary Oldman movies) will remember the sad demise of the Pistols: Rotten leaving, Vicious being implicated in a murder and OD'ing and it all ended so suddenly, on the moment of their success. While The Sex Pistols blew punk into the mainstream, really and truly it was The Clash that kept it going. The twin Janus-likes heads of the punk movement- so different and yet joined by a core of angry rage at the decay and decadence of the crumbling society all around them. 'God Save The Queen' proved to be the high water mark of the Pistols' success, but it also proved to be their undoing- what today seems to be a fairly straightforward critique of establishment Britain was INSANELY controversial back then and the backlash almost did them in and in fact, proved to be the first of the fault lines that would eventually bring them down. There's more than Sex Pistols in this volume- its everyone and everything, bands big and small, people that I'd never heard of and it makes me insanely jealous. To be alive back then, when rage and the demand for change was channeled into such pure artistry... it would have been AWESOME. This book, at the end of the day, pretty much rocked my face off. Everything you ever want to know about punk but were afraid to ask is to be found here. And as almost a signature to the whole thing, remember what punk was really about: 'If nothing gets challenged, nothing gets changed.'

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alex Orr

    The slog is over - I finished it! I knew going in that this book had a mixed reputation for being both exhaustive in its coverage while also a tedious and dull read. The latter is definitely true. Believe it or not someone found a way to make a book about punk be very, very dull and boring. However, that's not even its worst sin - the problem is that it's not really all that exhaustive. McLaren's life is covered in minute detail, and a good deal of the book deals explicitly with the history of f The slog is over - I finished it! I knew going in that this book had a mixed reputation for being both exhaustive in its coverage while also a tedious and dull read. The latter is definitely true. Believe it or not someone found a way to make a book about punk be very, very dull and boring. However, that's not even its worst sin - the problem is that it's not really all that exhaustive. McLaren's life is covered in minute detail, and a good deal of the book deals explicitly with the history of far-left extremist political groups in the UK, Germany, and France. However, by the time it was over I still didn't feel like I knew the band very well. Lydon's transformation from being a dumb jerk of a kid to a still-obnoxious but nonetheless somewhat savvy and occasionally thoughtful media critic, music professional, professional celebrity, and groundbreaking art-rocker is really underplayed. The rest of the guys in the band are sort've mysteries...except for Sid Vicious whose pathetic life is often chronicled day-by-day. Furthermore, the actual creation of the music is seriously under-discussed. There is little talk about how the songs were written and what the recording sessions were like, though the contract negotiations and business-side of things is heavily focused on. Even with all the discussion of left-wing extremist political groups like Beider-Meinhoff and the Situationists, there is little discussion on how the actual band related to all this. Did these homeless school drop-outs and drug addicts actually read Beaudrillard and have opinions on various post-Marxist critiques of capitalism? I'm guessing no, but it's all left a bit vague. Another interesting point is that the music is very working-class and masculine but the bands spent a lot of time at gay bars and with gays, lesbians, and the generally androgynous - more discussion of first-gen punk's relation with gender and sexuality would have also been interesting. In short this is a book that often focuses on some of the more boring aspects of an exciting time period while covering so much ground that it often feels rambling and unfocused. I gotta say, I really don't recommend it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    A remarkable book that takes a headlong run at the story of punk and comes away with ringing ears, covered in spit, track-marks, cuts and bruises, but holding a couple of interesting trophies. The first of these is the deconstruction of the McLaren myth, showing the utterly haphazard nature of how UK proto-punk moved from being an insignificant scene at the end of the King's Road to the touch-paper for a worldwide cultural revolution. Rather than moulding his protegés, McLaren comes across as an A remarkable book that takes a headlong run at the story of punk and comes away with ringing ears, covered in spit, track-marks, cuts and bruises, but holding a couple of interesting trophies. The first of these is the deconstruction of the McLaren myth, showing the utterly haphazard nature of how UK proto-punk moved from being an insignificant scene at the end of the King's Road to the touch-paper for a worldwide cultural revolution. Rather than moulding his protegés, McLaren comes across as an opportunist who rode the wave of mounting chaos, exploiting rather than creating it. The book's structuring device is story of The Pistols: their chimera-like beginnings, their halting road to notoriety, the scandals, bans and bust-ups that made their name; and ending in murder, suicide, dissolution and most deadeningly, court battles. For each section of their story, Savage brings in material from the wider scene, so the Pistols' abortive tour of the UK allows him to examine Punk in the provinces. McLaren's various excursions to the USA are an opportunity to look at the roots of punk: the New York Dolls, Ramones and Television, and trips to France and Germany provide a way to cover situationism and punk's flirtation with Nazism. If that makes it all sound too slick, too pat, it's not. This is a crunchy, deeply thought piece of cultural criticism with significant intellectual weight behind it. Of course that's not to everyone's taste, but I'm convinced that it's necessary: the roots of punk are pretty damn obscure, radical and theoretical: and they need to be explained in a vocabulary and manner that does that fact justice. I'm not a Pistols fan. In that I'm in good company: John Lydon also disliked the big, polished sound of Never Mind the Bollocks, and the rockist conventions that the band quickly adopted. But the Pistols signify a lot more than the few records they produced could ever convey, and this book tells that story in an impressive way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    I don't claim to be an expert on music or music criticism, but England's Dreaming is probably the best book on music that I've read. The subject is the English punk movement of the 1970s and its context. Savage writes like an academic even though it's a topic clearly close to his heart, and his prose is interspersed with selections from his personal diary from the time-period. England's Dreaming deals cogently with the contradictions of punk: right-wing imagery and left-wing politics, art studen I don't claim to be an expert on music or music criticism, but England's Dreaming is probably the best book on music that I've read. The subject is the English punk movement of the 1970s and its context. Savage writes like an academic even though it's a topic clearly close to his heart, and his prose is interspersed with selections from his personal diary from the time-period. England's Dreaming deals cogently with the contradictions of punk: right-wing imagery and left-wing politics, art students and working class youth, high-concept performance art and the social realist punk formula. It's not a book for beginners--you'll be lost if you don't already know at least a little about the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and other early punk pioneers, as well as the tropes of punk performances. As the title would indicate, the book is particularly focused on the Sex Pistols, including Malcolm McLaren, as well as Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. England's Dreaming is exhaustive, and can be exhausting to read. The academic style can be wearing, but I appreciated the effort to intellectualize music that can come across as brutal and anarchistic. It includes a complete discography of the acts that are mentioned in the book and the author's thoughts on which ones collectors will want to try to find. Though I knew the basics beforehand, this book was immensely useful in expanding that understanding of the social mileau that punk emerged from, and how it relates to its musical forebearers.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    For awhile, I tried to read Andy Warhol’s collected diaries. I had found the hardcover edition with stylish dustcover intact, at a library sale for $2—what a steal! But the value of that volume seemed to be more as a collection of curious artifacts than actual literature—like taxi cab receipts, a record of what he ate for lunch, and an MOU of how much someone owed him (so I traded it in for handsome-sized credit at a bookstore). I never intended to read England’s Dreaming, because I assumed it w For awhile, I tried to read Andy Warhol’s collected diaries. I had found the hardcover edition with stylish dustcover intact, at a library sale for $2—what a steal! But the value of that volume seemed to be more as a collection of curious artifacts than actual literature—like taxi cab receipts, a record of what he ate for lunch, and an MOU of how much someone owed him (so I traded it in for handsome-sized credit at a bookstore). I never intended to read England’s Dreaming, because I assumed it would be similar to the Warhol Diaries. I had seen it for years, but figured that it would be a boring, minute-by-minute account of the rise and the fall of the Sex Pistols (and indeed a lot of Goodreaders seem to think it is just that). But when I got it for free at a swap from a favorite coffee place, I said “why not?” and cracked it open on the train ride home from work. It certainly was an account of the rearing and retreating of the ugly head of the Sex Pistols, but what made it not tedious or boring was the long tangential treatments of other major historical events, cultural trends, artistic movements, and the like. So much so, that it is not really a book about the Sex Pistols—it’s about 1970’s British popular culture just before, during, and after the Pistols’ brief existence. I found this particularly valuable as an American reader, as it decoded so many unfamiliar British references and symbols (I never actually knew what “bollocks” meant! Nor did I, as a speaker of American English, ever realize that the way John Lydon pronounces the chorus in “Pretty Vacant;” that he’s really singing a double entendre with “vay-CUNT”). Prior to reading this, any connection between the Situationists and first-wave British punk seemed vague. And distinguishing between British and American media (print and television) and the music-buying public of each was helpful. The result is deeply satisfying reading for serious music heads who want to fully understand the contexts in which music is made. In part, it was the allure and the political ambiguity of Punk, at it’s core, a youth cultural rebellion against the previous hippie generation: “Political and social (even behavioural) extremism seemed very attractive as a way out of this impasse: one of the first shibboleths to be overcome was the upper middle-class liberalism which had been nourished by the 1960s and was now entrenched in parts of the government, the public sector and in some sections of the media, which failed to reflect the new, harsh, urban reality. ‘Liberal-baiting,’ wrote Peter York in Style Wars… “Punk announced itself as a portent with its polysemy of elements from the history of youth culture, sexual fetish wear, urban decay and extremist politics. Taken together, these elements had no conscious meaning but they spoke of many things: urban primitivism; the breakdown of confidence in a common language; the availability of cheap, second-hand clothes; the fractured nature of perception in an accelerating, media-saturated society; the wish to offer up the body as a jumble of meanings” (230). As for the music itself, Savage concisely traces preceding musical trends, from 50s American rockabilly and 60s American garage, to 70s British glam, and provides great discographies at the end of the book. (Also, for anyone who’s keeping score, Savage provides a lot more evidence for how the New York City scene, especially in the personas of Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and Lou Reed, was the true inspiration for British punk. Did you know Sid Vicious named himself after the Lou Reed song, “Vicious?” (I didn’t). According to Paul Cook, the idea for “Pretty Vacant” came straight from Television’s “Blank Generation” and Venus De Milo.” An early Lydon song was named “Kill Me Today,” echoing Hell’s famous “Please Kill Me” shirt). Speaking of Hell, Savage includes some amazing quotes from him, furthering my own awe for the visionary: “When you’re a kid you think you know everything. I felt I was seeing the reality of human existence that everybody else was deluded about. The best way to reach these people, I thought, was with a Rock’n’Roll band. When I was a teenager, there was a feeling of radio as a secret network. Songs were the secret teenage news and you’d get the news by listening to the radio. I thought we should start a band. We saw ourselves as slum kids with big visions. I was trying to penetrate the conventions and the lies of mass culture and undermine this idea of ‘rock star as idol’ and have it be sharp-eyed kids talking to each other about what they saw” (88). Besides reading the music, punk subculture, and its historical context, Savage is skilled at interpreting or re-interpreting punk lyrics. Dig how he relates Iggy Pop’s lyrics to its time: “Just when Punk, having reached burn-out, was shifting into the death trip that would claim many, Iggy’s hard-won, if sardonic, optimism had a big emotional impact. These two records, his most successful in this country, broadcast a musical language that Punk had silenced. Iggy spoke of a new urban psychogeography: ‘I am the passenger/I stay under glass,’ he sang, ‘I see the bright and hollow sky/Over the city’s ripped backside.’” (421). Besides the Pistiols, Savage’s book inevitably covers many other contemporary bands, from The Clash to X-Ray Spex. See how he distinctly summarizes The Clash’s early sound: “The Clash began as a classic Mod group: angry, smart, mediated, pop. They speeded up the heavily chorded, stuttering sound of the Who and the Kinks and added new variations: the massive, galloping beat of Terry Chimes, a minimum of guitar solos, and the plentiful use of ‘dropout’—where all the instruments drop away, just leaving the beat—borrowed from the dub Reggae that you could hear in Shepherd’s Bush or Portobello Road markets. And with Joe Strummer they had a great front man: energetic, tough, humorous yet compassionate” (232). In the end, this book is a lot like the music—you either love it or hate it. The one concern I have is what another reviewer identified; Savage's suspect tendency to introduce people by their ethnicity (usually Jewish) or race (usually Black).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    History was created by those who say "no" as Savage claims at the back of this book and during Royal Wedding week in the UK, this seems more relevant than ever - especially in view of the Sex Pistols' attempted hijacking of a previous royal event, the 1977 Silver Jubilee. An exhaustive account of the early days of punk and the rise and fall of the Pistols in particular, this volume deserves its place in the pantheon of classic rock literature. What astonishes is the ability of people at the time History was created by those who say "no" as Savage claims at the back of this book and during Royal Wedding week in the UK, this seems more relevant than ever - especially in view of the Sex Pistols' attempted hijacking of a previous royal event, the 1977 Silver Jubilee. An exhaustive account of the early days of punk and the rise and fall of the Pistols in particular, this volume deserves its place in the pantheon of classic rock literature. What astonishes is the ability of people at the time to push back boundaries and shock when now, their every pronouncement would be converted into a marketing "angle" - well, maybe not the stunts using swastikas. Not that this wasn't pretty much exactly what Malcolm McLaren was doing of course. The story becomes ever more horrific and Sid Vicious in particular emerges as a deeply manipulated figure - as opposed to John Lydon, whose subsequent track record with Public Image Ltd reveals a man of real creativity. Highlights include some superb final sections on the legacy of punk - via New Wave and Post-Punk and an annotated discography that should be a first pit stop for anyone at all interested in exploring the era's music.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gordy

    I found this book very informative on the subject of punk. Liked the background of characters given and the way things are given their historical context. I would read this book again as I was surprised at how much there is in there and how clever many of the concepts and thinking behind the movement there is. It was also refreshing to read a quite different account of key people who have been given an otherwise raw deal by the press an society etc. The first 2/3 of the book I found to be a roll I found this book very informative on the subject of punk. Liked the background of characters given and the way things are given their historical context. I would read this book again as I was surprised at how much there is in there and how clever many of the concepts and thinking behind the movement there is. It was also refreshing to read a quite different account of key people who have been given an otherwise raw deal by the press an society etc. The first 2/3 of the book I found to be a roller coaster ride through the origins of punk and the Sex Pistols. I have watched documentaries on punk and punk bands and i read in this book many things that I'd heard before but this account fills in some gaps. I found the last 1/3 of the book harder going and it seemed to take longer to read. Thinking about it though that kind of fits with the content as there came that point of the death of the Pistols, and to some degree a whole part of Punk that died with it, however it took some time for the wheels to grind to a halt.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Darran Mclaughlin

    OK. To be honest most of this was pretty familiar to me from years of listening to and reading about punk music. It wasn't as eye opening as a book like Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang on Hip Hop, or Rip it up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds on Post Punk, or The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross on Modern Classical. Still, it's a good book. Most of all it was interesting to immerse myself in an era in which a large subculture dedicated itself to a totally bohemian, anti-corporate, anti bourgeois OK. To be honest most of this was pretty familiar to me from years of listening to and reading about punk music. It wasn't as eye opening as a book like Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang on Hip Hop, or Rip it up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds on Post Punk, or The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross on Modern Classical. Still, it's a good book. Most of all it was interesting to immerse myself in an era in which a large subculture dedicated itself to a totally bohemian, anti-corporate, anti bourgeois way of life. You just don't get that any more, even with youth subcultures, when the likes of Jay Z go on about being businessmen and entrepreneurs. Oh for the days when people were getting inspired by Situationism, Rastafarianism and Decadent French poetry and making their own crazy outfits...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I read this book because I'm a big Sex Pistols fan and I must say that despite any flaws the book may have, it is probably the best out there on this history of the Pistols and the UK Punk scene in general. It charts the whole movement from its very infancy until its decline. It also explores the climate that punk started in and its aftermath. Lots of good information on Malcolm McLaren too. I think the only better books out there on the Pistols would be the ones written by Johnny and Glen since t I read this book because I'm a big Sex Pistols fan and I must say that despite any flaws the book may have, it is probably the best out there on this history of the Pistols and the UK Punk scene in general. It charts the whole movement from its very infancy until its decline. It also explores the climate that punk started in and its aftermath. Lots of good information on Malcolm McLaren too. I think the only better books out there on the Pistols would be the ones written by Johnny and Glen since they personally lived through the experience of being in the band.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rod

    Overall, this was very disappointing. A thin veneer of intellectualism is a poor disguise for the incoherent narrative and random cod sociology that Savage is peddling here. This story could been infinitely more powerfully told, and at a fraction of the length. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Overall, this was very disappointing. A thin veneer of intellectualism is a poor disguise for the incoherent narrative and random cod sociology that Savage is peddling here. This story could been infinitely more powerfully told, and at a fraction of the length. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark Brindley

    The fact I bought this book 14 years ago and have only just finished reading it says it all. I found myself scanning through a lot of material, some of it was just plain dull, other passages being complete drivel and unnecessary. If it was just focused on the Pistols it would probably have been a better read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Splashconception

    I don't know if amazing is the right word, but as far as the genre of music writing goes ole Savage is top notch and this him at the top of his form. Let it be known that the Sex Pistols were idols of mine in high school, the rock stars I wanted to be and my discovery of their music on a VH1 special about the history of rockn'roll (via their b-side version of No Fun, which, in my opinion, despite the greatness of the Stooges song, is actually better) was the start of a long and mostly fruitful f I don't know if amazing is the right word, but as far as the genre of music writing goes ole Savage is top notch and this him at the top of his form. Let it be known that the Sex Pistols were idols of mine in high school, the rock stars I wanted to be and my discovery of their music on a VH1 special about the history of rockn'roll (via their b-side version of No Fun, which, in my opinion, despite the greatness of the Stooges song, is actually better) was the start of a long and mostly fruitful flirtation with punk rock, zines and underground music/art in general, not to mention a long somewhat serious exploration of the philosophy, politics and aesthetics of various anarchist movements in the 20th century and of course, as would be expected by anyone who has read this book or is a serious fan of the pistols, an obsession with the Situationists. For, as Savage points out and despite Rotten's general combative attempts at declaring that Malcom and the situationists in general were old hippy douche-farts who never influenced the Sex Pistols it seems pretty obvious that various aspects of their look and stance were heavily influenced by Society of the Spectacle and the aesthetic philosophy of the May 68' movement in Paris. For anyone who is a fan of the band and punk in general this is a most have, if for no other reason then the list of essential records in the back which is basically a whose who of great punk/new wave records from the same era. Having reread it this year what surprised me was learning just how succesful and close to actual rock stardom the Pistols were before they basically committed suicide on a states tour. It was also pretty entertaining to read about the record industries take on the Pistols and the battle over rights for a band that one would assume made those companies some money and would have, if Sid and Malcom hadn't destroyed them so quickly, probably made them a lot more money. It seems pretty clear upon reading it that it wasn't so much Malcom's attempt to keep the media circus going that was the demise of the band as it was the fact that the general public of Britain at the time considered them public enemy number 1. Well and his bad management in general, because when they actually got to play Savage describes them as being happy (before the US tour) and enjoying the fruits of being a successful band, but most of the time they did not get to play or enjoy those fruits because they were banned and there were avid attempts to destroy, indeed, Rotten and the drummer got stabbed during this time, Rotten, ironically enough by the black men claiming they loved their queen. Malcome instead of really trying to circumnavigate the ban, get them shows and in general protect them like a manager should was busy pumping up the general hype that the industry ban developed from. It seemed, from reading this book, that it was never about the music for Malcom and in the end that he could have cared less about it, but its clear that whatever affected coolness the members of the pistols provided the general public with, the music was actually important to them, they wanted to be seen as a band and not Malcom's publicity stunt, which increasingly, is how they came off. Now of course, it is the music of the Pistol's which ultimately stands the test of time and Savage in no uncertain terms describes Steve Jones as the genius behind it, that is, without Steve there would have been no Sex Pistols and the addition of Rotten's image and singing gave it the final dose of energy and aggression it needed. The dropping of Glen Matlock (which, contrary to Rotten's own take was as much Glen's choice as it was anyone else's because he wanted to go in a different direction sound wise) and the addition of Sid was in all aspects except the circus one a total fail. Sid sucked. Sorry to say it but he did, he sucked at bass and he sucked at life. Apparently he was a nice guy with a mom who sucked even more (she bought him the heroin that killed him) though Savage does make both the mom and Sid sympathetic. Savage doesn't say this but it is my opinion that Sid ruined the band. If he had learned to play bass it would be one thing, but he sucked at bass according to everyone involved. The legacy of the music is partly the result of techniques Steve used in the studio when they were banned wherein with the help of a producer who also worked with the Beatles they created what has been called "a wall of sound," that heavy distortion that everyone from Nirvana to the Smashing Pumpkins has since borrowed to great effect. If you listen to rock records before this one there is nothing even close, maybe Hendrix or the final Stooges album Raw Power are the closest you will get in terms of atmospherically dense distortion. One interesting chapter describes in a single quote by either Cook or Jones why the relationship between Malcom and Rotten went sour and it is a telling and moving quote, once again bringing home the fact that these rock stars were barely even men at the time and for all their apparent brusque roughness and uncouth posturing they were actually just vulnerable and sensitive teenagers which of course, is part of their appeal.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Pretty dang definitive.

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