fri 21/06/2024

Music Reissues Weekly: Fame - Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81) | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Fame - Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81)

Music Reissues Weekly: Fame - Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81)

Exploratory communiqués from punk’s slipstream

Rema-Rema, with future Ant-person Marco Pirroni (centre)Paul Stahl

“The Method” by The Method Actors was issued as the top side of a single in July 1981. Although recorded in London during September 1980 and only released by a British label, the band – a duo of guitar/vocals and drums/vocals – were from Athens, Georgia.

It didn’t get much attention at the time but its wandering guitar figure, blurry, hard to parse vocals, splashy drums and unyielding forward motion bear a striking resemblance to the early R.E.M., whose first single “Radio Free Europe” was also in shops in July 1981. The shops where they came from – which also happened to be Georgia.

Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81)Chicken and egg situations are usually irresolvable, but it’s impossible to avoid the feeling that before their British venture The Method Actors must have impacted on the nascent R.E.M. This is made manifest by the inclusion of “The Method” on the literally titled double album Fame - Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81). The word “fame” draws from the name of a fanzine which originated in Telford in 1979.

Fame was originally issued in 2012 and copies from then are long gone, so this redesigned edition is welcome. Fairly obviously, this is a personal take on what happened as a result of punk – or what was generated by punk-era folks as they moved on. In his liner notes, Savage says “I’d just reviewed the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks (in November 1977, for music weekly Sounds) and it sounded like a tombstone - in its airlessness, an ending. New Wave, punk’s commercial variant, was even worse.”

Punk had promised emancipation, the shunning of norms. “For a brief period,” says Savage. “Punk was incredibly liberating to a generation of musicians, writers, designers, fans. However, in just over a year after the release of the first Ramones LP, punk had become a style.”

There had to be something else. There was. This album represents aspects of that something else, collecting 23 of the nonconformists which surfaced in punk’s slipstream. In February 1978 Savage was reviewing The Modern Dance, the first Pere Ubu album, for Sounds. The word punk did not appear in what he wrote. “This is built to last,” he noted.

Pere Ubu open Fame with “Heart of Darkness,” which was first issued in the UK on the Datapanik in the Year Zero EP in April 1978. In the US, it was originally the B-side of their debut single which came out in December 1975. At once out of its own time and forward looking. Pre-punk as post-punk.

Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81) Pere UbuThe slipping and sliding of what is, is not or may be post-punk is characterised by the trajectory of a member of one of the bands on Side D of Fame. Marco Pirroni was the guitarist for the first Siouxsie & The Banshees when they played the 100 Club punk festival in September 1976. In early 1977 he was in The Models, who were punk as such. When that was played out they reconfigured themselves to become Rema-Rema who, despite recording, issued nothing while they were extant. However, their amazing theme tune “Rema-Rema” did come out a bit later. Later still, Pirroni was vital to the hit-making iteration of Adam & The Ants who crashed the charts in 1980. Pop was OK again. (pictured left: pre-punk as post-punk. Pere Ubu in early 1976, shortly after the release of “Heart of Darkness”)

Of the other contributors to Fame, it’s The Human League who hit biggest. Here, their pre-fame “The Dignity of Labour Pt. 3” doesn’t have chartbound written on it. Nor does the paint-peeling “Sex” by Los Angeles band The Urinals, who would become the more serious-minded 100 Flowers. As for File Under Pop’s early Rough Trade single “Heathrow,” Savage says “the music is uncompromising: a mixture of found sound – including a banal telephone conversation – harsh synthesiser squeaks and swoops, and distant aircraft noise.”

Fame - Jon Savage’s Secret History Of Post-Punk (1978-81) chronicles multiple worlds where the most relevant attitude was doing your own thing, to not be part of anything else. Still, having a hit would be nice, wouldn’t it?


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