Posted by:on July 11th, 1998
“England’s Dreaming. Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond.” is the full title of this longwinded analysis of the circumstances that led to birth of Punk with the Sex Pistols as the main focus. The first time I read this book I thought it was an over-intellectualized semi-masturbatory thesis paper as written by someone who desperately wanted to belong. For one thing, it’s really long and thick, which would be a good thing if it could keep the readers interest. Savage spends too much print space trying to impose political science on what started out as pure boredom on the part of the youth involved. There are obvious pollitcal influences and agendas at work that are apparent to anyone who is a fan of the music and knows the slightest bit about the history. My complaint is that England’s Dreaming often seems to be about how intelligent the author is and isn’t he clever to be able to make all these inferences. This book was written before the unfortunate Sex Pistols reunion tour (and movie) that would seem to make a lot of the very serious talk in the book seem very silly. There’s a lot of nonsense about situationalists and Malcom McLaren’s art school sketches for who know’s what reason. However, there are some very interesting bits scattered about and lot of the pictures are not the same ones you’ve seen a thousand times. There’s an eight page glossy centerspread with some colored pics as well as other newsprint quality black and white photos mixed throughout the text. Another high point is the so called “discography” in the back. It’s by no means comprehensive and doesn’t claim to be. If you can ignore Savage’s personal tastes (as an example, he dismisses the Dickies as cartoon punks whose only highlight is the song “You Drive Me Ape”. C’mon, we’re talking about the legendary Dickies here. Those men are geniuses!) you’ll find that is an interesting source that is useful for following up on bands that you remember or whose music you may only have on compilation or old tape. The reviews on the jacket pretty much sum this book up. Acording to the Village Voice, “Savage transforms the Pistols’ tale into an intellectual epic…”, and Rolling Stone says “England’s Dreaming is scholarship with spunk… Punk rock is history, and this book is a superb testament to the weight of that history.” Whatever. I’m not over-familiar with Jon Savage’s place in punk rock history and I really couldn’t care less. This book is for borrowing only. Keep a lookout for the funny pictures of Malcom McLaren looking like a poofter and a hilarious dork shot of Sid from 1975 with a self written caption that says “I’m Hymie. Try me.”
Rating: Two out of five safety pins through a speed addicts cheek. England’s sleeping.
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