Thursday, 27 July 2017

Music Interview: KINK DAVE DAVIES


TALES OF THE KINKS is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Horror story 
 that shapes three decades of Music History. Expelled from 
school at 15, and no.1 in the charts two years later, 
DAVE DAVIES’ hedonistic life-style of drugs, sleaze, 
paternity suits, paranoia, fashion subversion, a host of 
sexual contradictions and a stream of classic hits defines 
all that the 1960’s are best remembered for. 
 And that’s before he discovered UFO’s…! 

Now he tells all to ANDREW DARLINGTON... 

 KINK (Kink) n (4) a flaw or idiosyncrasy of personality, quirk 
(5) Brit, informal, a sexual deviation 
(6) US, a clever or unusual idea 
(Collins English Dictionary) 

Does Rock ‘n’ Roll stunt your growth? It does if you do it right. And Dave Davies does it more right than most. Dave is, was, and always will, be guitarist with the Kinks. In the Sixties, with his libido knock-knock-knocking up against the inside of his stylish Mod y-fronts, to be a Kink was the greatest high available. “I was very much a show-off, a cocky young sod... a wild and angry kid who suddenly had more money than I’d ever seen before, with an abundance of women and drugs at my disposal.” But the Kinks Kollective body language continued through into the late 1990’s. They are a band who span three decades of hits and fine albums, and are now revered and revived by the likes of Blur, Paul Weller, Kirsty MacColl, the Pretenders, the Stranglers, and hordes of lesser entities.

Dave’s book ‘Kink: An Autobiography’* is a glutton’s feast of kinky sleazoid confessions. Blurbed ‘a man, a band and an era’, it’s a scurrilous Soap Opera of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s rich and famous – and its sick and shameless, in a swirling Jacuzzi of frantic fun. It’s also a profoundly mood-altering substance. So is it real, or is it Memorex? “What helped me remember things was actually the music” he explains now. “It’s sort-of evocative of memory, isn’t it? It reminds you of certain things that happened. I wanted the book to be conversational, and yet factual. It was important for me to get it out the way that I did. And I enjoyed writing it.” Facts? Conversational? Well, yes it is. For example, “I was with a girl whose hymen was so difficult to break that for a moment I thought she still had her tights on!” Or then there’s the occasion when he’s so high on over-indulgence that suddenly and without warning he’s volcanically sick – all over a girl who’s giving him a blow-job at the time. Later, at a party in Hampstead he meets ‘a petite pretty black-haired singer called Lesley’. Back at her flat, asleep in her bed he’s awakened by a naked BLONDE who “licked my stomach and placed my penis fully into her mouth and began to suck on it like the Goddess of Whores. It was ecstasy.” They fuck all night. In the morning “I got dressed and wandered into the kitchen where Lesley was making coffee. The blonde was nowhere to be seen.”

That was all, apparently, a fairly typical week. “It was an amazing time. You can understand why there’s so much romanticism about that period now, can’t you? In 1965 I was walking on water. We could do ANYTHING. I couldn’t do anything wrong. Well – I DID! But no-one seemed to mind” he grins, playfully gleeful. “And I never seemed to be satisfied, despite all the women that I’d been with. I always wanted more.” Dave Davies sprawls in the swivel chair’s plush upholstery opposite me. We’re at Boxtree Books, his London publisher. He’s doing the gabfest for ‘Kink’, and he’s well into it. Stories flow. He laughs at his own jokes, then loses himself in anecdotes about women, music, drugs, UFO’s, aliens, long long weary American tours, and his bare-knuckle relationship with his songwriting arch-Kinkster brother, Ray.

But stardom? “Naw. Rock Stars are still just people playing guitars, y’know? They’ve just got posher front rooms now than when they started.” He’s either deceptively normal, or more two-faced than a gallery of Picasso portraits. In some way it’s this very normality that makes him exceptional. Except that most normal men don’t have pasts like the one laid bare in ‘Kink’.


“My girlfriend packed her bags 
and moved to another town, 
she couldn’t stand the boredom 
when the video broke down” 
 (The Kinks ‘State Of Confusion’, 1983)

Unlike me, Dave Davies is not circumcised. I know this because on page fifty-nine he writes “I took a girl back to my room after a show and while we were having sex I heard a loud snapping sound. At first I had no idea what it was, then I felt a pain in my crotch. I turned on the light and was shocked to see blood everywhere. The girl was smothered in it. The sheets were full of it. I examined my penis, and blood was pouring from it. I had split the foreskin.” A case of over-enthusiasm, or strenuous over-use?

“I was an angry rebellious kid, and I wanted to try everything, anything that was against the norm, whether it was getting high, or wearing outrageous clothes, or having sex with whoever I pleased. Everyone around us was experimenting sexually” he explains by way of justification. As if justification were needed. All this was, of course, during the amoral flesh-games possible between the advent of the birth pill, and the impact of AIDS, between the inauguration of the Permissive Society, and the kill-joy shut-down of Political Correctness.

During an Australian tour he is shown the ‘basic principles’ of hypnotism and begins practising on any willing person who comes along – including a nightclub dancer who had ‘gorgeous black hair that hung down to the crack of her arse.’ Once she’s under his hypnotic control “we proceeded through the various aspects of love-making slowly, freely, until dawn started to break. It was one of the most sensitive and magnificent sexual experiences I had ever had.” But she leaves the Hotel room still under trance. “I never caught sight or sound of the woman ever again” he muses uncertainly. “Was it a double bluff? Was she PRETENDING to be hypnotised and just got a kick out of it? Did she fool me? Or worse – is there still a hypnotised woman walking around out there?”

Then – as the Sixties give way to the Seventies, and the Kinks score a massive hit with the sexually ambiguous gender-bending “Lola”, things get even weirder. “By 1972 we had acquired a strong, if not unusual following as we continued to tour the States – straights, Gays, Groupies, Transvestites, Transsexuals. There was a group of outrageous transvestite dancers and singers called the Cockettes (a la ‘Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert’, 1994), who followed us everywhere.” Naturally Dave becomes an enthusiastic participant here too, experimenting sexually with male as well as female lovers. “It’s this whole thing about Rugby players in the shower, isn’t it?” he asks mysteriously. “It’s kinda like that. There’s a lot of admiration, mutual male admiration that goes on in sport. Did you ever see Richard Harris in ‘This Sporting Life’ (1963)? And did you see that Keith Allen thing about the Gay Footballer? It was a ‘Comic Strip’ piss-take about Gazza, when he was first coming onto the sports scene. In the sketch, he was a Gazza-type player, but it had all these Gay connotations. But yes, I think that if you consider it historically, in imperial Rome it was considered quite normal for people to be bisexual. And in ancient Greece too, wasn’t it? A lot of this male-male coupling thing comes out of mutual admiration as well. Sometimes it’s not so much directly sexual as respectful, or done in admiration. A wanting to get close, and these other things, y’know. Closer...” 

‘Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls’? “There was never any stigma attached to my interest in other young men. I’ve always felt that if you have a genuine respect and love for another person, who gives a shit if the partner is a boy or a girl?” But even these admirably laid-back sentiments can be playfully and mischievously subverted. Bored in New York, he and ‘friend’ Linda decide to temporarily swap clothes. She helps him with wig and full make-up. Delighted with the results they take a cab down to the Greenwich Village Club scene, “I’d dressed up in women’s clothes before, but never quite so publicly. It was very interesting the way men would look at me. I really got a kick out of the fact that no-one knew who I was. It was fantastic. I could observe the world from a totally different perspective. As a voyeur.” In a club called ‘Nobody’s’ at three in the morning they encounter Mick Avory – the Kinks drummer, and “he didn’t recognise me. The dirty old man was letching and leering at me. God, now I realised what it must be like for a woman! I continued to flirt with Mick in the dimly lit bar. I slowly stood up, spread my legs, lifted up my dress, and sexily guided my hand down the front of my underpants and grabbed at my crotch. Suddenly it hit Mick who I was. He was stunned, with mouth agape. You should have seen the look on his face. It was a treat...”


“Still we watch the re-runs again and again
 we sit glued while the killer takes aim – 
Hey Mom, there goes a piece 
of the President’s brain...!” 
(The Kinks ‘Give The People What They Want’, 1981) 

“While I was out carousing and living it up, Ray was content to observe. I did the partying, he wrote about it.” The tension between the Davies brothers – Ray and Dave, ignites the centre of the Kinks’ furious energies. As it did for Don and Phil Everly. As it does for Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis. To Dave, Ray is both ‘a puzzling dichotomy’ and ‘a fucking arsehole’. I watch them on stage in Leeds last year, or perhaps the year before last. They do a song called “Phobia”. Ray describes it as “a serious Rock ‘n’ Roll message song”, then proceeds to climb up onto the speaker cabinets behind the band. Adding “I’m into psychology. I don’t know why,” as he prowls down the front gesticulating inanely behind the Bouncer’s heads. The song’s chorus goes “everybody got phobia, What you got? – PHOBIA!!!”

It’s easy to probe phobias and try some cheap psychology to explain the Davies brothers. A large warm Muswell Hill family in the late 1940’s. Six sisters. Then Ray, and finally... Dave. DIY psychology says, initially, that Ray – as the firstborn son, receives all that gushing female attention. Until Dave – younger and cuter, came along and ‘stole a bit of his space in the limelight.’ Resentments and jealousies are not always rational, and they can go deep. Secondly, Dave – as subsequent recipient of all that female nurturing, grows to take female pampering and compliance for granted. He adores women (“I loved to sneak a peek at my sisters dressing and undressing...”), and knows exactly how to exploit their affections. Sexual morés, and addictions also go deep. On stage in Leeds Dave sings his solo hit “Death Of A Clown”, and his writing contribution to the Kinks ‘Word Of Mouth’ (1984) album – “Living On The Thin Line”. He plays a Fender guitar that has Seaside Postcard girlie legs climbing all the way up the strap.

“...As I reflect back on this crazy life, I’m still trying to figure out what happened between us then, and what continues to go on between us now. Maybe I’ll never know.” As kids Ray and Dave share a bed, and invent their own private gibberish language. And the Kinks sound gets accidentally – and almost fatally invented during a rainy afternoon in the Davies front room. Dave is sixteen. He wires his guitar through a series of cheap cannibalised amps... and blows himself across the room when the super-charged first chord short-circuits.

He idolises Eddie Cochran, and sees guitarist Duane Eddy live at the Finsbury Park Empire in 1963 (“my devotion to Duane Eddy was not misplaced”). Dave’s own first band – the Ramrods, ends in a brawl at a US Air Base backing a black body-building contortionist on a bill that also includes a couple of over-the-hill Strippers. The band gets renamed The Ravens after a Vincent Price Horror movie, then the Bo-Weevils after the title of an Eddie Cochran ‘B’-side. A singer called Robert Wace wangles them some Society dates on condition that he can sing with the group. One night he comes on, gets as far as the first chorus of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On”, and accidentally smashes his front teeth out on the mike. At the last minute, Ray steps in to take over vocals – for keeps. Wace does stick around long enough to contribute the group’s next name change though. The Kinks. “I thought the idea of being called the Kinks was silly, but it was a saucy name for the time. The Profumo Affair was all over the news then, establishing the names of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, and phrases like ‘Kinky Sex’ were starting to appear in the tabloids.”

Brian Epstein comes to watch them. Promises he’ll call. Never does. Instead they follow their first two failed singles with a riff-heavy “You Really Got Me” with a sound so raw it bleeds, and suddenly this ‘scruffy inexperienced bunch of kids’ are no.1 on the chart, and the madness begins. “A lot of the girls I met were quite young, but very willing. Young girls were prepared to do anything to be with their adored stars. By March 1964 when we went out on our first package tour with the Dave Clark Five I was already quite experienced with women, at the ripe age of seventeen.” 

The hits continue – the raucous “All Day And All Of The Night” (No.2, 19th Nov 1964), “Tired Of Waiting For You” (their second no.1, 18th Feb ‘65), the Carnaby Street anthem “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” (no.4, 31st March ‘66), “Sunny Afternoon” (a third no.1, 7th July 1966), the satiric “Well Respected Man” (an America no.15 in Feb 1966), then the wistful melancholia of “Waterloo Sunset” (no.2, 25 May 1967) where ‘Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night’ – in myth it becomes Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, in reality it becomes a perfect elegy for the Sixties London dream, and many more. “We could do anything. It was like one night we were last-minute booked to do a ‘Top Of The Pops’. This was when ‘Top Of The Pops’ was done live in Manchester. We went to the airport, but there were no seats left on the plane. So they immediately took ten people off the plane so they could put us and our entourage on the plane to fly us to Manchester to do the show! You could do literally anything you liked.” 

But within the group, things were changing. “Over those first three or four years with the Kinks, Ray and I didn’t have any problems” he considers carefully. As though he’s explaining it all to himself, as well as to me and you. “I think things started to go wrong with me and Ray personally, after his first marriage ended. When he felt the world had caved in on him, and the world had let him down, kind-of (Ray’s marriage to Rasa effectively ended 12 June 1973). When that support is taken away, it’s kind-of like ‘What the Fucking ‘Ell? What am I doing here?’ I think that was a much bigger hole in the Kinks career than people realise. I also think Ray changed a lot when he felt we were being ripped off by Music Publishers. Which we were. But Ray probably felt it more because he wrote most of the songs. And it makes you a bit bitter. I understood. But I was always a little bit too optimistic for me own good. I used to think if it’s done, it’s done. What can you do? But it really made Ray more thoughtful. Less trusting. More paranoid. A bit bitter and da-da-de-de-da-da. But maybe that helped his writing as well? So you don’t know. You can’t know.” 

In ‘Kink’ he writes “in spite of it all, I love my brother. Maybe that’s all that’s necessary. That it was the love between us that helped to make it all happen. Us against the world.” 

But hey, this is getting to read like a Music Magazine. Let’s hit the sleaze button.


“Whisky or gin, that’s all right, 
there’s nothing in her bed at night. 
She sleeps with the covers down 
hoping somebody gets in, 
it doesn’t matter what she does, 
she knows that she can’t win” 
(Dave Davies “Susannah’s Still Alive”, January 1968) 

Does Rock ‘n’ Roll arrest your character development into an eternal adolescence? It does if you do it right. When Right-Wing politicians fulminate about the root causes of sexual permissiveness, the break-up of the family and the break-down of social discipline, all – they claim, the product of the 1960’s, they’re attacking all the things that the Kinks at their finest, most perfectly represent. In hits that still sound almost virally infectious. For Dave ‘The Rave’ Davies, the Sixties must seem like Paradise Lust, the greatest high available. For the rest of us, it’s either a second-hand memory you’re a little envious to have missed out on, or an endearing nonsense you’re glad you’ve grown up out of. 

But even as the Sixties nose-dives into extinction Dave scores a run of solo hits, “Death Of A Clown”, “Suzanah’s Still Alive”, and “Lincoln County”. He takes a debauched promo trip to do German TV, which starts out with booze and Diana Dors lowdown (‘her mirrored bedroom ceiling, her lust for men, and general sexual antics’). Then the soundcheck, drugs and complimentary whores in the Hotel, “one of the girls undressed me and laid me on a couch. This voluptuous woman began to give me a massage... my mouth was so dry I could barely speak and my head was reeling, but I felt wonderful. She moved her hand down to my stomach and stroked and kissed my abdomen with the gentle and sensual ease of a consummate artist. I felt her mouth on my penis, it felt as if her tongue was inside my head, touching and stimulating every nerve ending and sensory centre in my brain.” Eventually, for the actual telecast, he’s so blobbed out of it he’s unable to stand, and has to go through the motions of miming to his hit sitting on a stool. 

There are no Black Holes in Muswell Hill. But Dave was creating his own. It was “as if I were being devoured by a dark psychic swamp that was dragging me into its secret world in all its subtle and insidious power.” People he’d Clubbed with – Keith Moon and Brian Jones, didn’t make it through. Yet Dave survives the nightmare of what he calls his ‘psychic death’. He gives up meat, drugs and excess. And tunes into a New Age consciousness wide enough to include UFO-chasing openness to X-File’d millennial possibilities. 

“We have to take a big step into the world of the unknown – now, before the door is closed on us completely” he informs me. “We are living in the 21st Century, and we’ve got so much at our fingertips to actually help create real change in the world. We have everything from metaphysics, to cyber-technology, yoga, and yes – drugs too, if you like. Astrologically, what’s happening is that the outer planets are moving. Saturn has moved into the sign of Sagittarius. It’s really boring if you’re not interested in it, but I find it significant. And to cut a long story short, these things are influencing people to do things. Something big is gonna happen! And I think all the ideas about revolution that everyone was talking about in the 1960s will actually happen in the early years of this new century. It makes more sense now. There are people in Big Business Corporations who were taking acid when they were sixteen or seventeen. There are still people around who were part of that Sixties culture – like you and I. While, I saw a programme on TV the other day about a group of young people who had come through today’s ‘E’ subculture. They were talking about feeling the transmission of love between people. That’s not crazy. Alright – so it’s a chemical going off in the brain, making the nervous system and the brain do this. But is that so bad. They’d decided to set up their own little group in which they were trying to manifest without drugs those feelings of love that they’d experienced from using those things. Now, in that sense, a positive good has come about by their use of drugs. And I applaud that. So there’s certain elements out there now that just need to be pulled together...” 

The 1960s and the 2000s are, it seems, umbilically linked. And by more than just hippie numerology. The two eras share the same restlessness. The same sense that something momentous is about to happen, but no-one knows quite what... apparently. “We NEED to get into the world of the unknown” he emphasises genially. “I did an interview the other week, and we were talking about UFO’s. I was talking about aliens and messages from outer space. This, that, and the other. And the guy thought I was crazy. Yet he probably goes home and watches the ‘X-Files’ on television. So that’s alright, OK? Because we’re detached from that. But the thought of us being ATTACHED to it, that’s a very different psychological process. I think in a way, in a sense... oh,” his voice drops to a conspiratorial intimacy, “I’d better shut meself up. There’s a lot of things I shouldn’t say!” 

Why? Because he knows things it is not safe to divulge, secrets known only to him, Mulder and Scully? Or because his Press Agent is watching him in case he goes too far? 

Dave Davies is a legend in his own Mod y-fronts, much of his anecdotage reflects back on his own (neglected) importance. Mick Jagger comes backstage to bawl and strum “You Really Got Me” to him, badly. Paul McCartney complains to him that the Kinks invented Eastern tunings (on their hit “See My Friends”) before the Beatles got around to it. Jimi Hendrix quizzes him about how he got his amped-up guitar sound. And even within the Kinks “I always felt like Ray’s older brother. He always seemed so fragile, so sensitive.” 

But just when that (defensive?) arrogance begins to become tedious, or when you fear alien ectoplasm is cramping your prose-style, the likeable good guy keeps breaking through. “It would be interesting to see how historians in fifty years time – if there IS a fifty years time! how they will view all these things” he muses. “I’d like to think the Kinks will have a little place of their own...” 

“Thank you for the days, 
I don’t regret a single day, 
believe me...” 
 (The Kinks “Days”, 1968)

Boxtree Books Ltd ISBN 0-7522-1695-3 
 £16.99 Pan Paperback - 1997

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Live: The Kinks In Leeds


live at ‘The Town And Country’, Leeds 

I first saw the Kinks at Bridlington Spa, 1966. Since then I’ve seen them bad. I’ve seen them good. I’ve seen them good-bad, but not evil. But I’ve seldom seen them this sharp.

Let’s take “Low Budget” for closer analysis – long, rousing, jagged guitar raunch. Ray Davies geysers a lager-bottle. ‘Sorry, I did the unforgiveable’ while foam-spraying the front crush. ‘I spilled the Heineken. I wasn’t to know. What’s wrong with Tetley’s?’ Tetley’s is the local brewery down the road. As the lurch lumbers on he’s shaking his bum grotesquely at the audience, lifting his trousers to reveal Union Jack socks. Kinks-literate TV viewers will know that he donated his matching Doc Martin’s to a fan on Chris Evans ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’. He balances the lager bottle on his head. Then feigns harmonica until he gets bored with doing that. So he stops and addresses the audience direct. ‘How’re ya doin’ Chief?’ He side-glances at brother Dave with a cartoon nod, ‘I worry ‘bout this boy.’ And all the while the riff roars and the lyrics run ‘I may look like a tramp, but don’t write me off.’ Tonight, Ray Davies is a tramp shining. As “Low Budget” finally crashes to a halt he shields his eyes from the spots and asks ‘you people upstairs OK? I worry about them too.’

Raymond Douglas Davies will be fifty-years-old this 21 June. The Kinks debut single (“Long Tall Sally”) appeared just over thirty years ago, with their first no.1 (“You Really Got Me”) following it in September of that same 1964. A band of such longevity simply should not be this much fun. Rock ‘n’ Roll seldom comes better.

Solid support band Nine Below Zero open with thick wedges of Pub R&B and a drummer in a Muddy Waters ‘T’-shirt. Mouth-harpist Mark Feltham wears his full Napoleon costume. Denis Greaves does “On The Road Again” and “Don’t Point Your Finger”, and they go down well.

Then this Busker slouches out in a check shirt and long grey perverts mack, his sleeves untidily scuffed back. He strums his way into “A Well Respected Man”. Ray Davies is (almost) unplugged, replaying his TV ‘Return To Waterloo’ cameo as a one-man band. “Autumn Almanac” is complete with its elongated ‘’cos the sun is all gorn’, then “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Sunny Afternoon”. It’s like he’s getting the sixties affectionately out of the way first, before the serious stuff. With “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” he rasps his tongue out in mock-concentration and sings ‘round the boutiques, of old Leeds town’, then shrugs apologetically and adds ‘he’s doing his best.’

A full twenty Kinks texts follow. And each one tells a story. Dave Davies wields a vicious Fender with girlie legs up the strap. This man allegedly invented Heavy Metal with a single gloriously ludicrous solo of monumentally primal ineptitude. And he still defines the Kinks rawness and power. Ray’s quirky lyrical observations and character sketches matched into its huge loom.

I’ve seen the Kinks err to Metal. I’ve heard them err to whimsy. Tonight the balance is near-perfect. “Phobia”, and “Wall Of Fire” from that same album (‘Phobia’, 1993), ram the band’s endless history through the blender. It comes out recharged and vibrant. “Welcome To Sleazy Town” is strung out on a long Blues introduction with Bump ‘n’ Grind dancers and Ray in his umpteenth costume change red tartan jacket and shades. The Oldest Wave of the Old Wave – and here in Leeds they slamdance to the Kinks.

“Days” starts off a-cappella with a touching sincerity. Like it’s a thank-you for all those days drawn out across all those thirty years of Kinkdom.

Before it impacts into a unexpected “Twist And Shout”. Dave holds his guitar out like a relic from Lourdes for fans to touch and be healed.

I swear I too was healed…

DVD Review: The Kinks


Review of: 
 DVD, H.History GOHC5486 

In the sixties the hierarchy went Beatles and Stones. Then Kinks and Who. Then the third tier of Hollies, Small Faces, Yardbirds, Searchers and Manfreds. Each of them unique in their own way. The Kinks more unique than most. This concise career fly-over, extracted from ‘The History Channel’, and retaining its ad-break chapter-headings, is an essentially US-slanted perspective, but captures something of the band’s shambolic genius. It traces their origins as ‘three baby musketeers’ rehearsing in the front room of 6 Denmark Terrace in North London’s Muswell Hill, the home of brothers Ray and Dave Davies, with schoolfriend Pete Quaife adding bass. Joined by drummer Mick Avory they unite with producer Shel Talmy. Their third Pye single, “You Really Got Me” puts them at no.1 in the charts in September 1964, and changes history.

Talmy tells how Dave lacerated the group’s ‘little pug-nosed’ 8-watt amp to achieve the raucous sexually-charged primitive sound he sought, which has subsequently been accused of booting-up the entire Heavy Metal genre. Not that that should be held against him. “You Really Got Me” and its two follow-ups ‘completely killed me’ admits Little Steven of the E-Street Band. With their red hunting jackets and their name conjuring teasing hints of perversity, their rise seemed unstoppable. But the Kinks’ advance into the American market was stalled by a long-standing ban following a chaotic tour.

All sixties bands were cheated. The Kinks were no exception. Their inept rip-off manager Larry Page went out to tour the States with them, ditched them there, and came back with Sonny & Cher instead. So while other lesser names stormed US stadia, they concentrated on developing their reflective very English character studies, nostalgic short stories, and vaguely melancholy themes that went through “Waterloo Sunset” into albums such as ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ (November 1968) – largely neglected and seen as a failure at the time, now recognised as a lost classic.

Despite its brevity, the DVD manages to effectively explore the volatile internal chemistry of the ‘dysfunctional Kinks family’. Extrovert Dave, the model for the ‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’, living the full sixties Raver life-style of clubs, drugs and multi-sexuality. And Ray, who stays at home documenting it all through his songs. Dave does most to-camera, explaining the nature of his complex and loving sibling rivalry with quieter, more poetic brother Ray, who appears largely through archive footage. I recall Dave struggling to articulate the same mixed emotions when I spoke with him. Contributions from Mick and Pete flesh out the story of a creative process for which anger was the ‘motivating thing’. Pete was the first Kink to bale out, after a run of eleven straight UK Top Ten hits, just as the US touring ban expired and “Lola” re-established the band on both sides of the Atlantic.

Arista label-boss Clive Davis talks about signing the Kinks for an arc of successful stadium-level albums through the eighties before the internal rifts culminated in the Kinks split, and subsequent forays into solo project. Until there’s a touching reconciliation prompted by a double-tragedy. Ray was shot during a botched mugging in New Orleans, and Dave suffered a serious heart attack, two close-encounters with mortality that briefly brought the feuding brothers together. Although the DVD closes on upbeat speculation about the chances of a re-union tour taking in the original four members, this has now been superceded by Pete Quaife’s death 23 June 2010. Poignant for me too because Dave, with some degree of sincerity, pointed out to me that despite the long and often disruptive history of the Kinks, they’d all survived reasonably intact. He seemed both surprised, and more than a little grateful about that.

Featured on website:
(UK – September 2010)

CD Review: Dave Davies 'Rippin' Up Time'

Album Review of: 

There are two possible meanings to the title. Either it’s time to ‘Rip It Up’, as in the hard-rocking Little Richard sense. Or else Dave is intent on ripping up the very concept of the space-time continuum itself. As it is, this album succeeds in doing both. Ten raw revved-up and out of their mind tracks that mangle nostalgia and novelty, reflection and autobiography with savage upfront energies. There are teasing hints of familiar Kinks riffs – but hell, he created them, he’s entitled to use, reuse and abuse them as he chooses. There’s one about the pub down on Finchley High Street where every Friday night the “King Of Karaoke” croons “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Unchained Melody”… and quotes “Sunny Afternoon” too. “Front Room” tells the Davies’ Working Class family history, as the brothers form a group – ‘with Pete (Quaife), Ray and John (Start) from next door’, using “You Really Got Me” as reference point. It’s also a kind of answer to Ray’s “Back In The Front Room” dialogue passage on his ‘The Storyteller’ (1998) project. The laugh-out-loud prurience of “In The Old Days” retrospects that same dysfunctional childhood, while “Semblance Of Sanity’ with its shambling whispered ‘sh-sh’ offers confirmation of ‘peace, truth, love and understanding.’ There’s some creative input from Dave’s son, Russ Davies. But there’s no maudlin whimsy, there are raucous guitars yes, but snarling synths too. As the only Kink to have solo chart hits, Dave’s albums outside the group have been inconsistent, but largely enjoyable. This might just be his best, his voice effectively expressively slurred, raggedly lyrical, but tight. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. 

Published in:
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL’ Vol.2 No.49
Jan-February (UK – January 2015)

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Radical Publishing: 'SAVOY WARS'


 As a direct result of his shock SF novel ‘LORD HORROR’
Savoy Books and Records supremo and Novelist Dave Britton 
spent time in prison in Manchester. But undaunted he talks to 
Andrew Darlington about Savoy’s CD’s, their comics and novels... 

 ‘Hello Mr and Mrs America, and all the ships at sea...’ 
 – PJ Proby on the ‘Lord Horror’ CD Talking Book 

‘They’re just scum’ explodes Dave Britton. ‘Fascists are scum, you just can’t deal with them, you can’t reason with them or excuse them. They’re shit. They are evil, purely evil. But can you name me one novel – just one, which captures that essence of pure evil? C’mon. Name me one...’ I flounder, before eventually settling on the only, too obvious candidate – ‘Lord Horror’ (1990) by Dave Britton.

‘Right. Ramsey Campbell is promoted as England’s answer to Stephen King. Who said that about him in the first place? I don’t know. He’s a great writer, and good luck to him. But I don’t see that element of pure evil in what he writes. Thomas Harris’ ‘Silence Of The Lambs’ (1988) is closer, but you tend to visualise Anthony Hopkins in the movie role, don’t you? Clive Barker comes even closer still, particularly in ‘The Books Of Blood’ (1984-1986). Clive Barker can be brilliant, also in the way he smears it across the mediums from short stories to movies. But even he rarely gets it exactly right. And that’s what I wanted to do with ‘Lord Horror’ – I wanted to create a character who is that personification of evil.’

Dave Britton and Michael Butterworth at Savoy

Perhaps he succeeds too well? Dave went to prison, following a series of high-profile legal actions brought against the novel, and related police raids on the bookshop premises then run by Dave with long-term associate Michael Butterworth. This all happened before an IRA bomb levelled the area for municipal redevelopment, or what Mike terms ‘Manchester’s creeping virus of gentrification. A process that involves shipping out the ‘lower orders’ by raising the rents, thereby providing space for yet more designer label dungeons and yuppie watering holes. We wish them the very best leprosy money can buy!’

Original Dave Britton artwork

Savoy is an independent publishing label run by Dave and Mike. Together they’ve created some of the most fiercely controversial and banned work ever to come out of the Science Fiction subculture. Savoy, they say, operates like a family. The Krays. But hey – Mike and Dave do believe in Family Values, even if they are Adams Family Values...! 

In the meantime Dave carefully reads out his entry in the ‘The Encyclopaedia Of Science Fiction’. And within this massive thick-as-a-brick tome, compiler Peter Nicholls writes that ‘Lord Horror’ is ‘a scatological examination of Nazism and the UK traitor Lord Haw-Haw, which made use of pornographic imagery upsetting to the Manchester Police...’ Dave throws up his hands – ‘‘pornographic imagery’ it says! Pornographic! There is NO sexual pornography in ‘Lord Horror’. Deliberately. There’s VIOLENCE, because it deals with a sick violent evil mind, but there’s no graphic depictions of sex.’ But Nicholls goes on to concede that the book is ‘clearly, if very offensively, a satire’. And if people take offence, perhaps that’s because they fail to correctly decode the right parts of the message? ‘Sure’ concedes Dave, ‘all people see is the violence. They don’t see the references.

Savoy dragged ‘THE JOY OF THE MANCHESTER A-Z’ into the harsh realm of litigation. ‘Lord Horror’ is a stunning vortex of deranged surrealism and fantastic imagery loosely based on the exploits and dubious multi/ quasi-sexual adventures of war-time traitor Lord Haw-Haw, ‘a character who is that personification of evil’. And it instantly succeeded in outraging Thatcher’s buttoned-up Britain. It’s a book that – to Elizabeth Young of ‘The New Statesman’, ‘outrages current taboos on racism so strangulating that no-one may transgress them’. Former Punk wild-child Julie Burchill declared that she was ‘up for a riot in Golders Green’ if this would prevent a paperback edition (in ‘The Spectator’), while Michael Winner – movie director of such highly moral fables as the ‘Deathwish’ film-series, self-righteously informed BBC Radio 4 that ‘Lord Horror’ is ‘exactly the kind of book that should be banned.’

Sure enough, on charges relating to the publication and sale of what these – and other self-appointed moral guardians considered ‘objectionable’ material, ‘Lord Horror’ was confiscated, found obscene, and then made publishing history when it became the first novel to be banned in Britain since 1968. Since Hubert Selby’s ‘Last Exit To Brooklyn’. Dave blames the ‘cult of anti-Northerness’ for the continued lack of cause celebré publicity over their serial cases, despite the high-profile support in court of people like Michael Moorcock. ‘Yes. The only way we’ll get recognition is when we’re killed by some outraged Nazi’ he snorts with delicious derision. ‘Or when I wind up in jail.’ In fact – as a result of the charges, Dave Britton actually spent time as a guest of her satanic majesty. ‘His experience in Strangeways was the main spur that started him writing. He knew in that moment that he mustn’t waste any more time. If he got out, he must write his novel.’

It sometimes seems that to the London-based Literary Luvvies, Mike and Dave are the cutest couple to come out of Manchester since Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. Something like the crazed motorcycle gang who rode through the toxic waste spill and came out hideously mutated. Outlaws from some alien Northern Hell.

“It’s red-hot, mate. I have to think of this sort of book 
getting into the wrong hands. As soon as I’ve finished 
(writing) this, I shall recommend they ban it...’ 
Tony Hancock writes his novel (Radio Show scripts) 

‘This is Manchester, we do things differently here’ says ‘Tony Wilson’ in the ‘Twenty-Four Hour Party People’ (2002) movie. Mark Twain once claimed he’d like to have lived in Manchester, because ‘the transition between Manchester and Death would be unnoticeable…’

Dave and Mike, Manchester’s Badly-Drawn Boys, are not exactly treasured by this nation’s academic elite. Yet Dave wrote, and together they published this dazzling atrocity of dark enchantment, this black grotesque novel of mayhem and madness hot-wired into a Hieronymus Bosch triptych. This black absurdist comedy that casually opens ‘had it not been for the war, Hitler would have done well...’ The result was that the ‘Sinister Dexter’, the Obi-Wan-Kenobi and Que-Gon Jinn of radical publishing, left that previous dumb and vicious century dragging Horror’s fearful symmetry through the full vindictive contours of human stupidity, from Police Raids to Law Courts to a spell of incarceration.

Curiously, another of the ways you could access ‘Lord Horror’ was by tracking down a copy of their CD Talking Book edition... narrated by fallen 1960s Pop God PJ Proby (1999)! And here Dave’s prose blowtorches images of stunning surreality – a ‘vagina-hat with poppystalk clitorises’, while Proby – oddly, supplies the perfect voice to detonate its eerily visceral menace. Radio static buzzes like clouds of bee-sperm around his rich Texan drawl, intersected by hits of 1940s Swing echoing back through time to Hitler’s rants, and sound-grabs of English traitor Lord Haw-Haw himself, the Nazi propagandist and original model for the diseased Lord ‘Maximum’ Horror. But a line about 1950s Rocker Larry Williams provokes a Proby reminiscence to the effect that ‘Larry Williams? I saw him shoot a guy in front of me.’ The story is probably true. Later, while reciting that Horror’s lips are ‘oddly rotund and effeminate’ he laughs, ‘just for you Baby.’ Then the one-time Jett Powers does an Elvis-style “My Yiddisher Mama”, juxtaposed with demonic distortions direct from the chaos of his soul.

P J Proby on 'Savoy Records'

The seventy-one minute CD consists of three long novel extracts. “On The Isle Of Lord Horror” (the novel’s full first sixteen pages), “Lord Horror: Jew Killer” taking the action to Ladbroke Grove with Horror’s mutant malchicks Meng and Ecker (Pages 57 to 61), and finally into verminous nights of pervy obscenity hunting Hitler through New York’s Bacteria City in “Lord Horror On The Moon” (p 142–162). There are some necessary abbreviations, but some spontaneous interjections too – ‘Lady Labia Major? Y’all can say ‘Labia Major’ here? The labia major is the meatiest and biggest part of the pussy, do you guys know that?’ Yes – they do. Then Proby adds WC Fields vocal inflexions in perfect pastiche over melancholy pizzicato strings, until a Sandy Nelson drum-loop ratchets up the soundscape to the novel-sequence about the fetishistic Frogman’s evisceration and cannibalism into yet more skin-crawlingly atmospheric repulsion. There’s even a savage ‘Hokey Cokey’ that ends ‘and that’s what it’s all about – FUCK YOU!” which pretty much sums up Savoy’s attitude to this nation’s academic elite.

Original Dave Britton artwork

This is Dave Britton: his true story.

Mike is as tall and blonde as Dave is dark and rotund. Dave is in black. Black shirt hung out over black trousers. Black hair and black-tinted glasses. He looks like the guy who’d steal your X-Box if you turn your back on him too long. Butterworth is taller, leaner, pale and interesting. His blonde hair is close-cropped, ‘his ‘Rave look’ jeers Dave. We retreat across Deansgate from the ‘Drum & Porcupine’ where, during the course of a tête-à-tête during which Dave voraciously devours a heaped dish of spare ribs, Mike opting for the vegetarian tagliatelle, we discuss Iron Butterfly’s lost psychedelic artefact-album ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ (1968), Mersey Beat star Kingsize Taylor, the collapse of Factory Records (‘just down the road from here’) and the critical gush-factor accompanying holocaust-titillation novels by Martin Amis and DM Thomas. Mike is veggie, but lives on the culinary cutting edge. He was Vegan for ten years, but reverted to eating ‘certain animal-based products’ on medical advice, to regain lost weight.

Original Dave Britton artwork

And Dave reminisces about how ‘I used to sit in our bookshop and get first look at all the new second-hand stuff that came in, all the odd and esoteric books people brought in to trade. You got medical textbooks on rare diseases, and you’d go ‘I’LL HAVE THAT!’, and there’s some beautiful phrases in there. And books with antique and outdated terminology, like the guy who was ‘WOBBLED TO DEATH’. Isn’t that perfect?’ He rolls the words around his mouth, tasting them. ‘‘WOBBLED TO DEATH’. And you incorporate all these fascinating references mixed into new contexts. And the reviewers can’t relate to it all because these things are OUTSIDE THEIR EXPERIENCE and hence suspect or disturbing.’

Early Dave Britton magazine

These two unlikely negative role-models have been a volatile outlaw publishing and then recording partnership ‘since 1972 – man and beast’. One at permanent loggerheads with the highly moral Manchester Constabulary who they’ve satirised mercilessly in their various projects. Down the road from Savoy there’s a Survivalist store, and a Scientologist’s Dianetics Centre. Manchester – it’s murder out there, we pun it into Gun-chester, Grunge-chester and beyond. A city decomposing beneath a soggy sky into what Dennis Potter called the ‘quotidian ooze of ordure’, or what Dave and Mike might call the ‘creeping shittiness of ordinary life’. Dave is one of the few people who dare admit to enjoying one of Potter’s final and least critically respectable teleplays, ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’ (1993) – but only for the soundtrack. Rock music, and Science Fiction, are his obsessions, and the source of Savoy’s rearguard action against that ‘quotidian ooze’. ‘You can’t avoid the crumminess. But you can have fun trying.’ 

Dave Britton & Michael Butterworth as 'Meng & Ecker'

Upstairs at 279 Deansgate, in an office colo-rolled with ‘Aubrey Beardsley’ wallpaper, there are mounds of Savoy’s inventive ‘Meng And Ecker’ comic-books, and a few lavishly produced hardbacks of Savoy’s book of Michael Moorcock interview, ‘Death Is No Obstacle’ (1992). Dave sits feet-up on the desk, opens a glossy coffee-table non-Savoy book of kitsch-artist Jeff Koons erotically entwined with his pornstrel-muse Cicciolina. ‘LOOK, look – they’re openly selling THIS art-porn at WH Smith’s. And then they seize and impound ‘Lord Horror’. Tell me, where is the sense in that…?’

‘Horror was a sidewinding rattler. The Be-Bop-A-Lula
 of Auschwitz. Dreams in one hand. Shit in the other. 
Blood and disgrace. Drip-Drop on the worthless earth...’ 
‘Motherfucker: The Auschwitz Of Oz’ 
by Dave Britton (Savoy Books 1996) 

Manchester is burning. A monstrous amoebic multi-tentacled beast squats over its skyline farting and belching its foul noxious breath. But – although cloned from the alien growth in ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’ which smeared Westminster Abbey with its disgusting excreta, it is star-spangled like the 1950s ‘Quasar of Rock’ Little Richard and roars like every Kurt Cobain CD in the world played at max volume simultaneously. A vulgar nightmare of bad taste fitted with thermo-nuclear teeth shimmying and slavering voluptuously through the soot-silt, decay and pigeon-shit. Rock is the addictive proscribed substance that inoculates you into your most outlandishly primal desires. Rentokil have probably faced greater challenges than the Savoy offices. But maybe not too many.

Michael Butterworth as character
in the 'Meng & Ecker' comicbooks

‘“Garbageman” should have been recorded by Little Richard’ enthuses Dave Britton. ‘Can’t you just hear it? – ‘DANCE TO THE BEAT OF THE LIVING DEAD…!!!’’ He howls the lines in perfect Penniman, pumping imaginary piano-runs up and down the Savoy desktop. A murderously full-orchestral six-minute version the Cramps song is on their launch CD ‘Savoy Wars’ (1994), in full barking-at-the-moon madness. Because there’s more to Savoy than just texts.

P J Proby covers Joy Division
as Savoy Records 12" single

‘Savoy Wars’ is a sound that’s as easy as ABC – if you spell that Atomic * Bacteriological * Chemical, a stunning cross-welding of Prince with 808 State. New Order bass-player Peter Hook guests, dislocating his “Blue Monday” riff across the Square One Studios killing floor, with artful thefts from the original New Order blueprints. Rowetta – occasional Happy Mondays’ vocalist blends her voice into a nourishing miscegenation of LaVerne Baker samples, while D’Nise Johnson (who sings on Primal Scream’s “Don’t Fight It, Feel It”) does a bend on the vocal refrain from S’Express. And then there’s PJ Proby – star of yet a further Savoy CD, ‘The Savoy Sessions’ (1995). He may no longer even be a household name in his own household, but here at Savoy he’s portrayed crucified on a twelve-inch sleeve tacked to the wall above us as we talk. An icon to Dave and Mike, of martyrdom, the burn-out of those who take it to its extreme, without compromise. It’s audaciously bizarre techno-collage at its most incandescent. The Cream of Manchester...

Michael Butterworth pre-Savoy magazine

The album ties together many of the loose strands that – as a series of pre-emptive twelve-inch singles, were often dismissed as stunts, or just plain Northern weirdness. Perhaps the CD should have come first? ‘No-one told us. It just happened that way because we didn’t plan it’ explains Dave. ‘None of it was planned. It was all just a series of coincidences. We met Proby – and no-one was recording him. He had no contract. He’s the last of the great Rockers, and no-one was recording him. So we had to do it. We had the shops and the publishing, but we didn’t have a record label. We knew nothing about making records. But we saw Proby up there in the stage production of ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ and he’s up there alongside people dressed up to be Gene Vincent, Elvis, and Eddie Cochran. And he’s the only one of them left alive. He was the one most LIKELY to burn out, but he’s still here.’

‘He’s given up the booze now’ confides Mike, ‘and some of the stories he’s been coming out with are... amazing! If only we’d had a cassette recorder handy to preserve them!’

Proby, real-name James Marcus Smith, had a string of Sixties hits, including “Hold Me” and “Somewhere”. The Beatles wrote one of them – “That Means A Lot”, especially for him. Led Zeppelin play back-up on his highly-collectible ‘Three Week Hero’ (Liberty, 1969) album. But he also wrote some fine Pop songs himself, including hit songs for the Searchers (“Ain’t Gonna Kiss Ya”) and Johnny Burnette (“Clown Shoes”). Does he still write? ‘He comes in the studio and says he wants to record his ‘new song’. It’s always different, but it always sounds like “The Games People Play”, you know the one – ‘da da da diddle dah dah, da da da diddle dah dah’,’ explains Dave. ‘So we say ‘yeah that’s great Jim, but let’s just get warmed up with this one first,’ and we coax him into it. He’s got a great range of voices. When he’s fooling around with the musicians he’s got this camp send-up falsetto voice he uses. We wanted him to do “Sign ‘O The Times” – the Prince song, but we couldn’t get it right. Then we said ‘try it in your camp voice’ – so he does it that way, and it works. Proby really gets into it. Then, at the end of the session he realises that we haven’t done his ‘new song’, and he yells ‘you’ve CONNED me you DUNDERWITS…!!!!’’

PJ Proby’s voice is a metal spike dragged through a breath of gravel. ‘Savoy Wars’ opens with a stretch Cadillac radically customised “Blue Monday”, and climaxes with Proby’s “Hardcore M97002”. The latter is an erotic ‘canzona francese’ for two vices/ voices originally issued on vinyl as an August 1987 twelve-inch. At the time a deliberate scam scored a million tabloid inches claiming that a certain Ms Madonna Ciccone was there in the mix. Needless to say, she isn’t. But the other album stand-outs include Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”. ‘The first vocalist on the ‘Raw Power’ track was the guy who used to deputise for Ian Curtis when he was too smacked up to appear live with Joy Division’ narrates Mike. ‘The second lead vocalist is Bobby Thompson who, with Kingsize Taylor, made just about the best early Mersey/ English Rock records in the late Fifties and early Sixties, as you well know.’ Then there’s “Reverbstorm” – a stunning Tamla Mo-chester Rare Groove, a Northern Soul Dance-Floor Inferno of Wagnerian Anarchy written by Savoy’s Martin Flitcroft. Unfortunately, well before the final album mix-down, Martin suicided by walking into an oncoming train.

‘And I did say ‘FUNK’ you...’ 
PJ Proby on the ‘Lord Horror’ Talking Book 

Savoy are two room-mates of the mind who mainline on Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Joe Meek, Little Richard, Henry Treece, PJ Proby, Screamin Jay Hawkins, Klaatu’s eight-foot robot from ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, New York Dolls, LaVern Baker, Michael Moorcock, Prince, Larry Williams, Hawkwind, William Hope Hodgson, Kingsize Taylor, ‘New Worlds’, the Electric Prunes, M John Harrison, Lou Reed, Harlan Ellison, Ted Nugent, Burne Hogarth, Jack Trevor Story, Cramps, Robert E Howard, Lydia Lunch, William and ER Burroughs, Flamin Groovies, Yardbirds, Keith Richard, Cabaret Voltaire, Phil Spector, and Sid Vicious... To Mike And Dave the opening bars of a 1950s R&B single are more potent temporal disruption devices than Marcel Proust’s Madeleine ever was. Rock’s break-beats may get sampled and remixed with accelerating BPM’s, but it’s a tainted love that infiltrates their bloodstream as surely as leukaemia. It (im)matures with age. And it’s music they’d die for.

To Dave Rock ‘n’ Roll ended somewhere around 1960. But Mike discovered House. He likes Prodigy and the Orb, drawing elements from A Guy Called Gerald and 808 State into ‘Savoy Wars’. Because Savoy is an attitude. Relics with a cause. And Rock, at its best, is magnificently over the top. It’s that unifying absurdity that gives the Savoy projects their continuity. The outrage. The energy. The exhilaration.

Britton is the kind of guy who’d stick his head into the run-away Chernobyl nuclear meltdown to see how hot it gets. ‘Why compromise?’ he demands, ‘what’s the point of compromising? Why draw back from the edge? Everyone who ever created anything worthwhile has taken it right to the very extreme limits. Sure, if you take it to the brink, sometimes you fall over. That’s too bad. But that’s the price you pay.’ The end of neighbouring Factory Records in Manchester brought things into perspective. ‘I always used to think how great it would have been to live in Memphis in the 1950s when Sun records was happening’ Dave muses, looking out over the chaos of Deansgate. ‘But then Factory happened just around the corner from us, and I didn’t even realise. It’s like, in an alternate lifetime I might have lived in Memphis in the 1950s and I WOULDN’T EVEN HAVE LIKED SUN RECORDS...! It’s like ‘what the hell do those people think they’re DOING with all that ECHO?!?’ But no, that’s not exactly true. We knew about Factory because they’d all come around to the Savoy shop, all the guys from the bands, probably looking to pick up bootleg albums. Started with Pete Shelley and the Buzzcocks, then all the way down to New Order.’ Then, of course, there’s Peter Hook on the album...

As I leave, the sun is going down over Manchester like an A-bomb explosion in reverse. Rock has been low-life Memphis, New York, Hamburg, Notting Hill, Liverpool, Haight-Ashbury, Detroit, and now it’s burning asquat on the Manchester skyline farting and belching its foul noxious breath. Rock is a social disease that’s seen the best minds of four generations destroyed in madness, screaming, hysterical, naked, feeling sick, dirty and more dead than alive. It wears Buddy Holly’s glasses and Gene Vincent’s leg-brace. It is the self-abuse that gives you acne and grows hair on the palm of your hands. And it’s music you’d die for.

by T.S. ELIOT’ (CD SA4) read by P.J. PROBY 
(Both Savoy Records Talking Books)

Monday, 24 July 2017

SF 'New Worlds' and 'Savoy Books': MICHAEL BUTTERWORTH


Michael Butterworth was an integral part of the ‘New Worlds’ 
SF New Wave, just as he was perpetrator of the sensationally 
iconoclastic ‘Savoy Books’ revolution in Manchester, 
and his fiction is never less than challenging. 
Andrew Darlington charts his evolution as a literary activist…

We are sprawled within the ornate ‘The Briton’s Protection’ pub which has served drinkers here on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and Moseley Street since 1806. And looking up, there are black-and-white photos and framed memorabilia from decades of Manchester music, from Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, through to The Smiths, Oasis and New Order. Michael Butterworth wrote a book about sitting in on New Order’s recording sessions for their ‘Power, Corruption And Lies’ album.

Mike – with or without long-term ‘Savoy’ business partner Dave Britton, began in SF – and more specifically in Michael Moorcock’s sensationally iconoclastic phase of ‘New Worlds’. They even produced a special ‘Manchester’ edition of the magazine together. We’ve just strolled across from ‘The International Anthony Burgess Foundation’, where the Reading Room has been rebranded into ‘The Use And Abuse Of Books’, for an exhibition telling this convoluted tale in all its garish and visually-arresting detail. As though Manchester is finally coming to terms with its outlaw literary heritage, grudgingly acknowledging Savoy’s unique contribution to the city’s vibrant culture. The exhibition is an amazing flip-back through time-space crammed with incandescent playfully insurrectionary publishing, literary experiment and artwork.

‘I like transgression’ Mike explains. ‘I like intelligent shock. It’s part of the way I operate. It wasn’t gratuitous shock. I was harnessing whatever it was within me that liked explosions and fire, in an intelligent way into what I was writing. I was harnessing this, like I harness my emotions and feelings to channel them into writing.’ Adding ruefully, ‘although my work has often been mistaken for gratuitous…’ (in an interview with Bob Dickinson).

‘Time, and memory play tricks’ concedes Mike, who is inextricably tied in with Manchester. Although born in Yorkshire 24 April 1947, he grew up and ‘misspent’ his youth in the kind of ‘middle-class conformity’ of Altrincham, the suburb of south Manchester. Although it might not always have been that way. There’s a story – “The Islands” (in ‘Emanations: I Am Not A Number’, 2017), which he describes as ‘a memoir about an ‘almost’ emigration to a Caribbean island my father almost took my mother to, pregnant with me. Our paths may never have crossed had I grown up there, about thirty miles off the Mosquito Coast where Theroux based his novel of the same name. Like the novel’s Allie Fox, Dad was an idealist who wanted to escape the modern world. There was a vegetarian colony being formed on the island, and he wanted to raise his family there. Fortunately for me, it didn’t get off the ground. Two of the people who were trying to make the island habitable — health fundamentalists like my father — died of malaria clearing a swamp, and two more died of diet-related illnesses.’

Instead, at his vegan father’s instigation, Mike attended ‘St Christopher’s School’ in Letchworth Garden City, a liberal Progressive Co-Educational boarding establishment in which a falling-out with a teacher led to his first poem – “Authority”, written ‘through anger’. Two stories followed, picked up for the School Magazine, which happened to be edited by Charles Platt. By now his compelling fuelling anger was aimed ‘at humanity’.

‘Many of the stories I wrote for ‘New Worlds’ and ‘Ambit’ are saturated with images from specific areas of Manchester’ he says. His 2016 book ‘The Blue Monday Diaries: In The Studio With New Order’ provides further sideways autobiographical glimpses of the city. ‘Industrial decay and badly-developed modernist housing estates existed side by side. If you lived in this environment, as I did, and also experienced a vastly different life in the South, as I also did, then the North really did seem like an alternative future land, and was legitimate subject matter for upcoming science-fiction authors.’ Well, for those with the perception to interpret it, maybe. To Mike, Manchester was ‘an alternative Earth floating at the very edges of civilisation. Another planet…’, which his fiction fractures and transfigures into a surreal post-apocalypse wasteland.

But first, he was working as a lab technician in the quality-control department of ‘Halls Mentholyptus Sweets’ in Radcliffe. ‘I’d go on the production line wearing my white lab coat to take samples, return to the laboratory, analyse them to make sure they had the right levels of menthol and eucalyptus oils in them, then phone back my results to the line managers. If the samples were ‘out’ then whoever was in charge on the line would make the necessary adjustments.’ ‘I GET UP. I GO TO WORK. THE CLOCK GOES ROUND. I GET UP. I GO TO WORK. THE CLOCK GOES ROUND.’ Until he encountered William S Burroughs’ interview with Conrad Knickerbocker – ‘a seminal source for Burroughs and for me also’ (‘The Art Of Fiction’ in the ‘Paris Review no.35’, Fall 1965, ).

Mike has ‘never written a word of conventional narrative in his life’ according to Michael Moorcock, instead, he ‘sprang full-grown from the head of (William) Burroughs, whose work first inspired him to write’ (in his introduction to ‘The New SF’ anthology). To this end his first story – “Girl” in ‘New Worlds’ no.162 (May 1966), opens ‘against the square walls of the barn, two marble trees grew up. I suppose they aimed to reach the moon. But whenever the moon was hidden (which was often) they stopped growing.’

Once Britain’s leading SF magazine under the previous John Carnell editorial regime, this was SF in no way familiar to its erstwhile 1950s wonks. No faster-than-light galactic alien encounters, bug-eyed extraterrestrial entities or star-spanning evil empires. Instead, its circular narrative is more attuned to the literary experimental practices of art journals and Lit-theorists. Heavy with symbolism there’s little obvious plot-structure or revelatory punch-line, it’s more concerned with startlingly poetic surreal imagery – tormented horses trodden in blood, a skeleton of horse and rider fused into one entity, twisted steel sticking out of trees.

Post-apocalypse? To Mike, it’s ‘using irony and metaphor to express my anger at the state of humanity, y’know, it’s warmongering.’ The Cuban Missile Crisis was a generational firebreak, bringing the world to the brink of ‘Dr Strangelove’ annihilation. That awareness permeates everything. The moonlit barn with its dead compelling powers which he encounters on a road pitted with holes, is ‘the last outpost of man’. He ‘hadn’t seen a building for years.’ Although it’s never explained further, we know.

“Girl” – published when Mike was a tall blonde nineteen, was the first of a stream of unquantifiable fiction that is well worth hunting down. In “Postatomic” Moorcock again detects Burroughs’ influence, while seeing him adapting ‘Burroughs’ techniques to suit his own particular vision.’ Although set in 2030, inhabiting the fragmented thought-processes of three survivors in a depopulated world, again there’s no scene-setting explanation, beyond the title-clue. With King Trash and Mr Zero, ‘he would fly through the open windows of skyscrapers, and haunt the long corridors, mournfully playing the part of the wind and decrying the sad silence sounds of the city.’ Less direct narrative as impressionistic insightful explorations of the mental inner-landscapes of these ‘lunatic rejects from a lunatic past.’

Michael Butterworth’s work is included in some twelve ‘New Worlds’ issues, making him one of the unacknowledged innovators of the SF ‘New Wave’. Mike says that for “Baked Bean Factory” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.176), ‘the story uses a condensed style to describe scenes from a post-atomic Earth, a beautiful girl dying from radiation poisoning, a night-watchman at an automated factory falling victim to image warfare as he attempts to ward off invading adverts from rival companies.’ The story was selected by Judith Merrill for her groundbreaking ‘England Swings’ anthology.

Then the dazzling “6B 4C DD1 22” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.198) is ‘an experimental assembly of texts about an internal world lying just below the everyday one, where post-atomic landscapes and nine-to-five workaday lie side-by-side, a hairsbreadth away from each other.’ His most fully-realised work so far, using the terrors and mind-opening potential of LSD to access and collage the red desert, Keele Services on the M6, Edgar Allen Poe, ruptured dialogue and text-games. Every line contains an image like every fossil-stone contains a trilobite, ‘my name is Hot Plate. My bones are wood. My breath is dust. I race across the desert. I look into the furnace’.

When confused and bewildered devotees of traditional SF complain that New Wave writing is incomprehensible cerebral exercises lacking plot or narrative, his “Circularisation Of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures” (‘New Worlds’ no.192) with its diagrams and theoretical structures is exactly what they mean. And yes, as with all revolutionary movements, babies get thrown away with bathwater. But without such intriguing intellectual word-games, how can genres evolve? Michael Butterworth rarely makes easy or comfortable reading, there’s seldom anything as reassuringly predictable as straightforward plot or narrative structure. They’re there, but ruptured into poetic fragments of extreme concentrated intensity.

There’s also “Concentrate” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.174) – followed by “Concentrate 2” (in ‘New Worlds’ no.181), which were completed through input from JG Ballard. The two writers met at one of the crazy ‘New Worlds’ parties which Mike had hitchhiked down to London to attend. ‘I was twenty, with two published stories to my name, when he took me under his wing’ recounts Mike. Ballard praised his ‘imaginative phrasing’ in a detailed analysis. Then ‘he demonstrated how William Burroughs ‘subbed-down’ work to arrive at condensed texts, and he offered to edit these two stories from much longer works of mine.’ Wasn’t it a painful process, watching your artfully-conceived prose being gutted in this way? Apparently not. It provided the catalyst that slimmed the text down, making it a revelation.

At the time ‘Ballard, as I addressed him, for he addressed me as Butterworth’ was part-way through his ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ (1970) which uses the same ‘subbing’ technique. It led to Ballard publishing a Butterworth piece in ‘Ambit no.36’ – for which he was Prose Editor. ‘Jim Ballard got the story past editor Martin Bax, who didn’t really like my stuff. Other material Jim accepted from me – and collaborated with me on, “Concentrate 1” and “Concentrate 2”, Martin also rejected, so it appeared in ‘New Worlds’ instead. Looking back, I would much rather everything had appeared in ‘New Worlds’, as it was by far the better magazine, but Mike M could only take so much of my work.’

“Concentrate 2”, reprinted as two linked pieces in ‘The Savoy Book’ (1978), is furnished with contorted SF imagery in ways that William Burroughs requisitions genre elements for playfully satiric purposes, yet with an escalating explicitness. A character named ‘Stick’ schemes to create a super-race of emotionless nerveless plantmen, declaring botany to be ‘the science of human vegetation’, while reference to the Sigma Riots recalls Burroughs even more directly. Elsewhere there are ‘ruined cities on skylines’ and the ‘last bickering inhabitants of a dying globe…’

Mike’s short experimental fiction continued in fusillades of grotesque shock. There was also the brief “Concentrate 3” in ‘New Worlds: An Anthology’, which wrenches future-elements from the crumbling sanity of an astronaut with ‘oceans of scrambled knowledge’ in his head, by gutting the hardware of SF that was already shocked into news headlines. The second half of this excerpt from NASA’s secret history is in poem-form. ‘Charles Platt published me more frequently when he took over the ‘New Worlds’ editorship later on…’

But soon Mike was editing and producing his own ‘Concentrate’, which became ‘Corridor’ – ‘a journal with a licence to roam’, which became ‘Wordworks’ – a series of glossy showcases for new writing. While he was also producing novelisations for the ‘Space 1999’ TV series (six titles including ‘Planets Of Peril’, ‘The Mind-Breaks Of Space’ with J Jeff Jones, and ‘The Edge Of The Infinite’ all in 1977). He also co-wrote (with Moorcock) books fictionalising Sonic Space-Rockers Hawkwind into Sci-Fi characters (‘The Time Of The Hawklords’ in 1976 and ‘Queens Of Deliria’ in 1977), the consensus of opinion being that Moorcock – who becomes ‘Moorlock, the Acid Sorcerer’ in the tale, supplied the title and the marketable cover-name, Butterworth the creative mind-juice. Demonstrating – if demonstration is required, his ability to write something approximating conventional narrative fiction, if of a heightened Rock-mythologising form. A credit-listing clarifies the roles as M Moorcock: Producer/Director, and M Butterworth: Writer, helpfully adding ‘Ethnic Habits and Characteristics: Altrincham Town Library, J Jeff Jones: Acupuncture Idea, and Dave Britton: Musical and Magical Names plus Precise Alignment Of Silver Machines’! Yet if the conceptual leap from style-over-plot concentrates, to purely plot-driven if imaginatively entertaining media spin-offery seems strange, there are links.

The short story – “The Harme-Oats Effect” (in ‘Science Fiction Monthly’), is co-written with J Jeff Jones, and has the conventional story-structure of a near-future astronaut, Harme, on a one-man rescue-mission to a Salvage-Operator trapped in an orbiting scrap-yard of ‘capsules, satellites and general debris that a few decades of Space Corps Engineers had booted off into the void… plastic bags, metal tubing, frozen excrement or fractured tubing.’ The opening sequence is even built around a regular launch-countdown format. As in all collaborations, it’s difficult to tease out which elements are Jones, and which Butterworth. But Harme is mind-linked to ‘Harmoniser’ Oats in Earth, who picks up on Harme’s psychic stresses and his persistent subconscious terror of premature-burial in an enigmatic wooden cabinet. It turns out the submerged memories are PSI-resonances imprinted on computer-tape from a US Space Force Captain dead for decades, his corpse in a nearby orbiting hulk. It’s an effective narrative in traditional SF style, with a sharply macabre hook.

Although sporadically reprinted, and some of it anthologised, these stories – unfortunately, were never collected into a single volume. ‘Yes, I think it’s a pity I wasn’t able to push a collection to one of the main publishing houses when the interest was riding high’ he admits. ‘Because it wasn’t collected, the effect of my early – and best, work has been dissipated whereas, say, the work of Langdon Jones – another writer who did his best work for ‘New Worlds’ about the same time, and who had a collection, has been acknowledged. Perhaps – as you say, what I wrote for ‘New Worlds’, ‘Ambit’ and a few other mags at that time is worthy of better recognition than it’s received?’

There’s a dismissive shrug, ‘I went on to have a wildly varied career, which hasn't helped my early reputation...’

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Dave Britton was initially an illustrator, an Aubrey Beardsley-on-‘E’ artist. ‘When I was doing magazine artwork no-one gave a toss about it. And then I stopped to concentrate on writing. Now they all say ‘why don’t you do artwork anymore, you really should’.’

I’ve known, admired, and been slightly in awe of Mike and Dave for longer than probably any of us would care to remember. We corresponded and contributed to each other’s magazines through the early-1970s. I met and interviewed them for underground newspaper ‘It (International Times)’ using the strap-line excuse of their first run-in with the Manchester Constabulary over the sale of bootleg albums on their shop premises. And later we conspired through the first of their long ‘Lord Horror’ (1989) debacles. I’m obsessive enough about their contentious creativity to know that throughout their work together and separately there’s been a continuity of calculated affront. Initially in the form of sophisticated literary experiment. SF New Wave shocked via William Burroughs through Butterworth’s cool intellect, and through Britton’s more explosive energies. But to claim that they court gratuitous confrontation is to miss the point. Over the years, fermented by their Northern-based isolation, they’ve merely focused and targeted that element more nakedly. Into the novels, the comics, and the furiously extremist records.

 ‘Ever since World War Two, technological development, such as spaceflight and the growth of the media landscape, had been rapid and ever-accelerating’ he observes. ‘The future was arriving at the same pace and if you knew how to look for it, it was there for the taking. In the 1970s it was arriving from a past of grime and smoke, science fiction conjuring industrial Manchester as ‘The Twilight Zone’, the experimental and the outré.’ 

And more personally, ‘growing up as children and teenagers in the late 1950s and sixties, the formative experiences of David and I were seminal Rock ‘n’ Roll, the literary experimentalism of the Beats, the music of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and the UK underground magazines ‘Oz’ and ‘Ink’. By the seventies, instead of conforming, as many of our peers were doing, we blithely carried on.’ Their shops, Bookchain, Orbit Books and House On The Borderland once ‘formed a kind of occult triangle about Manchester’s respectable, mercantile heartland, it was an area staked out as Savoyland, an alternative and now undocumented Manchester.’ M John Harrison typed his novel ‘A Storm Of Wings’ in Bookchain on Peter Street, between customers.

‘With ‘Lord Horror’, first there was a novelette of mine’ explains Mike, ‘which I could never quite satisfactorily complete. It centred on the fact that Hitler was still alive and living in South America.’ I remember reading a marked-up manuscript-copy typescript of the novelette, it was excellent, I wish to hell I’d published it. Titled “Das Neue Leben” – ‘my attempt to understand the Holocaust’, it was eventually reworked and published in full in ‘Emanations no.1’ (edited by Carter Kaplan, 2011). But meanwhile ‘Dave took the idea, made it increasingly outlandish, while switching the central character from Hitler to – initially the traitor-propagandist broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw, who transmuted into the phantasmagorical Lord Horror.’ It’s an exquisitely written shocker of awe-inspiring imagination crossing an interlocking multiverse of hard surreal (im)possibilities. ‘I moved straight from writing “Das Neue Leben” to helping Dave write ‘Lord Horror’’ Mike elaborates. ‘Mike also helped draw the final chapters together’ adds Dave, ‘and brought the thing to its completion.’

The novel’s publication was delayed by Dave’s first prison sentence, twenty-eight days in riot-torn Strangeways. Then in 1993, for writing and publishing ‘Lord Horror’, he was sentenced to four further months there, and other prisons. But the second novel, developing and extending the themes even further, was equally uncompromisingly called ‘Motherfucker’ (1996). And subtitled ‘The Auschwitz Of Oz’ it’s another extravagantly lavish psycho-fantasia. ‘Auschwitz, and the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, were separated by only nine years’ Dave points out, ‘there’s got to be a connection...’

By the turn of the century, after the galactic war of litigation, the Lit-fires and fictional explosions, Mike was telling me ‘and now, after twenty-five years of Savoy, there’s a new buzz in the air. We’re very happy. Dave’s putting the finishing touches to his third novel, and we’re planning a series of limited edition reprints of Savoy’s all-time fantasy greats.’ The Savoy catalogue already furthers the long-standing Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt link, adding titles by Jack Trevor Story, Langdon Jones, Harlan Ellison and Samuel Delany – plus ‘new editions of the Henry Treece Celtic books (four 1956 titles including ‘The Golden Strangers’, reprinted in 1980), all fully illustrated and given the Savoy treatment...’ An archive of history, augmented with film, recapitulated in ‘The Use And Abuse Of Books’ exhibition at ‘The International Anthony Burgess Foundation’.

‘This recent late attention is indeed very strange’ commentates Mike, ‘but it is something I’ve noticed happens, that creatives who’ve had some early success and then languished suddenly seem to come in vogue again!’ While there’s new twenty-first century fiction in new guises, the ‘Corridor8’ relaunch and the transatlantic ‘Emanations’ hook-up. ‘Some of the material that I couldn’t get published in ‘New Worlds’ – or anywhere else, is now all slowly appearing in ‘Emanations’.’ Change, rather than mutate.

‘I like the past, but I wouldn’t want to go back to it’ he tells me. ‘I’ve always been happy to be in the present, with all its unpredictability and discomfort and strangeness. I want to look at what is happening now that is good. Which isn’t to say the past doesn’t have its place. I enjoy experiments like the White Stripes have done, recording with early sound-generating technology. Dave is very keen on the past, and promotes it, as you know, but he also mixes it with what’s about now and has a taste for the new.’

A contemplative pause. ‘I can’t remember the past sufficiently clearly, so the present is always more vivid to me, and takes my attention more or less exclusively. The acceleration of technology, the promise of possibilities, are exciting rather than annoying. Even though I no longer have the time or cognitive function to master technology successfully – someone else can! It always has been that way with me. I still want to know what’s happening now.’

We are sitting within the ornate ‘The Briton’s Protection’ pub on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and Moseley Street beneath black-and-white photos and framed memorabilia of decades of Manchester music, from Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Smiths, Oasis and New Order. I’m here because of the exhibition commemorating the great ‘Savoy’ adventure. Manchester is at last recognising it, and Mike’s outlaw contribution to the city’s cultural history.



NEW WORLDS no.158’ (January 1966) letter requesting less novel-length stories, and greater diversity of content, ‘if a writer has the ability to set his SF down in black and white but in the guise of a poem or a sketch, the his ability must be recognised’

Girl” (‘New Worlds no.162’, May 1966), see text for details. ‘Tired of life I lay down for the night. I looked up at the stars. I was a microscope for an infinite resolving power. Something was using me to observe the universe.’

The Steel Corkscrew” (‘New Worlds no.167’, October 1966) Entrance: after twenty-one years in space-exile, eight men return to find an Earth of ‘peopleless desert-dust’. Team-leader Krau, chief engineer Tevern, simpleminded electrician Smetherill, Morple, Ankle, dumb semi-intelligent suspected telepath Antwill, Snaff the gunarm and Fingletor ‘expert at driving people round the bend’. There are solar-flares and a huge solitary enigmatic structure resembling a shiny-blade revolving corkscrew. ‘Searing heat. Pain. Terror. Death. Closure’

SF IMPULSE no.9’ (November 1966) a letter published ‘that’s almost bound to start a war’ says editor Harry Harrison. Butterworth responds to a ‘Has Burroughs Failed’ editorial by Harrison in no.4. Butterworth points out that ‘remember he’s experimenting with our nervous systems, and therefore apt to try to use a language completely alien to us’ and presciently ‘perhaps the moderns will take more notice of him than the present society will ever’

SF IMPULSE no.12’ (February 1967) further dialogue with editor Harry Harrison who opens the letter column with ‘a word from our newly-formed Department of Social Injustices. Mr Michael Butterworth of 10 Charter Road, Altrincham, Cheshire’ concerning William S Burroughs and ‘experimental prose’, Butterworth states – in caps ‘WSB is one of the few writers living today who have any great insight into what the future of the WORD holds’

Concentrate ” (‘New Worlds no.174’, August 1967), ‘Jim Ballard condensed this fiction from longer works of mine’, in the second large-format issue of ‘New Worlds’. ‘It has an anarchistic hero who works constantly to create beauty through destruction, successive slices of space-time show how the destructive process is taking effect. ‘Destroy the universe. Up with Stick. Down with urbanism. Down with God. Down with everything’

Breakthru’ (1967), poetry magazine edited by Ken Geering, includes Mike’s poetry in no.39 and no.41

The Baked Bean Factory” (‘New Worlds no.176’ October 1967) ‘Outside, on the sunny side, bomber spheres fly incessantly over the dead landscape of earth. Fused glasses layer the freshly-created deserts – fossilized tree-scapes flower away for ever’, Locklar Ford is the ‘only remaining human Nightwatchman’, reprinted in ‘England Swings’ edited by Judith Merril, August 1968

After Galactic War – From A Road On Earth” poem (‘New Worlds no.177’, November 1967), ‘i rolled over the pitted road pickpocketing the night, i rode the night like a baby stalk lost in heaven’, rich collision of imagery

Concentrate 2” (‘New Worlds no.181’, April 1968), a further surreal compression from no.177, the novelette ‘Stick’, with subheads (1) An Empire of natural beauty, (2) Meanwhile, in a distant corner of the Galaxy, (3) Interview in Control Office, (4) The schizophrenic theory of mind, (5) Concerning the intelligence, (6) Tour round the Stick laboratories, (7) The pretakeoff nightmares Twig had, (8) Speech in cold space, (9) The sounds of space, (10) Finale, plus ‘The Pub That Exploded’

A Marijuana Smoker’s Lament” as ‘Edward Poe’ (in ‘Concentrate’, part-distributed with ‘New Worlds no.185’)

Sergeant Pepper’s Postatomic Skull” (‘Ambit no.36’) a hybrid fiction-poem accepted by JG Ballard as prose editor of ‘Ambit’ arts magazine. Mike says that ‘I’ve always been very pleased with the poetry in that issue.’ Also with work by Ivor Cutler and others

Postatomic” (‘The New SF’ anthology edited by Langdon Jones, November 1969), virtuoso prose exercise under subheads ‘King Trash’ (‘I am quite safe from robot attack. I’m King of England in the year 2030. And nobody’s going to stop me’), ‘Mr Zero’ (‘The deserts are very cold now. Which is not surprising, considering there are no clouds, no sun. And earth has been depopulated. Overnight. You might say that people of all nationalities decided to become passengers, and took the overnight express, which arrived punctually at Platform Zero’), and ‘Baby’ (‘baby sat and played with the missiles on its own under the gigantic skies. Sometimes he would be as high as a skyscraper’)

Circularisation Of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures” (‘New Worlds no.192’, July 1969), subtitled ‘Radial-Planographic Condensed Word-Image Structures, Rotation About A Point’, Lit-theory with ‘TV word-dial’ diagrams to illustrate cut-up prose-condensation ‘I crossed the channel, Dover to Calais, in a motorboat. I had a drink of tea on the way’ becomes ‘Dover sea motortea – drink Calais’. Reprinted in ‘The New Tomorrow’ edited by Norman Spinrad, October 1971)

Concentrate 3” (‘New Worlds no.197’, January 1970), if SF is the mythology of the twentieth-century, this short prose-verse feature internalises it, ‘I experienced the stars crawling over me… really I was struggling. My head became hot and buzzed. It really buzzed. There was nothing… I felt there was nothing but the stars crawling over my face suddenly drowning in water/space’. Reprinted in ‘New Worlds: An Anthology’ edited by Michael Moorcock’ September 1983

6B 4C DDI 22” (‘New Worlds no.198’, February 1970), with Alan Stephanson art, to Butterworth ‘it is a fusion of factual reality and factual symbolism. It is not a ‘story’, it is an account of myself and what I perceive… the writing represents my thoughts, my remembrances and my present.’ Acid (LSD) loosens the connection between overlapping realities, ‘Alice The Acid Child’ (Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Ask Alice’?),’at my request there are planes circling overhead, eggs fill up their bellies, i rise to fertilise them, my legs grow from the city floor… trees and buildings shrink’

The Terminal” (‘New Worlds no.199’, March 1970), with Alan Stephanson art, short eleven-line prose vignette, ‘an avenue of space. I cornered at 78 miles per hour… turning the car over at Mowall’s corner… without life’

Disintegration” (‘New Worlds no.207/ NWQ 6’, September 1973), structured in offset blocks of text, the narrator and his psychologically unstable wife volunteer for a ‘strange encounter of minds’ conducted by Dr ‘Thom’ Brown’s Lockwood Psychic Research Foundation, an amplified telepathic merging of minds, that leads to her death

The Harme-Oats Effect” written with J Jeff Jones (‘Science Fiction Monthly Vol.2 No.2’, February 1975) illustrated by Tony Schofield

The Room” (‘Wordworks no.6’), ‘my mind was foggy and I had sat infront of my typewriter unable to strike a key, depressed and suicidal’, intense stream-of-consciousness mood tone-poem, in which his claustrophobic room has become a cube-craft, ‘I remember once, we ventured out of the room…’

Christmas Story” (‘New Worlds no.211/NW 10’, August 1976), an intense, dark, staccato account of an ‘inner geographical awareness’. The Contributor Biog Notes state that Butterworth is twenty-eight and a single parent with two young children in Manchester, as the narrative ranges into memory, a three-year daughter in the next room and a son in his cot, a dead budgie, a sense of pursuit along a primal beach, ‘past present and future separated by biological existence’ into a cosmic near-spiritual dénouement

Butterworth’s Treaty On Light” prose (‘New Worlds no.214’, Autumn 1978), cleverly-argued spoof pseudo-science of ‘The States of Shining, the Degrees of Shining, and the Ability to shine’ of humans envying and stealing status celebrity light to enhance their own glow, illustrated with anatomical diagrams. ‘Imagination is the Light Drive’

The Pub That Exploded” & “Stick” (‘The Savoy Book’, 1978), the original texts of ‘Concentrate 2’

A New Frog: The Origin Of Frivolity & The Shape Of The New Literature” (‘New Worlds no.215’, Winter 1978/9 issue edited in Manchester by Dave Britton and Mike Butterworth), essay on the decline of social literature in an increasingly frivolous age – ‘the great traditions of literature have been caused to meander. Today they are like beautiful but unwieldy brontosauri, they can no longer reproduce’, and the corresponding evolving tradition of imaginative fiction

Outline One” (‘New Worlds no.216’, September 1979), art by David Britton, a lurid concentrated novel in one-and-a-half-page plot outline, Jules Ulrik Vliet crosses a Time Fault from end-of-time alternate-Earth Sorum where he learns to love Helen Lone. She is murdered by pursuing Atavars, and he prepares to return to Sorum to seek revenge. A stand-alone, despite being announced as Part One of a trilogy, although Vliet – the real-name of Captain Beefheart, will reappear

Under The Influence Of Bush” poem (‘Ludds Mill no.18’, October 1982), ‘Reality is wonderful, I long for that glorious reality again, this high is hell’

A Hurricane In A Night Jar” (‘Savoy Dreams’, June 1984) with art by David Britton, long image-rich ambitious fragmented fiction with return of Jules Ulrik Vliet and ‘The Blood’ as kind of ‘Eternal Champion’ universal essences, from ‘the time you ground one stick against another’ into ‘the postatomic deserts’ of a future End of Time, featuring poem-form, slanting text-columns, Mr Zero and Butterworth himself in autobiographical fragments, with Burroughs-style Ether Girls and the Cola People. Plus essay “Savoy Under Siege” dated June 1982, recording details of the Savoy Books trial, with transcripts, ‘we are not approaching the Dark Age – in Manchester we are in the Dark Age’

A Memoir Of William Burroughs” interview by Michael Butterworth and David Britton, authored by Sarajane Inkster (in ‘The Edge no.6’, December 1997)

Das Neue Leben” fiction in ‘Emanations’ edited by Carter Kaplan (2011), plus poems “The Bomb Explodes”, “A Slut In Bed”, “Brass Life”, “The Cracks In The Neighbourhood”, “Girl In Bath”, “Hoover And Writer”, “Icicle The Tricyle And The Letter Box”, “Illusion”, “Long Legs”, “Mouselow”, “On Broken Hill”, “The Nose”, “The Snammer Man”, “Me A Society Visitor”, “Untitled”, “Untitled”

Sequences” fiction in ‘Emanations: Second Sight’ edited by Carter Kaplan (2012), also credited on Board Of Editorial Advisors, plus poems “Trinity Temple, Thelma’s Thought-Triggered”, “THC Trip”, “Breakdown 3”, “Premature”, “The Builders Of The Transpennine Motorway Pt.1 and Pt.2”, “The Chemical Genesis Of The Known Universe”, “Space Radio”

Night” fiction in ‘Emanations: Third Eye’ (2013), edited by Carter Kaplan with Mike also credited on Board Of Editorial Advisors, irritable Donald – on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and Karen, on a long bickering country journey home from Cornwall in a white Cortina, caught in ‘a trap in time… a manifestation of Einstein’s theory of the infinite yet bounded universe’, interfering with his perception of time, throwing up childhood beach memories – as illustrated with original photos, plus poem “Until Now (Summer 1974)” about the resurgence of nature, ‘Her’

Scatterhead” fiction in ‘Emanations: Foray Into Forever’ edited by Carter Kaplan (2014), also credited on Board Of Editorial Advisors, plus poem “Untitled”

Hey, Mr Pressman” fiction in ‘Emanations: 2+2=5’ (2015), what Mike describes as ‘a satire on ‘red top’/tabloid journalism I wrote in 1972 for Michael Moorcock’s magazine ‘New Worlds’, but which was never published there’,‘outside, the houses are falling’, hard, compressed prose, no back-story, cerebral retro-future, he reports on ‘deviant’ sexuality, ‘I pine for the real world’ until he’s caught out in illicit sex himself. Plus two poems with commentary, “Untitled” on ‘the rise of nationalism in Europe’, “Untitled (October 2014) on gender-basis for war, and prose-piece “The Cosmic Diary (Entry For 28 May 1981)” on the racial metaphor of his friend’s picaresque escapades

The Islands” semi-autobiographical fiction in ‘Emanations: I Am Not A Number’ (2017), researching his father’s attempts to join an idealistic vegan cooperative community on Morat, an island off Honduras. ‘Not fiction. He actually lived through that!’ comments editor Sanford Blackburn. Also ‘Where Am I? Here I Am!’, two poems, “Summer Poems” and “Buddhafield” 


Time Of The Hawklords’ (1976) with Michael Moorcock. Rocking on the Edge of Time. Deep in the Earth’s core lies the Death Generator, buried there since ancient time by a long-extinct alien race, now triggered. In amongst the ruins of London, surrounded by the disaster-survivors, Hawkwind rock – their music catalysing the Death Ray in an apocalyptic battle between forces of good and evil.

Queens Of Deliria’ (1977) second ‘Hawklords’ novel, based on an idea by Michael Moorcock (Star Books, August 1977) with the devastated Earth stalked by decaying ghouls and satanic Bulls, the Red Queen meddles with the laws of Time to advance her evil ambitions. The Hawklords only ally is Elric the Indecisive

Space 1999: Planets Of Peril’ (Star Books, January, 1977) novelisation of Year 2 episodes ‘The Metamorph’, ‘The A-B Chrysalis’, ‘The Rules Of Luton’ and ‘New Adam, New Eve’

Space 1999: Mind-Breaks Of Space’ (Star Books, February, 1977) with J Jeff Jones, novelisation of ‘Brian The Brain’, ‘The Mark Of Achanon’, ‘Catacombs Of The Moon’ and ‘One Moment Of Humanity’

Space 1999: The Space-Jackers’ (Star Books, March 1977) novelisation of ‘Seed Of Destruction’, ‘A Matter Of Balance’, ‘The Exiles’ and ‘The Beta Cloud’

Space 1999: The Psychomorph’ (Star Books, June 1977) novelisation ‘The Lambda Factor’ and ‘The Bringers Of Wonder Parts 1 and 2’

Space 1999: The Time Fighters’ (Star Books, August 1977) novelisation of ‘Space Warp’, ‘Dorzac’, ‘Devil’s Planet’ and ‘The Séance Spectre’

Space 1999: The Edge Of The Infinite’ (Warner Books, August 1977) ‘Escape Into Worlds Beyond Belief’, novelisation of ‘All That Glisters’, ‘Journey To Where’, ‘The Immunity Syndrome’ and ‘The Dorcons’

Space 1999: Year Two’ (Powys Media, 2006) revised and re-ordered anthology of earlier episodes, plus new novelisation of ‘The Taybor’ episode, and new foreword

Goodbye Pussy’ (Collins Crime Club, 1979) novel published under pseudonym ‘Sarah Kemp’

Ledge Of Darkness’ (1995) Hawklords graphic novel, illustrated by Bob Walker


Crucified Toad no.1’ (April 1971) 28pp, editors John Muir and David Britton, 28pp, with Eddy C Bertin (‘Filmic Fantasy’), SJ Sackett (on Clark Ashton Smith), David Britton art portfolio

Crucified Toad no.2’ (Winter 1971)

Crucified Toad no.3’ (Winter 1972)

Crucified Toad no.4’ (Winter 1974, 25p) 32pp, editor and artwork David Britton, Jim Cawthorn cover, David H Keller on Mervyn Peake, Brian Aldiss interview by Charles Partington, ‘Elric’ letter by Michael Moorcock, Kathryn Brooks (‘Black Soul’ Fantasy fiction)

Concentrate First Issue’ (1968, part-distributed as an insert of ‘New Worlds no.185’, Mwangaza Enterprises) Price 1/3d. 4pp of ‘condensed writing’, featuring John Sladek (‘In The Distance’), Alex Kernaghan (‘A Phial Of Darkness’), Charles Platt (‘Undream’), ‘Edward Poe’ aka Butterworth (‘A Marijuana Smoker’s Lament’), Anselm Hollo (‘Rooms’), Tina Morris (excerpt from ‘The Trap’) see

Corridor no.1’ (1971) with Michael Moorcock (‘Pride Of Empire’), Giles Gordon (‘Pictures From An Exhibition’). Michael Ginley (‘The Day I Came Back From The Dead’), Alex Kernaghan (‘Vaginal Tract’)

Corridor no.2’ (1971) with Alex Kernaghan (‘War Games’), John Sladek (‘Comedo’), James Sallis (‘Jane Crying’), Paul Buck (‘A Cunt Not Fit For The Queen’), Bob Jenkins, Terry Gregory, Gordon Abbott, Giles Gordon, with poetry by Thomas M Disch, Gina Butterworth, Neil Spratling

Corridor no.3’ (May-June 1972, 15p) 20pp, with Charles Platt (‘Jo’), Barry Edgar Pilcher, Paul Buck, Glenda George, Andrew Darlington (‘Stairs And Steps’), Michael Butterworth (‘Absurd And Phantastic’ reviews)

Corridor no.4’ (Winter 1972) with Michael Moorcock (Jerry Cornelius ‘The Swastika Set-Up’), Chris Naylor (‘Per Valium Ad Astra’), review of William S Burroughs ‘The Wild Boys’ by J Jeff Jones, David Britton art

Corridor no.5’ (August 1974, 20p) editor/published: Michael Butterworth Art/design: David Britton, with Hilary Bailey (‘On Board The Good Ship Venus’), Peter Finch (‘Desk’), JG Ballard interview by Peter Linnett

Wordworks no.6’ incorporating ‘Corridor’ (1975/76, 40p) features Michael Moorcock “The Hollow Land” with David Britton art, also Michael Butterworth (‘The Room’, plus ‘The Guts To Read’ reviews), Heathcote Williams (‘Cosmic Whore Batter’ etc) Dr Christopher Evans interview by Peter Linnett, Simon Ounsley, Paul Buck, Alex Kernaghan, Paul Abeleman (‘Nick’)

Wordworks no.7’ (1976, 75p) features ‘Sinclair Beiles’ Michael Butterworth interview, Trevor Hoyle (‘Conversations In A Darkened Room’), Jim Burns (Lord Buckley ‘The Hip Messiah’), Jim Leon art ‘Retrospective’, ‘The Abdication Of Queen Elizabeth II’, plus Book Reviews

Corridor8’ (Annual 2010, £10.99) relaunched as a large format international ‘contemporary visual art and writing magazine’ Will Alsop, Jon Savage (‘Unknown Pleasure: The Hacienda’), Iain Sinclair. With free Rachel Goodyear ‘Hoofprints’ Art Print

Corridor8 no.2: The Borderlands Edition’ (Annual 2011), free Chris Watson CD, Carol Huston (‘Does The Angle Between Two Walls Have A Happy Ending?: New Worlds 1967-1970’), Ian Sinclair, Derek Horton

Corridor8 no.3: Four-part edition’ (2012), Robert Clark, Richard Kostelanetz, Jan Harman, art by Stephen Iles, Pavel Buchler, Eoin Shea


The Savoy Book’ (1978) co-edited with David Britton, anthology with Harlan Ellison, M John Harrison, Lester Bangs (fictional Jimi Hendrix interview), Paul Buck

Savoy Dreams’ (1984) co-edited with David Britton, anthology of fiction with nonfiction, with Michael Moorcock, Heathcote Williams, Charles Partington, M John Harrison

Lord Horror’ (1989) by David Britton

Motherfucker: The Auschwitz Of Oz’ (1996) by David Britton

Baptised In The Blood Of Millions’ (2001) by David Britton

La Squab: The Black Rose Of Auschwitz’ (2012) by David Britton ‘Horror Panegyric’ (Savoy, March 2008) overview of

Lord Horror’ cycle by Keith Seward and David Britton

The Blue Monday Diaries: In The Studio With New Order’ by Michael Butterworth (Plexus Publishing, 2016) ISBN-13:978-0-85965-546-0. 190pp

FUCK OFF AND DIE’ by David Britton & Kris Guido (Savoy Books, 2005, ISBN 0-86130-113-7) An acerbic brain-storming kick-to-the-head, a ‘Caustic Cutie’, ‘Fuck Off & Die’ is a bumper-bundle ‘Beano Annual’ of delicious outrage, as spikily awkwardly indigestible and gratuitously contentious as I’ve come to expect from Savoy. A beautifully extravagant through-the-blender of innocence and experience, with some of the finest most lavishly grotesque art they’ve yet committed to high-gloss paper. Alan Moore writes the introduction. And if there’s meant to be a return to Dave’s prurient mega-scamp ‘La Squab’ I look forward to Mike’s new autobiogs too – but, isn’t it all autobiographical? Or am I guilty of misreading it?

SAVOY WARS’ (CD) follows a series of audacious 12” singles often unfairly dismissed as either stunts or plain Northern weirdness, and it finally places their project into perspective. The closest analogy you’re likely to get is KLF’s cunning mismatch of style and artist. Because here “Blue Monday” motorvates all the way from Elvis’ “Crawfish” to A Guy Called Gerald’s “Voodoo Ray” with Peter Hook himself donating the bass-lines. Their “Sign O The Times” has PJ Proby versus Prince patenting a cure for the big disease with a little name. “Garbageman” is a cut-and-slash rerun of The Cramps’ original with D’nise Johnson (occasional Primal Scream vox) and Melanie (Sub-Sub) Williams coming in on an S*Express transmutation. “Shoot Yer Load” blends a tasty LaVern Baker sample around Rowetta of Happy Mondays. Best of all is “Reverbstorm” – Spector and Tamla Manchester supernaturally reanimated with Wagnerian Northern Soul’ (review in ‘Hot Press’ by Andrew Darlington )

With thanks to Bob Dickinson’s interview with Michael Butterworth, a Clara Casian film