Savoy Catalogue, 1980
Doin’ That Savoy Shuffle

b y   A n d r e w   D a r l i n g t o n

International Times, 1980

"LAUNCHED ON A SEA OF SPERM?" from Britton, fin de siècle fantasy-flow from each gesture.

"Too involved" from Butterworth, birther of Hawklords. "You'd have to know the connections. The sale of shrink-wrapped soft-porn that finances the project. The ratio of ejaculations necessary to finance each new title. The masturbatory fantasies that..." Manic image of Bookchain, Manchester. Britton uncoils, leaps across a detritus of badges, DIY records, magazines, paperbacks. A predatory yell riding above endless tapes pressured up high to limits of aural tolerance ("We want blood to ooze from eardrums, subliminal 4/4 rhythm staccato etched direct on cerebral cortex inducing Pavlovian twitch, impulse to consume product"). And he grabs at a customer lucked out in the act, shredding shrink-wrap for furtive despoilation of inner erotica / slipping copies of Peaches inside raincoat—tension stood out in runners across forehead ("apprehension seen as a question of survival...").

Again, slogan for Savoy Books (you've seen their The Golden Barge, Michael Moorcock memorabilia package in its exquisite vid-back jacket). Direct—in Stiff's tradition. So far we got 'SAVOY BOOKS STOMP YOUR MIND—EFFETELY', inlaid on letterheads. Add a Savoy Books logo (script raped from the cover of Lovebirds). Add product, Samuel Delany's most salaciously profound odyssey The Tides of Lust; Charles Platt's The Gas, an uncontrollable nightmare of perversion, violence and insanity; Heathcote Williams on a breathless ganja-fuelled ride to the palace of excess; Brion Gysin; Harlan Ellison's teats...

Quest dissolves, adjourns to Chinese round windy Manchester corners ("so far out to lunch he's having breakfast"—Britton). I'm walking hunched between Mike Butterworth, tall, stick-insect angular and precise, and Dave Britton, assumed air of chaotic disorganisation and free-association spiel, belied by lurking haunted artist of clean lines, exact monochrome gradations, and controlled sensual grotesquerie. The Manchester streets squirm with unclaimed noise, a patina of tactile sound, while beneath us is the Bookchain cave where M John Harrison word-weaves fantasy novels between customers and amid reefs of IT back-numbers, antique Eagles, Frendz, New Worlds and Styng. A basement that reverberates with indecent exposures of stolen sound, bootlegs sucked from hidden mikes, stacked in neat piles. Perhaps you've heard tales? The busts splurged across smug tabloids, Savoy got burned by Operation Moonbeam. Legal fingers probing the Bookchain basement gloom, sinking into viscous mounds of round black sounds—R-E-C-O-I-L-S in legislative horror, detecting oral disease that must be flushed into orderly matrix catalogues.

"It's annoying (Britton) that one gets notoriety for something as essentially trivial as selling bootlegs and gets nothing for doing Savoy, which is a hundred times more important on a creative level—still, the raid provided much amusement in the shop. Quite a few media people, Pete Shelly (Buzzcocks), Tony Wilson (Factory Records), etc, have been in to commiserate. The appearance we made in High Court—the performance of it all—was pure sinister farce." A landscape not entirely uncharted in my head. Was thirteen, trapped for shoplifting an Eddie Cochran 45, hypnotic it adhered to my fingers. Later came the Genesis P Orridge and Styng obscenity busts.

"We were charged £7,250 costs (Butterworth)."

So is bootlegging evil? Vile? Pernicious? A bootleg can be as valuable as the published letters of Franz Kafka, as Dylan fragments, as Beefheart improvisations otherwise dissolved in air and lost. Charlie 'Bird' Parker's mythology rests to a large extent on Dean Benedetti's bootleg tapes; just as bootlegs provide credibility-index (Patti Smith allegedly producing her own as self-image fabrication components, others re-mixing live tapes for bootleggers as a product quality control exercise).

"We're basically Rock'n'Roll publishers (Britton). Most of the books we're doing are in essence nearer to Rock'n'Roll than to literature. It's a stance—Mike Moorcock is Rock'n'Roll. M John Harrison is Rock'n'Roll. Jack Trevor Story, despite his age, is Rock'n'Roll. He stands outside the establishment, and I think we do the same." I know the symptoms. Of all the copious gifts of Western culture the only things to touch my adolescence were cheap Science Fiction and loud Rock'n'Roll. Memorising matrix numbers and chart positions instead of doing homework. The pulse of bass lines that coil and snare unsuspecting feet. So now the kids sniff around Bookchain with the same hypnotic hunger. Roll over Dean Benedetti and tell Dave Britton the news.

"We were two days late making the first payment of £1000 (Butterworth). They sent the cheque back and instructed the bailiffs to move in straightaway and stuck further costs on top." "Two police raids in one fortnight (Britton). They took the keys from our shop, turfed us out, and said we had until Monday lunchtime to raise the money, but we raised the money and are now back in possession of our premises and goods."

"It's all in a day's work." In fact Bookchain has also been raided thirteen times in the last two years resulting in seizure and destruction of 'obscene literature' of the kind freely available from W H Smith. "If there's enough determination, and if there's enough skin left on your body for another flaying, we will survive"—from Britton.

Savoy Books lineage traces back to Concentrate, a magazine-venture that crawled out from under the legendary New Worlds journal of experimental writing (circa mid-'60s). Directed by Butterworth—impatient for change and literary revolution—it ran three issues of great shovelfuls of manic prose. It was followed by the potently consciousness-expanding Corridor/Wordworks, a seven issue Manchester magazine, an object lesson in what could be achieved with limited finance, but unlimited energy and editorial inventiveness. Britton, fresh out of producing Crucified Toad, infiltrating its pages with intricate drawings. Elements of Beardsley's euphoric pornographic art colliding with Magritte-complex mind-game landscapes of ludicrous and bizarre juxtaposition, all enacted across in-the-head Victorian drawing rooms.

"Dave alone is responsible for Savoy's tremendous visual packaging (Butterworth)." Britton claiming "no unifying structure" beyond the fact that most of those published by the financially precarious Savoy "were heroes of our formative years. The whole enterprise is very indulgent at core. Its saving is that possibly a number of neglected artists / authors will have the chance to reach a new and hopefully responsive audience." Henry Treece books, raunchy novels exploring Celtic / Arthurian myth like no historical fiction before or since. Much of Moorcock's Elric stuff has Treece ancestry. And the timeless Ken Reid Fudge books originally run in the Manchester Evening News, as early as the '30s, charming pre-Tolkien fantasies now distributed for Savoy by Big 0; plus ground-breaking works by newer iconoclastic writers of the SF 'New Wave' school Ellison, Moorcock, Philip José Farmer, plus a possible William Burroughs, all stylishly packaged (style is important). Integrity? "Something you can do without getting your balls cut off" from Butterworth.

Manchester bus terminal, beneath a mile of concrete, air trapped into eddies of stale exhalation. Me and Butterworth slide between patterned vinyl tables like staggered oblique chessboards. In this cathedral of stressed ferro-crete labyrinths people wait for buses that never come. Like conventional wisdoms of creative wastelands, experimental impasses, economic impossibilities, and the drying up of ineptly pathetic media-hyped abilities, this place is shot full of one-way streets and no-exit signs. Could this be where it all leads, with no way out? Oh Mama can this really be the end? First came across Butterworth in New Worlds, a brilliant cut-up piece called Disintegration. Later he was in Ambit, d'Fontaine for the softcore Blade. He wrote the Hawklord novels with Moorcock (now fattened into a trilogy and sold to the Japs), and fleshed the dire Space 1999 scripts into the TV series novel-length merchandising spin-offs. He can write. Try his Treaty of Light in the recently reincarnated anarchist fragmentation-device New Worlds.

He and Britton produced The Savoy Book, "a catalyst which hung around in printed form for about a year before it saw publication, because of distribution problems". In the book Heathcote Williams wrote that 'the sky begins on the ground', and in accordance with this philosophy Savoy Books has sky-shooting artistic ambitions grounded in sound hard-nosed business machinery. It lays ghosts. It provides a slap in the mind for boring tedium by the very vibrancy of its existence, it exorcises conventional myths of cultural apathy. Writ large SAVOY BOOKS ARE AS GOOD AND BETTER THAN ANYTHING CONCEIVED BY THE SHALLOW DAYGLO '60s. It's happening now. In the '80s.

"The main thing is we are having fun with Savoy, it's the sort of enterprise we've always wanted to have. And if we go broke, well, fuck it. We did some good books just the way we wanted." Buy them or lose out. The sky begins on the ground. Savoy is shooting that sky into fragments with or without you.

A slogan?

Savoy Books—like the Dormouse said—feed your head.

Orgasms for your mind.

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