'MANCHESTER POLICE SEIZED MORE THAN 350 copies of the novel two years ago, and last week the magistrate, Mr Derrick Fairclough, declared it likely to "deprave and corrupt" under Section Three of the Obscene Publications Act'.
History has a habit of repeating itself. The above excerpt isn't a reference to charges brought against
the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960, Last Exit To Brooklyn in 1968, or Inside Linda Lovelace in 1976 , but to Lord Horror. And the source, the New Statesman & Society, is dated 27 September 1991.
Lord Horror is a fictionalised life of the wartime traitor William Joyce 'Lord Haw-Haw'who broadcast propaganda messages from Germany to Britain during the Second World War. He was hanged for treason on his return to Britain in 1946. In the novel, Lord Horror searches for Hitler, who has survived the war and taken refuge in a sea-bunker off the Malayan coast. What seems to have upset Magistrate Fairclough is the virulent anti-Semitism expressed in the book. However, the publishers declare that the work itself is not anti-Semitic, only shocking and amoral. And they have their own theory as to what lies at the heart of the furore. Lord Horror has a peripheral character called 'Appleton', obviously based on James Anderton, the former Chief Constable of Manchester. God's Cop. In the novel, Anderton's speeches are put into Appleton's mouthbut substituting "Jews" where Anderton referred to gays.
Manchester-based Savoy is the publishing house responsible for
the Lord Horror novel. But Lord Horror isn't the be-all-and-end-all of Savoy. Far from it. Over the
years, Savoy have been in constant pursual of the esoteric and
the imaginative. Their history of independent and controversial
publishing claims such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Harlan
Ellison, William Burroughs, and Jack Trevor Story. Not only that,
Savoy are responsible for taboo-breaking forays into the realm
of comics: Their adaptation of Moorcock's The Jewel in the Skull stands as the first UK-originated graphic novel, while issue
No.1 of their title, Meng & Ecker, has become the first comic to be banned in Britain. As well
as Rock'n'Roll picture books on the likes of Led Zeppelin and
Ted Nugent, Savoy were behind Sinister Legends, the first published work on The Cramps. They remain uncredited for Here To Go: Planet R101, the celebrated volume on painter, poet and philosopher, Brion Gysin (which, ultimately, came out as part of the RE/Search catalogue). More recently, they have been involved in the production of peculiar dance-sleaze records, 'rediscovering' Sixties pop idol PJ Proby, and getting him to record TS Eliot's 'The Waste Land' over an Edgard Varèse electronic backing.
It was Man Ray who said, "The Public? I think they must accept what comes to them... People who don't create have no right to make a choice in Art." With each freshly excavated idea, so, it seems, must come the inevitable CONFRONTATION WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT. And Savoy are no strangers to such confrontation. The Lord Horror debacle doesn't herald the first police bust for Savoy, nor the first obscenity prosecution. Savoy can barely put the proverbial foot out the door without receiving a summons. Their retail outlets are the butt of constant police 'interest', having received something in excess of 60 raids over the years. They have been busted for everything from selling bootleg vinyl, to stashing pornographic literature "behind a secret wall".(1)
In years past, Savoy admit that it wasn't so much the publishing house that bothered the police, but more the Savoy shops. A combination of shrink-wrapped pornography and a sound system playing "tapes pressured up high to limits of aural tolerance" was simply too public a profile for the police to ignore. Now it's different. Now it is Savoy itself and the work they produce that is the focus of attention.
The Greater Manchester Police don't hold a monopoly on being pissed at Savoy, however. At some point or another the company has managed to rub the wrong way: United Features Syndicate Ltd, The Arts Council, a Manchester restaurant, Rough Trade, WH Smith's... But we run ahead of ourselves. All and more will be revealed in good time in this, a tracing of the most glorious history of the Savoy empire. In speaking with Michael Butterworth, one of the founding members of the company, we shall be party to some dastardly deeds and notorious Savoy artefacts. Here, then, follows the years and circumstances preluding the declaration of the 'Savoy Wars'.
THE SKY BEGINS ON THE GROUND (2)
Independent to one another, Michael Butterworth and David Britton
were busy in the early-1970s producing small press publications.
For Britton it was Weird Fantasy, Bognor Regis, and Crucified Toadall A4-sized, litho-printed fantasy-meets-surrealism magazines covering some film, but mainly artwork and articles by or about such exponents as Poe, Aubrey Beardsley, Mervyn Peake, Alan Garner, early Ramsey Campbell, Brian Aldiss, Clark Ashton Smith, and Manchester artist Ken Reid.
By contrast, Butterworth's Concentrate, Corridor, and WordworksA4 litho, colour coverswere not at all art nouveau, but more original fiction; imaginative writers on the small press scene of the Sixties and Seventies, such as Heathcote Williams, Thomas M Disch, psychologist John Clark, playwright J Jeff Jones, Trevor Hoyle.
Recalls Butterworth, "We were introduced to each other by our printer, John Muir, who later ran Babylon Books, but at that time had a press called WHITE LIGHT on Upper Brook Street. He was printing my magazines and Dave's, but both of us wanted a more mainstream look and to do paperback books."(3)
So the two got together, sometime in 1974, with Britton working as Art Editor on Butterworth's Wordworks and Corridor magazines. But another seed of the Savoy empire had been sown in 1972, when David Britton opened the shop HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND on Port Street, near the Crown & Anchor. Says Butterworth, "That was the shop with the brothel upstairs, where, out of good neighbourliness, the ladies running it offered us free wanks. House On The Borderland was the first Savoy shop because it established the formula on which all the others were based, selling a mix of Rock'n'Roll, cinema, fantasy, comics, SF, art and whatever was streetwise at the time. It was a variant of the formula Bram Stokes pioneered with his London shop Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, from which Titan Books and Forbidden Planet later grew."
ORBIT BOOKS, adjacent to the Wheatsheaf pub, Whittle Street, became the second Savoy shop. "From these premises, Dave published James Cawthorn's adaptation of Stormbringer."
In 1976, Savoy entered the world of publishing with SAVOY BOOKS LTD and Stormbringer, a 30-page illustrated version of Michael Moorcock's fantasy
novel (measuring in at a lowly 427mm x 305mm!). Stormbringer was the first in a series of four adaptations of Moorcock's works
by artist Cawthorn. The other (sizeably modest) titles are: The Jewel in the Skull, The Crystal and the Amulet, and The Sword and the Runestaff.
A tie-in with NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY in 1979 meant that Savoy was able to reissue the best works of artists and writers like Henry Treece, Harlan Ellison, Jack Trevor Story and Ken Reid, and distribute them around the world.
"In those early days, we were mainly reprinting work we thought was being neglected. We did some original titles: The Savoy Book (4) was an anthology, and we published an original Moorcock work, My Experiences in the Third World War (5) "The thing was Dave and I had tastes which overlapped. We're
miles apart in personality, but in terms of interests, we both
liked Captain Beefheart; we both remembered Ken Reid's Fudge and
Speck strips in the Manchester Evening News..."
In 1938, a young and hopeful Ken Reid approached the Manchester Evening News with several layouts for a strip called The Adventures of Fudge the Elf. It became a regular feature and soon was appearing every night.
With only a few brief absences, Fudge the Elf ran right up until 1962, and even as late as 1974 reprints were appearing in the paper.
Reid's strip chronicled the escapades of two elves, Fudge and Speck, caught within the landscapes of Tummy-Ache, the Land of Nowhere, the underwater kingdom of Bubbleville, and the sugary planet of Plum-Duff. Inhabitants here had similarly peculiar names and preoccupations. 'King Bong', for instance, was the invisible owner of a pair of magic gloves.
Savoy published a total of two volumes of Reid's work and planned to publish four more. "We have always tried to push against the grain one way or another," admits Butterworth, "even when we were bringing people back to public attention. Ken Reid's strip in the Manchester Evening News was stopped because it was getting too way out, and frightening
kids. We regret we didn't get out as much of Reid's work as we
I THINK THAT WAS THE CATALYST (6)
"FUCK!" chanted the nuns. "FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK,
FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!"
"Oh, no! " moaned the priest. "oh no, no, no!"The Gas, pg. 84
Amid this flurry of publishing activity, unbeknownst to Savoy,
their retail premises were being 'Moonbeamed' by undercover agents
in the BRITISH PHONOGRAPHIC INDUSTRY.
'Britain's recording industry has cracked a bootlegging syndicate!'
screamed the tabloid press. 'Undercover agents working on an investigation
code-named OPERATION MOONBEAM have carried out raids in London,
Manchester, Newcastle and St. Helens.'
Beneath familiar mug-shots of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Elton
John ('BOOTLEGGED!), the reports went on to stipulate how, in
April 1979, a telephone tip-off had set into motion the greased
wheels of Operation Moonbeam.
'Inquiries led to Manchester where stocks of bootleg records were
being imported from America.'The ingenuity of the Moonbeam agents
was such that 'One investigator posed as a manufacturer to infiltrate
the network' while 'Suspects were trailed all over the country
by BPI investigators with long-range cameras'.
Both Orbit Books and BOOKCHAIN (the third Savoy outlet, Peter
Street) were hit by the operation. David Britton found himself
in the High Court in London, agreeing to pay the BPI a sum of
£7,250 for damages and costs, as well as to a permanent injunction,
not to make, sell or offer for sale any bootleg recordings.
"We were two days late making the first payment of £l,000," says
Butterworth of the fine. "They sent the cheque back and instructed
the bailiffs to move in straight away and stuck further costs
on top. This was our second bust... at Orbit Books we had been
done over by the BPI as early as 1976."
Although to this point their output remained relatively catholic,
Savoy's publication of works by SF authors Samuel Delany and Charles
Platt was soon to cause considerable unrest.
Of Delany's novel, The Tides of Lust, one reviewer said that it "might be described as a pornographic picaresque; it's a chronicle of various sorts of sex, hetero and homo, but lingering on rather down-&-dirty black/white S&M of a sort that would be automatically labelled racist (among other things) if the author wasn't black". The book follows a group of people in an uncompromising search for erogenous gratification, every other page providing the reader with a fresh sexual twist.
Platt's The Gas, on the other handa novel of SF eroticism, perversion and insanity in which an accident at a secret germ warfare laboratory causes a deadly aphrodisiac to be released over Englanddespite having been Savoy's most consistently requested title, has yet to elicit a review. Neither were Savoy able to secure an English distributor bold enough to release it, and potential readers had to purchase the book direct from the publishers. (7)
In November of 1980, thousands of pounds worth of retail stock
was seized by police. Savoy offices and all the Savoy shops were
raided in a co-ordinated swoop. Butterworth elaborates, "The Gas was first published by OPHELIA PRESS in the States. Savoy gave
it its only UK publication. The police seized it, as well as copies
of Samuel Delany's Tides of Lustand one copy of Jack Trevor Story's Screwrape Lettuce!but did not get the full print run. The main problem was not so much the police but the booktradeno one except us would sell The Gas. Our only outlets for it were our own shops."
(By this juncture, Savoy had opened STARPLACE on Oldham Streetit no longer existsand BOOKCHAIN LEEDS LTD. About to open was CHAPTER ONE in Liverpool.)
Savoy Books Ltd was forced into voluntary liquidation in February
of 1981. Was this a direct result of the raid?
"The collapse of New English Library and, since 1976, continual police harassment. New English Library were getting our books out, but TIMES MIRROR in Americawho own New English Librarypulled the rug from under them, and our distribution collapsed, too. We were getting a lot of raids; Anderton raided our shops about 60 times, acting as a constant heavy drain on our financial resources. We just couldn't survive as Savoy Books Ltd anymore, and went into liquidation."
Raids of the frequency to which Savoy were now accustomed began
in 1976. James Anderton took over as Chief Constable of Greater
Manchester Police on 1 July 1976. Between the years 1977 and 1981
the Chief, in an annual report to London, detailed that he had
obtained a total of 1,010 search warrants from magistrates, issued
for the purpose of raiding under the Obscene Publications Act
(meaning that, on average, at least one Manchester high street
shop and distributor was being raided every two days).
The confiscation of the novels The Gas and The Tides of Lust was just part of a major raid on Savoy that ultimately resulted in the prosecution of both Britton and Butterworth, and landed David Britton in prison (albeit a full 19 months later). Britton and Philip Bunton (shop manager) at Orbit Books were charged with selling obscene material for gain in an operation utilising about 25 police officers and vehicles, as well as an unknown amount of plain-clothed officers who had been observing stock movement for about a week before the raids.
The obscene material took the form of seven paperback novels:
No Place for a Lady by A DeGranamour; Something for the Boys by Kenneth Harding; Mama Liz Drinks Deep, Mama Liz Tastes Flesh, and Secret Sisterhood, each by Howard Rhinegold; Cruel Lips by Marcus Van Heller; and Two Suspicious Girls by Katy Mitchell.
Charges were brought under Section Two of the Obscene Publications
Act. More serious charges than these it is difficult to get, yet
the novels in question contain no pictorial matter and their authors,
Rhinegold in particular, are erudite and often comical. In the
well-plotted Secret Sisterhood, a spy called 'Jerry Cornelius' makes a cameo appearance, which
can only be a reference to Michael Moorcock's ironically conceived
character. "It's a rip-snorter of a book," says Butterworth. "Cornelius
is a hapless aviation cop who loses his job after being spiked
with LSD. Just in time he manages to implant a microscopic surveillance
device into his semen!"
The novels were already widely available in bookshops and newsagents
around the country, such as the London-based WORDS AND MUSIC chain,
who initially supplied Savoy.
Of the relatively innocuous nature of the books, says Butterworth,
"if the police and courts are determined to get a conviction they
will use anything to get one." Long after the trial several of
the titles were reprinted by an English publisher.
Published in the Seventies by the prestigious American outfits,
GROVE PRESS and VENUS FREEWAY PRESS, Savoy picked the seven titles
up at remainder prices in 1978 (meaning that they must have been
freely imported into the country, in spite of HM Customs censorial
powers). Furthermore, these same books had already been seized
from Savoy on numerous occasions and returned by the police because
they did not merit prosecution.
In Savoy Dreams, the second volume in a proposed trilogy of anthologies, Butterworth addresses an open letter to the reader with regard this "puzzling" case. In the piece, entitled Under Siege, he claims that the trial of Britton and Bunton was not altogether
unbiased; that the judge was out to make an example and "nail
Dave". Also, because the raids had cost many thousands of pounds
to execute, to bring the men to trial was, in some measure, a
justification of this vast expenditure of public money. Of the
trial itself, Butterworth stipulates how Judge Hardy's "manner
(for example the tone of his voice) frequently gave otherwise
fair and just pronouncements an inflexion". Of Hardy's summing
up to the jury Butterworth has transcribed the speech and made
references to a total of 11 points which "until that precise moment
had not been brought up in court; which might refer to parts of
the law which nebulously remained unexplained; which appeared
to me to be opinion; which appeared to be biased interpretations;
which appeared to be denials of points raised by our barrister".
As a result, and after much deliberation, the jury found the men
guilty. Philip Bunton received a one-month suspended sentence.
David Britton was sentenced to 28-days imprisonment (of which
he served 19). Inexplicably, the case against Butterworth, who
was to have been tried separately, did not come to court. Britton
later recounted to Butterworth that the guards who escorted him
to the cells afterwards threw up their hands in disbelief.
There followed widespread press denouncement over the imprisonment.
On the morning Britton was released from Strangeways, one of the
Savoy shops was again raided and relieved of 'obscene' material.
LIFE DOESN'T GIVE A RAT'S ARSE WHO LIVES IT (8)
"They were like the bottom market," says Michael Butterworth of
New English Library (NEL). "They weren't well regarded in literary
Interesting titles, though.
"They were good for us because they were on rocky ground and they
wanted more titles to boost their list, you see, especially titles
which would give them credibility."
Immediately following the liquidation of Savoy Books, SAVOY EDITIONS
LTD was formed, preparing books for publication by companies like
MUSIC SALES and PROTEUS BOOKS. Among these were the large format
Led ZeppelinIn The Light; the AC/DC biography, Hell Ain't No Bad Place To Be; a David Bowie Profile; and The Legendary Ted Nugent. The original cover of the Nugent work was deemed too far over
the top for wholesale distributors W H Smith. Says David Britton,
"The final design by OMNIBUS PRESS, like all their Rock jacket
designs, achieved the required condition of muzak."
A paperback volume on American shock Rock band Kiss, sporting
the legend 'The Savoy Kiss Of Death' on the jacket, remains to
this date the company's biggest-selling title.
Butterworth: "Savoy commissioned, originated, conceived and performed every function except shit these books. The Bernard Manning Blue Joke Bookthe only Bernard Manning joke bookwas a Savoy book which we packaged to our former distributor, NEL, who had re-emerged as part of the HODDER & STOUGHTON group."
On the subject of packagingthough "not really in the realm of 'packaging' but more a labour of love"Britton edited and assembled The Lives and Times of Captain Beefheart (1977) for John Muir's BABYLON BOOKS. He was partly responsible for Babylon's Frank Zappa book. "Dave also gave Morrissey quite a lot of information that Morrissey, as author, eventually put into Babylon's James Dean book."
A major disappointment for Butterworth and Savoy are the titles
that "got away". UK paperback rights for William Burroughs' Cities of the Red Night were purchased by Savoy but had to be relinquished following the
demise of Savoy Books Ltd. Michael Moorcock's novel The Brothel In Rosenstrasse was originally commissioned by Savoy but, again, had to be relinquished.
Ironically, it eventually came out through NEL with an authorial
credit to Savoy.
Savoy Books Ltd were also set to publish the collected works of Gerald Scarfe, having assembled, with the assistance of Scarfe, 90% of the artwork which was to eventually appear in THAMES & HUDSON's book, Gerald Scarfe. At the time, complications that arose over the exact ownership of Scarfe's work for Pink Floyd's film, The Wall, precluded use of that cartoon work in Savoy's book. This was
later resolved and the work was used in the Thames & Hudson edition.
Contrary to the pre-publication advertising for Nik Cohn's definitive Rock'n'Roll novel, Johnny Angelo, the book was six years late coming out. It tells the story of a young Rock'n'Roll singer, the eponymous Angelo, from his unhinged and hedonist lifestyle to his inevitable demise and consequent legendary status. Interestingly, Savoy were scheduled to publish not one but two versions of the novel. The firstto have carried the slightly but significantly different title, I Am Still The Greatest Says Johnny Angelowas to have been a reprint of Cohn's revised, more formal, less powerful 1970 PENGUIN edition. This, because
Savoy felt that both versions together told the full story of
Author Cohnwho went on to write Saturday Night Feverhad created in Angelo an iconoclast not a million miles removed from that of disgraced Sixties star PJ Proby. Little wonder Savoy should be so interested. More later.
Another work that "got away", a recollection that rifles the slightest pique for Michael Butterworth, is Brion Gysin's Here To Go: Planet R101. Gysin, interviewed by Terry Wilson, gives a travelogue of his ideas, theories, adventures and philosophies. He relays how William Burroughs came to improvise new meaning from the newspaper cut-ups he experimented with; mirror staring, the first step in personality-switching; the machineries of joy; drugs, sex and space travel without rockets ('Here to go' being a reference to the 'meaning of it all'- mankind is here to go into space).
Explains Butterworth, "RE/Search published that. The book was
my idea. I myself originated it, though I was never credited in
it. I commissioned Terry Wilson to do it and William Burroughs
to write the introduction, and after Savoy Books Ltd got into
its difficulties Terry took it off me and gave it to RE/Search.
They've done a very good job, but he's just taken it as his book.
If it wasn't for me he wouldn't have that book. You stole the
GROWN-UPS IN A TEENAGE WORLD (9)
The eve of 1984 saw the publication of Savoy's second anthology, Savoy Dreams; the first book under the new imprint, simply SAVOY.
"We were back paying for the printing ourselves, says Butterworth, "but from that date have done without a distributor, and our print runsonce in their tens of thousandsare now in single 1,000 units. The police raids and the rise of the censorious Politically Correct made things very difficult, but coupled with this was our refusal after our dealings with NELwho often pushed their own titles to the detriment of oursto consider a straightforward distribution deal where we ended up paying for everything."
September of 1985 heralded SAVOY RECORDS and the first PJ Proby
single release for the company, Tainted Love. Sylvie Simmons wrote of the record in Kerrang!
Single of singles! The song Soft Cell made a hit gagged and chained
in some leatherette-lined sewer deep below the earth's epidermis.
Sounds like a motorway pile-up in Hell. The band just go for it
and PJ sounds gloriously bad and sleazy. As he says on one side,
"It's a tasty world."
Born in the United States, PJ Proby made demo discs for Elvis
Presley in the late-Fifties and early-Sixties, and appeared in
several B-movie Westerns. He came to Britain after being discovered
by TV producer Jack Good, who first displayed him on a Beatles
TV spectacular in 1964. A flamboyant character, Proby wore his
hair long and in a ponytail, and dressed in tight velvet trousers,
fancy shirts and buckled shoes.
His strong, throbbing voice perfectly suited the image.
Over the next four years he had numerous hits, and his debut album
in 1965 was a commercial success. However, Proby was always a
controversial figure, and trouble dogged him throughout his career.
He would upset theatre managers by refusing to take the stage
without first being paid. On a 1965 tour with Cilla Black, Proby
was given the benefit of the doubt when he claimed that his trousers
splitting mid-performance was an accident. But then the 'accident'
occurred again in other shows. Of one concert, the Record Mirror
reported that Proby
leaped about, covered his right ear with a hand, splayed his legs
and executed a series of grinds as performed in a number of outlawed
burlesque houses in the States. Ecstatic teenage girls, beside
themselves with desire, hurled themselves like human bullets at
the line of commissionaries guarding the stage.
That's not all. Later in the show, largely composed of screaming
Proby saw fit to introduce into his act a gesture which I personally
considered in extremely bad taste. He very carefully put one hand
on the top of his trousers and slowly pulled down the material
to reveal some inches of flesh at the top of his leg. [From then
on] the act developed into an erotic display. One which many people
will agree was not fit to be put on in front of young girls...
Again, his hand was run from knee to knee, via his stomach. His
behind was massaged and his trousers were torn from the knees
to the top... with one hand, he ripped one leg all the way up
from the knee... the Texan crawled across the stage, ripped the
other trouser leg and did the splits revealing a wide expanse
of flesh. After a series of gymnastics, Proby placed a hand between
his legs and did another grind. This was not a man going just
far enough, this was a man going too far.
The RANK/ABC Organisation agreed and promptly banned Proby from
performing at their venues. So, too, did the BBC and ITV television
Proby publicly declared that Tom Joneswho made his name as Proby's replacement on Cilla's tourwas "rubbish' and challenged him to a singing match. The contest never took place and, by 1968, Proby was bankrupt. He appeared in a couple of Jack Good stage productions in the Seventies (a rock musical version of Othello, and as the elder Elvis in Elvis On Stage), but for the most part was out of favour with the press and public. Like this things remained. He made the headlines when charged with assaulting his girlfriend and again, when at the age of 45, he wedded Alison Hardy, a girl of 15. Not long after, recording with Savoy in 1986, Proby confessed that Alison had left him and that this particular recordinga cover of David Bowie's Heroes, which Proby sang as a straightforward love song addressed to his young wifewould be his last. He intended to shoot the girl and then join his father in the sky. In an interview with i-D magazine, David Britton said of Proby,"'He's a man who's deteriorated a lot since I've known him. When he's sober he's nice and sweet and when he's drunk he's angry and bitter and wants to die. His liver's shot and he's got all the problems that come with being an acute alcoholic. I'm told he's lost all sensation in his feet for instance. He's too ill to perform... he can't learn new songs sufficiently well to do on stage."
How did Savoy get involved with Proby?
Butterworth: 'Well, we started doing his biography (in 1982).
We went interviewing him, got miles of cassette tape which we
hoped to turn into a book, but we decided what he needed more
than anything else was a record deal. He hadn't done anything
serious for about 16 years."
What's the arrangement?
"We originate the songs. "His voice is fed through audiofile, edited, rearranged. Nothing is simple about these songs and they aren't the sort that Proby would willingly do. To be honest, he hates them. But he likes something about usprobably recognises us as fellow musical anarchists."
Of the singles that Proby has recorded for Savoy are covers of
contemporary anthems such as Love Will Tear Us Apart, Anarchy In The U.K., Sign 'O' The Times,
In The Air Tonight, and Garbageman.
"The B-side of Love Will Tear Us Apart, the live version," recalls Butterworth, "was recorded in an old schoolhouse on the Rippenden Road, near Oldham, a block away from the church where Joy Division recorded the original. We went there just to get a sense of history, simply for ourselves, recording on the doorstep of the original. One week after our recording was made, kids from the nearby Sholver Estate burnt the school to the grounda fucking good omen! The out-of-tune backing is deliberate. We de-tuned the synth so it would sound like inept Velvet Underground."
Press reaction to Savoy's recordings was mixed. "Reeks of insanity"
wrote Melody Maker. "Hideously fascinating" admitted Creem... Hot Press denounced Proby as "a very, very sick man in every sense of the
word", while CHANNEL 4's talk show The Last Resort categorically refused to feature the singer in its line-up of
guests. "The only way Proby will ever get on our show is when
he's dead." (10)
In an original composition, Hardcore: M97002 (being Dave Britton's prison number in Strangeways), Savoy claimed
a team-up between PJ Proby and Madonna. Against a crushing, primordial
backbeat, the unlikely duo delineate a succession of surrealist
episodes. 'Telly Savalas uses his bald head as a phallus / He
leaves vaseline everywhere he sits / What a knob.'
On 22 September 1987, London 's Evening News carried the frontpage headline: MADONNA IN PORN RECORD ROW. The
following morning, the Daily Mail reported, MADONNA TO SUE OVER 'PORN' DISC, stating that, 'Despite
the fact that the female voice on the record bears no resemblance
to Madonna's, Proby yesterday insisted that they teamed up after
her debut U.K. concert at Leeds on August 13.'
Of Savoy's recordings in general, Butterworth says, "They occupied
a great deal of our time as producers in the middle and late-Eighties.
We were consciously trying for an ironic juxtaposition between
the old and the new, so that there are lots of Fifties Rock 'n'
Roll references in the records, as well as literary ones. On Anarchy In The UK, we sampled the voices of T S Eliot, William Burroughs and Harlan
Ellison." For their version of Blue Monday, Savoy introduced one 'Lord Horror' on vocals." The backing track
on that record uses the same samples as the New Order original,
borrowed from Peter Hook's files, "only we well warped it."
Savoy's Blue Monday, released October 1986, gives credit to 'The Savoy-Hitler Youth Band'. The sleeve depicts the head of a bearded gentleman, brains exploding through the top of his skull, around which the words 'White Natzi Cunt-Scum... Fucking Suckarse Nigger Jew' are scrawled. The figure is attired in a black uniform, displaying the emblem 'J.A.' and 'l976-1986A Decade of Service and Protection, Greater Manchester Police'. On the reverse of the sleeve is a backdrop comprising scenes at the liberation of Dachau. The record never got further than press review copies. No distributor would touch it. More later.
THERE AIN'T NO SUCH THING AS RAPE
WHEN YOU'RE WEARING A SUPERMAN CAPE (12)
Horror reared back up and slipped the bloodied razors carefully
into his own mouth and sucked them, sliding his thick tongue over
and over the keen blades. Stretching his pop-eyes, Horror pulled
the blades free from his mouth and jumped from the man's shoulders,
landing solidly in front of him. He turned around and heaved his
frame upwards, catching the Jew in mid-fall. He ran his twin razors
up the full length of the man's exposed chest, completely parting
the neck and splitting the anguished face. The Jew finally collapsed,
and amongst the infra-sound of roaring blood Horror dipped his
head into the open chest, laying still for a while in the soft
ooze within. He shuffled, swallowed a mouthful of the blood. Edging
further inside the gash he gripped one of the man's organs, knotted
with veins, between his horse teeth and tore it away. He stood
up, letting the organ trail in the wind, and then dashed it against
the back window of the terrace house, where it clung like a piece
of red afterbirth on a glass slide...
Lord Horror, pg 94
In May of 1989, Savoy published the David Britton novel Lord Horror, the first book to fictionally explore Auschwitz and the Holocaust
without the utilisation of sympathetic characters.
Later, in June, Savoy launched its no-holds-barred comics line
with the first issues of Lord Horror (13) and Meng & Ecker.
July brought the Meng & Ecker 12" vinyl release, Shoot Yer Load / Golden Showers, another slice of sleaze Hi-NRG dance (the B-side opening with,
'Open your mouth let me piss in it / There's more to sex than
a pair of tits').
In September 1989, copies of the Lord Horror novel, and Lord Horror and Meng & Ecker comics and records, were seized from Savoy offices and retail
premises by Manchester police.
First of all, how did the character 'Lord Horror' come about?
"Lord Horror is very loosely based on William Joyce, the so-called
'English traitor'. He's also got albino blood in him, from characters
like Zenith the Albino, in the Sexton Blake magazines of the 1930s,
and Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock's anti-hero of the Sixties.
But the culture of the Fifties, the era in which Dave and I became teenagers, was dominated by three thingsRock'n'Roll, the atomic bomb, and the Second World War. They had a powerful effect. There were times when, as kids, we went to sleep not knowing whether we would wake up, because of a hydrogen bomb war. All my first published work in Moorcock's New Worlds magazine in the Sixties, was set in post-atomic war landscapes.
In the Eighties I started to explore the Nazis, and the Holocaust.
By the time I met Dave, who was Rock'n'Roll, he had got together a series of characters for a
novel, which didn't include the Lord Horror character and therefore
lacked a focus.
"I started writing a novel featuring a fictionalised Adolf Hitler in South America; I wanted to use a symbolic exotic setting to attach to Hitler. I portrayed him as an inane, very ordinary personand found, as of course others have, that the contrast potentised him in a very bizarre way.
"It sparked Dave to start writingthough obviously he didn't also want to write about Hitler. He was looking around for another character and eventually hit on William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw. That's how it came about in literal terms."
What happened to Hitler in the South American swamps ?
"I stopped writing mine because I was getting bogged down with
it. I decided Dave's was the book, and helped him get it into
shape instead. It took four years to write."
Here follow the events surrounding the seizure of the Lord Horror
novel and comics:
SEPTEMBER 15 1989 Jewish Telegraph North West, on receiving a copy to review, run a front page story about
the Lord Horror novel. The piece highlights those parts of the book containing
Chief Constable of Manchester James Anderton's pronouncements
on gays, pornographers, anti-churchgoers, and left-wingers. In
one of the speeches, Savoy substitute the word 'gay' with the
word 'Jew' to draw the comparison between Anderton's speeches
and those of 1930s' political anti-Semitism.
SEPTEMBER 19 1989 Manchester Evening News run the same story next to a photograph of Anderton. Like the
Jewish Telegraph, it announces that the Police Chief is 'investigating' Lord Horror.
UNSPECIFIED DATE Posing as members of the public, police officers purchase copies
of the Meng & Ecker and Lord Horror comics from Savoy shops. This enables them to obtain seizure warrants
from Stipendiary Magistrate Derrick Fairclough.
SEPTEMBER 26 1989 Police simultaneously raid Savoy offices and three of their retail
outlets in Manchester, seizing, as well as non-Savoy material,
all copies of Lord Horror . So too all copies of Meng & Ecker comic issue No.1 and Lord Horror comic issue No. l. The cover artwork of the former depicts the
decapitated head of James Anderton/Appleton.
OCTOBER 17 1989 Greater Manchester Police Headquarters: Acting under orders from
superiors, Detective Inspector Malcolm Wood conducts separate
hour-long interviews with David Britton and Michael Butterworth.
The interviews focus on the contents of the Lord Horror novel and Meng & Ecker comic No. 1. (14)
JULY 1990 Summonses dated 19 July 1990 are served on Britton and Butterworth
under Section Two of the Obscene Publications Act.
SEPTEMBER 10 1990 Britton and Butterworth appear before Stipendiary Magistrate Fairclough. To get a quick sentence it is usual police practice to bring defendants before the same magistrate who issues the seizure warrants. Fairclough makes it plain that as far as he is concerned a prison sentence is inevitable. To obtain a fairer hearingbefore a possibly unbiased judgeSavoy elect to go before a Crown Court, enter a plea of not guilty, and are remanded on bail until a court date can be secured.
OCTOBER 1990 Fingerprints of Britton and Butterworth are taken at Bootle Street
police station. Under new police laws, defendants have to give
their fingerprints when charged.
Elizabeth Young, reporting in New Statesman, said of the novel, "Lord Horror, unlike American Psycho, is a work that outrages current taboos on racism: taboos so
strangulated that no one may transgress them.'
Almost two years after it had been seized, at a hearing on 28
August 1991, Magistrate Fairclough upheld Lord Horror as obscene. It was described as anti-Semitic, while passages
of the novel were read out loud in court. David Britton defended
his work, stating that the passages had been read out of context.
The novel itself, he said, was not anti-Semitic, but Lord Horror,
the character, was. "That is what it is all about... If you are
going to do an anti-Semitic character, then you have to do it
to the one-hundredth degree," said Britton. "It does concern me
that some Jews might find it upsetting, but others would accept
it for its reality. There is no point pretending that these sort
of people do not exist... I wanted my book to go over the top,
to be taboo breaking. Even then, I could not possibly hope to
measure up to the reality of the Holocaust." Britton told the
court, "My father was Jewish."
Butterworth: "An interview in The Observer with frustrated anonymous Manchester police officers made it
quite clear that they recommended a prosecution under Section
Two (hardcore pornography), but the Director of Public Prosecutions
(DPP) declined to act. The police therefore pressed ahead with
Section Three, actually a more oppressive law than Section Two.
Although Section Three doesn't carry a criminal penalty, under
it magistrates are empowered to destroy the stock without a jury.
Magistrates like Derick Fairclough, who prefer to handle the obscenity
cases, do so with great regularity, working in tandem with the
police. Also, in the event of a Section Two being brought, all
past Section Three offences are dragged up to prove you have been warned, and that
you are a persistent flouter of the law.
"Because the police had got a Section Three, we found we couldn't
go to Crown Court to defend it in front of a jury. We had no choice
but to have it judged by Fairclough. Despite protestations from
our barrister that Lord Horror was not obscene under the terms of the Obscene Publications Act,
Fairclough decided otherwise and upheld his own charge. Nobody,
except us, seemed to find the result quite amazing!
"The procedure the police took is a replay of what has gone on
before, when they prosecuted us ostensibly for pornography but
actually for The Gas and Tides of Lust . The DPP won't let the police prosecute us for the Savoy material
because they know that before a jury we'd win hands down; even
if we lost we'd win, because of the precedent that would be set
of a work of art or literature being found obscene; whereas with
'backdoor' censorship they win something every time. The appeal
we are making at the moment, we made as a result of the destruction
order brought about by Fairclough."
IT'S LIKE BEING IN A LUNATIC ASYLUM WITH PERMISSION
TO MASTURBATE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (15)
"Garfield is perceived as a wholesome and endearing character,
with a hint of childlike rebelliousness, with whom all the family
So said prosecution witness Ausbert DeArce (managing director
of a Dutch company owned by UNITED FEATURES SYNDICATE) of Savoy's
usage of the lovable feline rogue in one issue of their Meng & Ecker comic series.
Meng and Ecker are offshoot characters from the Lord Horror novel. They are Lord Horror's "obsequious psychotic" sidekicks
(bearing the slightest facial resemblance to Britton and Butterworth?),
carving a trail of blood and frivolity through urban society.
Pertinent to Savoy's circumstance at the time, each issue sees
artist Kris Guidio planting Meng and Ecker firmly in a crazed
celebrity curdle. As integral as the (satirical) narrative itself
are the familiar faces and arcane references; anyone from Judge
Dredd to Charles and Di, from Salman Rushdie to Divine, is liable
to show up in the strips. In one episode, Fudge the Elf claims
that Meng is his alter ego. Meng, at the time, happens to be moaning
that his shafting of a dry "old granny" (cunningly disguised as
Margaret Thatcher) will require him to undertake a foreskin transplant.
In Meng & Ecker No. 3, the doppleganger of a certain bearded ex-Chief of Manchester Policein full riot-gear regaliacan also be seen on the receiving end of Meng's pork baton. No one is spared. Tank Girl and Ramsey Campbell are in there.
"Campbell was in there," notes Butterworth, "because he asked
to be in there. So we put him in. But we genuinely spelled his
name wrong. We apologized and inadvertently spelt it wrong again
some other time! Tank Girl, we put her in because she is one of
the few comic characters that we actually like. The others we
were lampooning because we felt the artwork was inferior... and
these were the characters that the media were putting forward
as examples of excellence."
Non-excellent characters get flattened or fucked. Because Tank
Girl holds her own, she is portrayed as a chick with a dick and
gets one up on Meng.
In 1991, Savoy paid around £20,000 on court costs and fines. Not
surprisingly, that was a year in which the company brought out
nothing new, embroiled as they were in the Lord Horror scandal and an out-of-court settlement of a 10-month legal battle
with United Features Syndicate (UFS).
UFS had shown an interest in Meng & Ecker. In particular issue No.4 and an eight-frame sequence where a cat,
not unlike Jim Davis' comic-strip creation, Garfield, is featured.
Meng is seen to masturbate and ejaculate over the animal. Defending
their copyright, UFS initiated extensive investigations of Savoy's
activities. This resulted in UFS solicitors and agents, and the
covert use of an ex-Vice Squad officer, forcing a seizure of all
copies of the comic and relating artwork.
"Even a faint suggestion of obscenity would destroy Garfield as
a marketing tool," said UFS. But, speaking in the September 1991
issue of Comics International, Michael Butterworth argued that "for all United Features' thoroughness in the business of detection they were unable to apprehend the most obvious fact about Savoyour tiny status relative to their own".
Meng & Ecker has a circulation of 2,000.
So, then, does the whole UFS issue have more to do with Savoy's
legacy of controversy than it does with the possible 'destruction
of a marketing tool'?
In the heart of Manchester town centre, in a place just on the
outskirts of St. Anne's Square, resides a pleasant, if modest,
coffeeshop by the name of MENG & ECKER. Offended by the alleged
use of their name but without sufficient funds to do anything
about it, the lawyers of the coffeeshop saw an opportunity present
itself when Garfield looked to get a creaming. They contacted
the UK licensees of Garfield, who passed their letter on to UFS
Was the title Meng & Ecker taken from the coffeeshop?
Butterworth: "I could never say that on tape (laughs)! Meng is
short for Mengele; Ecker is short for Eckhart, the Nazi poet.
You can make up your own mind from that! Well, according to the
Meng & Ecker restaurant, we have ripped off their name, and they
touted this to United Features."
How do you manage to cope with all these problems and prosecutions
"You just get used to going from one crisis to the next. If you
set out to do something radical it's inevitable that the machinery
is going to catch you." (16)
The police have a file labelled 'Savoy', perhaps?
"They probably have. Shout 'LORD HORROR!' to a policeman, see
if he knows!"
COMPREHENSION IS ONLY A KNOWLEDGE ADEQUATE TO OUR INTENTION (17)
On 31 August 1991, three days after Magistrate Fairclough found Lord Horror obscene, police raided Savoy again and seized over 4,000 comics,
including their Lord Horror mini-series Hard Core Horror. Issue No.5, the final instalment of Hard Core Horror, opens with publicity photographs of Jessie Matthews, 'England's favourite sweetheart', who married 'Lord Haw-Haw'. The full-page panels that follow depict the satanic machinations of the Nazi death camps, putrid smoke rising from chimneys, skeletal bodies and architecture mortified as one. An intense blacknessthe shade of caked bloodJohn Coulthart's artwork had never been more harrowing. (So harrowing, in fact, the text set to accompany the artwork was deemed impotent and not used. Hence the empty white spaces throughout that issue). The issue closes with another set of photographs, only this time it isn't Jessie Matthews, but rather anonymous corpses, beaten, battered and torn. One can scarcely imagine what ugliness must have befallen the woman whose innards erupt from fissures the size of a football, or the man whose hands lie at some distance from the mangled, bloody stump of each arm. These are truly wretched creatures.
In police interviews, Britton and Butterworth were questioned
on the 'meaning' of the more esoteric references in John Coulthart's
artwork, as well as fending the "very strong" objections to the
photographs at the close of Hard Core Horror No.5. In a scenario comparable to that of some cliche-ridden Hollywood
thriller, the police, says Butterworth, "had the comics examined
by experts who 'deciphered' many of the really quite elementary
references. They had also shown the comic to one of their forensic
experts who examined the photographs."
"That we may be fascists attempting to spread Nazi propaganda
in secret code language to children. Fantastic as this sounds,
they told us that they intended to attempt prosecution under the
Corruption of Children and Minors Act."
At Manchester Crown Courts, 30 July 1992, Savoy successfully managed
to overturn magistrate Derrick Fairclough's ruling that the novel
Lord Horror was obscene. However, the ruling against issue No.1 of Meng & Ecker was upheld. The appeal between Michael Butterworth and the Department
of Public Prosecutions, was made on the publisher's behalf by
Geoffrey Robertson QC (previously defending Oz in the Seventies
and Niggaz With Attitude in the Nineties), and supported by international
freedom group, ARTICLE 19. Author Michael Moorcock and Home Office
child psychologist Guy Cumberbatch were among those to take the
stand in defence of the works. Flanked by two magistrates, Judge
Gerard Humphries read passages from the book and leafed through
the comic, deliberating as to why, in Lord Horror , Hitler might have a freethinking penis named Old Shatterhand,
or the 'point' of the vaudevillian sing-song that opens Meng & Ecker (doubly ironic is irony lost). Proceedings came to a temporary
halt when it was discovered that the two magistrates had been
supplied with documents of which neither the defence nor the Judge
had been made aware. Following a brief adjournment, not wishing
to postpone to a later date, Robertson and the defendant agreed
Judge Humphries, in reaching his verdict, said of the novel, "The true meaning of obscenity is that a book or comic is obscene if and only if it depraves or corrupts a significant proportion of likely readers. The book is not obscene under that definition." Contrary, with regard to the comic, he concluded that it "could be readand possibly gloated overby people who enjoyed viciousness and violence. It had pictures that would be repulsive to right-thinking people". From an original print-run of 500, the 150 copies of Lord Horror impounded by police in 1989, were relinquished. Issue No.1 of
Meng & Ecker, on the other hand, the first comic to be banned in Britain,
would be the focus of further appeal.
The objection levelled at the novel was that of anti-Semitism.
Lord Horror kills Jews. There was little mention in court of the
book's other harbinger of ill-tidings: Chief Constable James Appleton
(and his similarity to Manchester's own James Anderton). But Savoy
maintain that this, indeed, is the source of the contention.
Is the use of the 'Appleton' character some sort of retaliation
against the police?
"It's not retaliation. He's given us the ideal characterhimself. How could we not use him! It's him who's got the bee in his bonnet about raiding shops instead of doing... er... whatever police are supposed to do."
Did it not make matters worse, though?
"It did. But his men had raided us 60 times and put Dave in jail.
Then all those ludicrous pronouncements he was making. With all
this happening we just had to record it. The pronouncements he
made early in his career about interning young people in camps,
for instance. We actually brought out 'Blue Monday' by the 'Savoy-Hitler
Youth Band' as a result of that proclamation. The sleeve shows
scenes from Dachau on the back and it's got what looks like James
Anderton's head on the front in his uniform. Actually, it's a
doctored still from a horror film (The Stuff ). It was an anti-authoritarian statement we were making. It was
this record that put the new wave of Politically Correct people
against us. And it's one of the reasons we haven't been able to
get any distribution, and coined the term 'Savoy Wars'. People
think we're fascists. The so-called 'alternative' people decided
they would have nothing more to do with us at the retail and distribution
end. We were getting raided, that made them nervous, too. And
other people, who didn't mind what we were doing but didn't want
to get involved in police raids. We were ostracized and alienated
Further repercussions in the Lord Horror debacle were felt on
27 April 1993, when author David Britton was found guilty for
non-Savoy material (pornography) confiscated in August 1991, and
sentenced to four-months imprisonment. This was the raid that
came three days after magistrate Derrick Fairclough had initially
ruled Lord Horror to be obscene, and in which 4,000 copies of the comic Hard Core Horror were seized.
Ironically, it was while Britton was doing time that Reverbstorm, the much-anticipated, much-delayed follow-up to Hard Core Horror finally saw the light of day.
Says Butterworth, "Reverbstorm is an eight-part Rock'n'Roll phantasmagoria set in an alternate Sturm-und-Drang city world. Dave sees the comic as a fugue, with its charactersJessie Matthews, Lord Horror, James Joyce, the Ether Jumpers, Blue Blaze Laudanum, the Ononoes... even the city, which has a palpable presenceas musical components."
Continuing on from Coulthart's death camp images in the final,
controversial issue of Hard Core Horror, Reverbstorm opens to vertiginous structures set against a bleak and foreboding
skyline. Except this time it isn't the death camps of a Nazi Germany.
"The city, Torenbürgen, is a cross between New York and Auschwitz... Torenbürgen was the place where the Nazis would have buried their noble dead had they won the war." It is where Lord Horrorwhen not broadcasting on the radio or engaging in groupie sextakes to the streets with fellow countryman James Joyce, making short work of anyone careless enough to stand in their path. It is where Seurat's La Grande Jatte becomes as volatile as Central Park after dark. And it is where the emancipated soul of superstar Jessie Matthews, gnarled and twisted, allows itself to be penetrated by the soul of the Virgin Mary (18). Of course, things promise to get more twisted from here on in.
"The similarity between our work," says Butterworth, "and the
so-called 'apocalyptic' culture or much of the literature arising
from the current interest in death and sex, the serial killer,
But for how long do you want to argue 'what it all means'?
"I've never seen it as an argument... what I mean is, there's two aspectse.g.; the obvious, where we show scenes of Dachau on the 'Blue Monday' sleeve, or have Meng hoist Anderton's severed head on a pike or fillet Billy the Fish with a dagger; those might have to be explained to people who don't know the references; and there's the sublime aspects, which draw from the nature of life in the Twentieth CenturyPicasso, James Joyce, Auschwitz. If you read Reverbstorm now, and could come back in 30 or 40 years time you'd see that what we're dealing with has already become the everyday literature of the future. Auschwitz will be the subject matter of fiction far more than it is today. Picasso, Joyce and Auschwitz are the three touchstones of this centurythey're all peaks in their own way that cannot be surpassed. The trend is already distinct. It has been said that it is almost de rigueur for an author to write a death camp novel. Well, Lord Horror
started the trend, our novel appearing well before Martin Amis'
Time's Arrow or the current spate of death camp films."
There stands a difference, however, in presenting a story in the form of a novel and that same story in the form of a comic book. Many peopleas evidenced by Judge Humphries' dismissal of Meng & Ecker as having "pictures that would be repulsive to right-thinking people"cannot accept that comics might be anything but a medium for juveniles.
"One of the things that triggered Reverbstormthis probably needs explainingwas our reaction to the low standard of so-called 'adult' graphic comics heralded by the comics industry and press over the last 15 years or so. There's only been two graphic books that have lived up to the promiseAlan Moore'sWatchmen, and Burne Hogarth's Jungle Tales of Tarzan . The rest have been various degrees of dire. Adult comics in
the Eighties and Nineties have become the platform shoes and flares
of their generation." Adult comics were far more adult in the
Thirties and Forties.
"People who want the simple-mindedness of X-Men or Judge Dredd
will do better to look elsewhere. But if you want something sublime,
that will stretch reference points in artistic and philosophical
terms, then look no further."
THE SMALLEST REVENGE WILL POISON THE SOUL (19)
History has a habit of repeating itself. With the ban on Meng & Ecker No. 1, Savoy were quick to release the latest instalment of that
series, issue No.7, which has on its cover... a bearded gentleman
in uniform, surrounded by disembodied, pink and mottled, wildly
ejaculating male members. The whole issue is a kind of fond farewell
to the ex-Chief Constable.
In 1992, Savoy published Michael Moorcock: Death Is No Obstacle , Colin Greenland's book length interview with the celebrated
author. Not focused primarily on Moorcock's fiction, but covering
also his writing of comic strips for Fleetway in 1960 and, later,
Look and Learn, Death Is No Obstacle comes with an introduction by Angela Carter. "She was another
author of the imaginative sort," says Butterworth. "Not part of
the realistic novel movement; not the 'University of East Anglia'
types who've been holding sway for years."
On a musical front, Savoy Wars is a CD compilation album of several of the company's rare 12"
single releases (10). As an added bonus, it includes PJ Proby
deconstructing the traditional Irish folk ballad The Old Fenian Gun (which, in his drunken stupor, Proby pronounces 'Finnegan'; 'That
old Finnegan gun'). Reverbstorm, the song, is the posthumous anthem of Martin Flitcroft, ex-Savoy
Press Officer who, one day in 1992, placed himself quite deliberately
in the path of a moving train.
In March 1995, the company was filmed for BBC 2's Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror. On the horizon is the imminent release of PJ Proby: The Savoy Sessions CD LP. The bad boy of Rock made a surprise appearance on ITV's
chat show, Barrymore, aired 30th April 1994. Successfully fielding questions levelled
at his drink problem (he hasn't touched a drop since 1992), Proby
avoided mention of Savoy and finished on a song from West Side Story. The appearance marked the singer's self-reclamation in the mainstream.
An extended interview with him appeared in the August 94 edition
of Record Collector magazine. In July, Proby told Hello!, 'I can't find Proby any more. The things he did, I can't do."
The police still have in their possession over 4,000 copies of
Lord Horror and Meng & Ecker comics seized back in September of 1989. For the hearingpending as of writingSavoy intend to challenge the current procedure that, under Section Three of the Obscene Publications Act, police can seize controversial material, hold it for an unlimited period of time, and then seek its destruction before a magistrate. It will also be argued that the publishers should be allowed to have their trial before a jury. Under a 1964 amendment to the Act there is a non-statutory provision for a trial if the publishers ask for one. Savoy have asked for a jury trial, and been refused. If Savoy win their case they may set favourable precedents for future publishers. If they don't win in the magistrates court, they have plans to take the case to the divisional courts for judicial review. If they still fail, they will answer the charge of obscenity.
For the first time in over a decade, The Gas has a national distribution.
The Savoy office is reached through a locksmith shop and up a staircase which falls back on itself, its rickety handrail of little comfort in the darkness. A coffin is set to one side. A floating head, painted on hardboard, eight-foot tall and baring razor-teeth greets the visitor at the topa backdrop from UKCAC, a comic convention which Savoy attend annually to the chagrin of many. There is a bathtub full of books to the left, and on the right an assortment of old metal toys and archaic filing system. The view from the windows is of busy Deansgate, the business heart of the city. For a surreal moment in the not too distant past, there was talk of turning the Savoy offices into a huge pirate ship with sails billowing down the side of the building and the Jolly Roger on a flagpole spanning the congested main street. Unmissable, unavoidable. The kind of madcap brainwave that Savoy would once have leaped upon and goaded into harsh reality. One in the eye of THE ESTABLISHMENT. But now it's a little different. Now the insanity is tuned to work into the system as opposed to up against it. It takes the form not of illicit vinyl recordings, bagged pornography, or music pressured high and forced out the door, but of Savoy product. Slivers of otherness wedged into that irritating rash called Reality. It is societal bigotry as portrayed in Meng & Ecker; the urban despotism of Lord Horror and Reverbstorm ; the immolation and resurrection of PJ Proby.
What of the future?
Says Mike Butterworth, "There is quite a lot to get out. Readings
of 'The Waste Land' and Lord Horror on CDwe've got the recordings, we just need to edit and press up. A Meng & Ecker, large format, best-of collection. After we get this product
out, if we still can't make any breakthrough we'll probably call
it a draw."
Are you saying no new Savoy product? The closure of the shops?
"Since we've started Lord Horror we've paid scarcely any attention
to the shops, anyway. Today, all the shops are just dumps; they're
nothing like they were in their heyday, when they were the first
and the best. I'd like you to mention that." •
Throughout the main text the company's imprint as it stands to date, simply 'Savoy', has been used. Only where historically pertinent have the past imprintsSavoy Books Ltd, Savoy Editions Ltdbeen introduced.
1. In a raid on the Bookchain shop in October 1980, police removed
1,833 obscene books and magazines, "The large majority of which,"
said Gordon Smith, prosecuting, "were hidden behind a secret wall."
2. Heathcote Williams, The Savoy Book.
3. An 'interesting' aside: Sitting outside Sinclairs pub in Manchester
town centre, during the warmer months of 1991, the author was
exchanging talk with a friend over a few beers. When the conversation
got round to Frank Zappa and his Studio Z recording studio, a
bearded guy, somewhat dishevelled in appearance, made his way
over. "Studio Z? Frank Zappa?" he said, drunkenly. It turned out
the guy was drunk, but he also knew a lot about the subject at
hand. Telling us he was fresh back from the hippie trail in India,
he introduced himself as John Muir, Mr Babylon Books, and told
us he now lived in Todmorden where the locals referred to him
as "Mad Jack" and Hell's Angels were after him.
4. The Savoy Book (1978) was the first in a proposed trilogy of anthologies. A collection
of belles lettres, faction, fiction, art and Rock'n'Roll, it was intended to fill
the gap after New Worlds temporarily suspended publication. The second anthology was Savoy Dreams (1984), which Angus Wilson called "a super dip". The third in
the trilogy, Savoy Sword & Sorcery, has yet to appear.
5. The Moorcock connection goes back beyond Savoy. Butterworth
had been a regular contributor to Moorcock's New Worlds magazine; Moorcock to both Britton and Butterworth's respective
publications. Later, Moorcock lent his name to Butterworth's novel,
The Time of the Hawklords.
6. Michael Butterworth, The Sunday Telegraph, 10 October 1993.
7. The Tides of Lust had also been unavailable in the US since 1973, when the paperback
edition went out of print.
8. Heathcote Williams, Savoy Dreams.
9. Colin Greenland, Death is no Obstacle.
10. "As you suggested, if Jim does die in the near future, which
seems likely, Savoy will certainly make every last effort to bring
his corpse to The Last Resort officethough we cannot guarantee he will say much." Letter from David Britton to John Flemming, producer of The Last Resort, 29 September 1987.
11. In actuality the voice of Bobby Thompson, singer with Kingsize
Taylor and the Dominoes, one of the first Merseybeat groups.
12. Opening lyric, Hardcore: M97002.
13. The Hard Core Horror mini-series is actually an offshoot of another proposed series.
Two issues only of a Lord Horror comic appeared. These proved a working drawing-board for the character
and, come issue No.3, the series switched to become Hard Core Horror. (Hence the reason the fifth and final instalment in the Hard Core series carries on its cover, 'Issue No.7'.)
14. DAVID BRITTON "That's four lines from the novel you have just encapsulated there.
There's not long descriptions of that. As you have read it out
that's exactly as it is in the book.'
MALCOLM WOOD "On page 57, 58 and 59 there is a scenario that describes Jews
coming out of a synagogue and the young Jew being slashed open
and disembowelled and a Rabbi intervening, various other atrocities
involving the killing of Jews in various sadistic manners. Is
it true that on these pages that scenario is described in the
BRITTON "With the qualification that again you're reading the book out
of context, taking isolated bits out."
WOOD "On pages 93 and 94 again a scenario describes where Jews are
being attacked with a razor, the Jew's tongue is pinned by the
razor to his chin. His body slashed open displaying his organs
and even the central character delving into the body gripping
organs in his teeth either to eat or to do whatever you would
describe his actions. Is that again another scenario within the
BRITTON "Again you have taken it out of its text. Out of what surrounds.
But that scene is in the book."
WOOD "I put it to you again that that scene and the others I have described
would tend to show a racial discrimination attitude couched in
BRITTON "No certainly not, certainly not."
WOOD "In certain quarters the reading of the book, would you not think
that it was racially inflammatory."
BRITTON "No I would not."
Transcriptin part, out of contextof interview with David Britton conducted by Detective Inspector Malcolm Wood, Obscene Publications Dept., Manchester Police, 17th October 1989.
15. Henry Miller.
16. Savoy threw a spanner in the works when, on its covers, Meng & Ecker began to carry the tag 'Arts Council Funded'. Over a period of
several weeks, the London Arts Council entered into correspondence
with Savoy, querying as to what it was the acknowledgement related.
Their first letter noted, "Colleagues here and at North West Arts
have been unable to trace any record of having offered any assistance."
In their reply, Savoy thanked the Arts Council for their 'offer
of financial assistance'. A hurried missive from the Council emphasised
that their previous letter "did not, as you must realise, offer
financial assistance". But, Savoy wrote, "Christina at North West
Arts supplied funding for our involvement in 1987 in a visual
prospectus aimed at the teaching profession." The London Arts
Council came back, "assured by North West Arts that they have
no Christina working for them and have never supplied funding
for your involvement in a visual prospectus..."
Previous to all this, Charles Osborne, ex-Arts Council, was quoted
in the Daily Telegraph as saying, "Savoy's Meng & Ecker comics do more for racial harmony than all the Arts Council Funded
community centres from Brixton to Moss Side." In 1994, Meng & Ecker announced that it had landed not one, but five Eagle Awards. That
would make it just about the country's favourite comic book.
17. Immanuel Kant.
18. Jessie Matthews' legendary status can be measured by Savoy's
decision to release Monoshock, a one-shot publication devoted entirely to the wartime sweetheart.
Little more than a collection of pin-ups by artist Kris Guidio,
Monoshock was not entirely successful. Mike Butterworth denies the caricatures
in Monoshock to be based upon Jessie Matthews, however. "All Guidio's women
tend to look the same."
19. Eastern proverb.
20. The Savoy Wars CD comes complete with a 24-page booklet which chronicles Savoy
music. Contrary to Mike Butterworth's wishes, the decision was
made not to put a copyright date on the package and, in effect, leave it
"timeless". Come the day the package was to go to the printers,
Butterworth made an impromptu change to the copy, adding a date.
This amendment came to light only when the print run had been
completed. Savoy Wars was now indeed held to a copyright date, but one mistakenly noted '1984' as opposed to '1994'. "Rather fortuitous, though, isn't it?" Butterworth later recalled. "1984? That was also roughly when we first started doing records. '85 to be precise, but we were certainly preparing work in 1984."