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Savoy, Soul and Suicide
b y P a u l T e m p l e
Headpress magazine, No 7, 1993
Headpress magazine, No 7, 1993
Left: Martin Flitcroft
BEFORE I DISCOVERED THE ETHER I WAS STUCK. I was mortgaged up to my long lashes in Brixton, my callowness had me bunked-up, shacked up and head-fucked with Karen, one of those 'idiotically correct' girlfriends that there seemed to be a preponderance of in the mid-eighties. She was a shop steward for Lambeth Council and because of it, life was bleak and Poland-like. It was in that peculiar season of high Thatcherism when the Left had just backed its kicked-sore arse onto the rusty rhetorical spike of the radical chicanery of Sado-Masochistic lesbians, suicidal poofs, racist blacks, real ale drinking public schoolboys with ersatz cockney accents, and bearded-ladiesall in all a poison-laden, bone-grinding hierarchy of fear, fuckery and loathing that dared not speak its own name. Lord knows how many bitches were crushed in the race to screw a miner when the coal strike was on (or even better a Provo) but the brownie points were good. Anyway, Karen was so heavily full of all of this that I could scarcely exercise my lower jaw without being identified as 'sexist', or whatever. The consensus was down. I was considerably ired at this, so much so, that I think for about a year the only syllables to pass my lips were, "Oh shuddup." I was wicked and had no peace.
One day I painted the living room clit-pink, covered one entire wall with porno collages and in the same rabid breath of frenzy, duly fucked Karen's juicy best girlfriend Helen (a lily-skinned young beauty of Irish extraction with rather big tits and a very hairy fanny). Naturally, that all went bad and Karen threw me out, so I put a brick through the living room window. After the fall-out, the return. Things seemed to settle, but I was forced to recompense. Disliking work, the only activities I enjoyed were snorting sulphate, indulging in sexual intercourse, and staying at home listening to wild records at extremely high volume, but because of my indiscretion Karen was able to cajole me into taking a job writing for the Melody Maker. That's how I met those devils at Savoy.
This phase held a false promise. For me the music industry was an unprofitable, unwild, unmusical world. Charisma was a five leaf clover. I was spoilt rotten though, and I used to get laid a lot cos I was 'in the music business' and was thus in possession of an enormous penile extension with a girth comparable to that of a footballer's upper-leg. I hacked it for a couple of years.
I had to give up drugs, as amphetamine abuse had afforded me a two year headache, but a chiropractor had me right as dodgers in a few sessions and I was ready to Enjoy again. I started careering wildly up girl-alley, I'd review some leather-jacketed Jim-Jim's in one of London's Rock joints, see two minutes of the group, pick a girl, screw the pants off her all night and go home to girlfriend. This happened about three nights a week. For a while I was also shafting a red-headed art student named Suzy, who lived down the road. I used to tell Karen I was going to the shop on the Hill for a packet of sugar, I'd call round to the student's house, fuck her really quickly and come home in good time with the sugar and without a hair out of place. When Karen learned of an affair with a nymphy Jewish journalist who wrote for Hello, Bella, and Chat magazines, she mapped and charted my fall. Subsequently I came home one day to find her screwing another man in my bed, which goes to show that those who live by the sword will die by the clam and be forced to eat dick.
I moved out. After discovering The Ether in some obscure Eastern transcripts I'd gotten hold of, I decided to give up writing. I really resented the way that print made everybody jump, the way that print excludes everything that's really real and includes everything that's phoney, whilst rendering outsiders of this merry charade as 'members of the public'. I gave up dreaming of a career in journalism, I wanted an un-mediated real-life, so I hooked up with a trio of fellow amphetamine heads. There was Aubrey, a car mechanic by trade, who was a reconstructed Throbbing Gristle fan from Bury that had got into Northern in the quest for something violent and tinny. I'd been to a party with him once where he took a switchblade-blade to a Vivienne Westwood clad gay-boy and damn near cut his ear off. He was a likable soul. Then there was Martin, who at that time was a rather cheesy lank figure with a lot of unhealthy obsessions. He used to dress like a schoolboy, grey bri-nylon shirt, grey V-neck jumper, charcoal grey trousers and sensible shoes, he had a vicious appetite for sulphate and wine. Not to forget Little Michael, a pixie-ish little amphetamine head who filled his Hulme flat with toilets. A glass collector at the Hacienda who was sacked for dealing speed, he was later committed to a mental hospital in Didsbury by his rabid Catholic parents. A committee of modern demonologists from the local mental hospital had him diagnosed as schizophrenic. Poor Little Michael, he went in a twiglet, came out a blob, jumped under a train and died. We all took this very badly, Martin and Aubrey nearly gave up drugs because of it.
Mentally, M and A were already very badly parked before I met them. One day Aubrey decided to give up drugs for Lent, Martin decided to follow suit and give up drink. During this abstinence period they felt they needed to take something up as well, so, a la William Burroughs, they mounted a terrorist offensive on the Manchester branch of the Scientologists on Deansgate, in Manchester. They went for Dianetics tests every day and gave completely fucked up answers to all the questions. They used to phone up the centre, record the receptionist's voice and then play it back down the phone, over and over again. They'd send them shit through the post, and harass them with all sorts of weird crap, all day, every day. Aubrey still keeps a file on this, in which there is a great photo of Martin, flashing his willy at one of L. Ron's faithful. The Scientologists kept calling the police, but to no avail. lt just went on and on and on 'til M and A eventually succumbed to the drink and the drugs again.
Seemingly in pursuit of some kind of theory of negative feedback, they didn't know anything about Savoy at the time. But the whole thing was fairly synchronic with the anti-media offensive that Savoy were undertaking not only with the press, but with The Greater Manchester Police. We were called fascists. Savoy were called fascists. And, for no apparent reason, so were Network 21, a free-booting Euro-pirate TV station based in Brixton that I got involved with for a while. It was a very bad time for the conservative anarchist but nevertheless, Martin, Aubrey and I (and a few occasional 'also rans') formed into a gang of nocturnal amphetamine road-beasts. As the WSF (Wagnerian Soul Fraternity), we spent months and months travelling to Northern niters in a beat-up car, with Bruckners IVth, or the Solti version of Die Walküre blasting out of the windows. Faster faster, louder louder. With the north winds blowing through our scurf at 120mph, reeking of chemicals and Juicy Fruit, hitting Niters and living furiously. We developed our own language, and we all spoke in this thick Edinburgh-ese (five years on and I still can't shake it off).
For two years I never read a paper or saw a television. We became aesthetites and energy obsessives, but would pursue any old head-fuck for a laugh. Our heroes were Wilhelm Reich, Franz Antoine Mesmer, G.I. Gurdjieff (who, legend has it, could suck enough energy out of a room to kill a yak at a hundred paces. Though I didn't know it at the time, Martin's brother was part of a Gurdjieff group in California). The fetish for mass-free primordial energy was also reflected in our taste in music: total amphetamine Northern, Mighty Phil Spector and 19th Century classical God-head bangers. We hated house-music and referred to ravers as acid-cripples.
The niter scene was for toxic avengers only. The newies scene was past its prime due to the ritual slaying of its chief exponent DJ Keb Darge, but it was still very vicious and intense. An outsider could be kicked in the face if he danced like an on-location rare groover. Or he could be spat at, or worse, laughed off the floor. Quite right too. We could be in some God-forsaken place like Chesterfield Conservative Club, or a barn somewhere in Scotland, and the atmosphere would be formidable, Nothing short of Total Commitment was the thing. Total Commitment and Total Human Electricity. A normal person didn't stand a chance, it was too intimidating. The dance floor was more like a damn bull-ring than anything. You'd see the most beautifully elegant dancer, and he'd be a steel-worker or something. With a complete empathy for the music. I remember watching this stocky brick shithouse going through his paces to Ends Of The Earth by Tony Middleton. When the record was just about to peak, he mimed a noose going round his neck. When the almighty climax was delivered, he gave the invisible rope a sharp yank and hung himself
The WSF invariably turned up like a trio of quarter-tipped tornadoes. We were the absolute best dancers. Martin used to do this slow drag number across the floor, like a rabbit with mixamatosis. Approaching the middle-eight, he'd generally lean back on his worn heels, go quick as a whip into a 360 degree spin then WAP! He'd clap so hard his hands would bleed.
Aubrey was the very model of a human jack-hammer, his bug-eyes trembling with the paranoia of future busts, but deep down not caring too much. His stomp-favour generally leaned toward an On Broadway chord sequence which would ejaculate over Orangemen drums and hysterical Psycho soundtrack strings.
Myself, I favoured a shifty, shifty side thing, one hand on hip, followed by a hi-kick on a peak, a jenny-like spin on a drum-roll, a side WAP on a beat-drop, plenty of flambé hand-gestures and orange squash between very violent numbers like With These Eyes by The Fabulous Peps on Wee Records, Take It Baby by the Showmen on Swan, If You Ask Me, Jerry Williams on Calla, and Where Can She Run To by the Jammers on Loma. The more unrestrained the music, the wilder the life.
AFTER MONTHS OF MOTORWAY MAYHEM, I fell into an extreme state of love with a girl called Dorothy. I just gushed for months. I was fascinated with the gush more than I was with her and used every opportunity to whack up the intensity of it. It reached such a peak that it nearly trashed my mental faculties. I was so in love with her, I nearly died of grief when we parted. Then I moved in with a female pornographer in Mayfair, who doubled as a witch. There was a lot of opulence and a lot of ether. I had a doorman, plenty of money and a very strange double life. I used to screw posh chicks, spend Friday evening dining at Langans, then whizz off to Dagenham Football Club or wherever for a Northern do (guaranteed to be packed out with tattooed skinheads), sometimes stopping in at the Wigmore Hall to take in a Bach piano trio or two. I carried on like this for about six months. But living with a witch was too fucking heavy and my whole life had become completely twisted because of it, so I moved to a really sleazy bedsit instead. I was completely shattered and had nothing except for this enormous amount of posh ether that I'd stolen. Martin came down in the car to my rescue and arranged the deal with Savoy that we'd make a record. I stayed in Manchester with the producer Tony. He was a drug dealer, the correct occupation for a lonely boy. His doorbell rang every thirty seconds, and his house was hyper-populous with a pot-smoking pond-life. Every day, the gangsters to whom he owed money used to come around with a baseball bat, threaten to break his legs and confiscate his recording equipment. The house was a squat and was constantly being circled by slow, whistling police cars. Everybody there was extremely paranoid. I would have been happier sleeping in a tree. Martin began to worship him just short of the point of screaming homosexuality; he thought Tony was "hard," he liked a tryer did Martin.
I got more and more into this class headfuck experiment. I'd wander 'round Manchester in riding boots and britches talking through my nose, every now and then popping into the barbers in Didsbury for an Edith Sitwell. One day, whilst taking the air in my finery, two black guys tried to mug me, but I aimed a whammy at them and they ended up giving me money. Enough was enough though, so I just decided to sleep on the sofa at the Savoy office. Peace, perfect peace.
Martin was made press officer at Savoy. The implications of which, for both of them, made me shudder. I tried to pay no attention as we were due to go into the studio to record Reverbstorm, a song about erotic class-warfare. I also wanted to experiment with what happened and what kind of imprint you got if you WACKED lots of ether into a recording studio. The song came to me quite quickly, I stole the first line from a hunk of gravestone on Aubrey's mantlepiece, the rest followed. The effect we were chasing was the sound of Elvis, in his quest for the Holy Grail, pelvis firmly thrust between Brünnehilde's loins, ripping down the temple pillars with his bare hands, rebuilding the world in six days and on the seventh creating Spectorial Revisionism. Fusing the atoms of the white hot matter of Meta-Northem to that swampy Bayreuth cello gut-rumble and subjugating the powerhouse military rhythm to an enormous wall of ever-escalating orchestral white noise, thus objectively illustrating Gurdjieff's Universal Law of Octaves. After that we pushed the intensity level up to about Mach 10, because that is exactly how we felt. Despite inevitable heaps of fucking around, we went into the studio and just about got the thing down. We put a curse on it for good measure.
After Reverbstorm, Martin went completely mental. The next day, he and I visited a brasserie where he shrieked at the waiter and demanded that his lager be brought to him in a wine glass. On another occasion while we were conversing about music in a pub, I said something that he agreed with and he screamed "YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!" and rammed the pint glass down on the table so hard that it shattered and showered all over the pub. I really wished at the time that I hadn't taught him the secret WSF ether trick, as doing it when you're a dangerous drug-addict can produce undesirable results.
As for Reverbstorm, we knew we'd done it, but we didn't get it onto two-inch and we couldn't repeat it . We'd used the ether up.
SAVOY HAD BECOME DEEPLY EMBROILED in their Svastika madness while I had become more and more entrenched in my St. George complex. I seem to recall that before Reverbstorm, my definition of evil was someone who didn't like Keep Luvin' Me Like You Do by Silky Hargreaves on Dearborn Records. Everything had got a little too black and weird for me. I went home to London to fortify. Aubrey had pretty much retired, I think he'd had enough headfuck for three lifetimes. He used to jack up vast amounts of speed, or dirt as we called it, and spend the whole day in bed with Radio 4 on.
Martin got worse. He came to stay with me a month or so later. He'd grown a Cap'n Haddock beard, wore a suit with clearly visible piss stains around the crotch. One night he was so drunk, he was making cycling motions in his sleep and babbling things like "batwing brain fly, herringbone." His head and arms were always caked in psoriasis. You couldn't have a reasonable conversation with him, he sweated, seethed and hissed constantly and Scottishly. He'd become a monster of his own making. Once I had to save him with an etheric Whammy when stopped by coppers on Westminster Bridge. He was driving, completely fucked off his face on speed and two bottles of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon. He was spitting at this copper who was just about to breathalyse him. Thankfully, I managed to zap the coppers, they turned around, got in their car and drove away.
He was totally beyond the pale, and when he was whipping the Lord Horror scam together with Savoy they all ended up piling such an enormous mountain of shit, ruin and negativity up, that you knew someone, if not everyone, was going to cop it. And that was what happened. Savoy were busted, (Michael) Butterworth went on the run, (David) Britton faced prison, I nearly went mad and died, Martin went mad and sacked himself.
I busied myself with trying to start a southern chapter of the WSF and put on a Wagnerian Northern night at The Brain in Wardour street. We had Northern upstairs, and Bruckner, Mahler and Wagner downstairs in the bar through enormous speakers, a sign on the door that read 'ravers not welcome', day-glo union jacks and huge Napoleonic banners. I wore a kilt. A hippy raver got in, protested at the WSF manifesto on the wall and we had a big punch-up. It was really storming upstairs. There was a near riot and Sean McLusky's girlfriend was hit over the head by a bottle and sent to hospital where she received several stitches.
I got fed up. My St. George complex was still intact and I was sick of attracting all this evil shit all the time. All my ideas were about the brave, the mighty and the good, and all I saw around me were vileness, drugs, near homosexuality, violence and death obsession. I officially disbanded the WSF in May 1990 and made a valiant and reasonably successful effort to gain some kind of normality in my life.
Aubrey is well, but sadly, Martin Flitcroft committed suicide in May 1992. I'd seen him three weeks earlier. We went to see Michael Nyman and Ute Lemper at the Festival Hall. He seemed to have mellowed out. He had a slight air of melancholy, but nothing noticeably extreme. I talked to him on the phone a few days before, then with no warning, he jumped under a train. The coroner's report suggests a distinct lack of evil substances in his body at the time of death. With all that intensity and wild black lodge energy spewing all over the place, I don't think any of us anticipated long years and a peaceful passage to the afterlife. I certainly didn't and though now in comparative comfort, I'm still incredibly 'safety-conscious'. There seemed nothing unusual about the way Martin died, given the fact that he refused to leave 'intense-world' whilst having absolutely no energy left. Under a collective banner we all lived our own individual experiments. The rest of us had left the lab a long time ago. Martin was unable to get past the past and to be driven by the past is a wearisome business. Reverbstorm was played at his funeral. •
HEADPRESS NOTE: David Britton, author of the novel, Lord Horror, was jailed under the Obscene Publications Act, Friday 2nd April,
1993, for four months. The conviction arises from the sale of
non-Savoy material seized Savoy outlets in August of 1991. On
the same combined raid, police seized over 4,000 Lord Horror comics co-created by Britton and Savoy. The raid was conducted three days after the initial ruling by a magistrate that the novel was obscene. Search warrants used were signed by the same magistratea bizarrity common to all the cases brought against Savoy and Britton. The comics, currently held by the police, are being dealt with
under Section Three of the Obscene Publications Act. If past experience
is repeated, this means that they will go before the magistrate
who will uphold the charge of obscenity. Savoy are seeking to
have the charges changed and brought under Section Two of the
Act, so that the case may be heard before a jury. The destruction order on the Lord Horror novel was overturned by the courts, in July of 1992. (SAVOY UPDATE: We lost our right to a jury trial at a hearing in the High Courts
of Justice in London in July 1996. The comics were destroyed,
by the order of one magistrate.)
HEADPRESS NOTE: David Britton, author of the novel, Lord Horror, was jailed under the Obscene Publications Act, Friday 2nd April, 1993, for four months. The conviction arises from the sale of non-Savoy material seized Savoy outlets in August of 1991. On the same combined raid, police seized over 4,000 Lord Horror comics co-created by Britton and Savoy. The raid was conducted three days after the initial ruling by a magistrate that the novel was obscene. Search warrants used were signed by the same magistratea bizarrity common to all the cases brought against Savoy and Britton.
The comics, currently held by the police, are being dealt with under Section Three of the Obscene Publications Act. If past experience is repeated, this means that they will go before the magistrate who will uphold the charge of obscenity. Savoy are seeking to have the charges changed and brought under Section Two of the Act, so that the case may be heard before a jury.
The destruction order on the Lord Horror novel was overturned by the courts, in July of 1992.
(SAVOY UPDATE: We lost our right to a jury trial at a hearing in the High Courts of Justice in London in July 1996. The comics were destroyed, by the order of one magistrate.)
Bolton Evening News, Friday December 4th, 1992
A RISING star in the publishing world killed himself by stepping in front of a train, a Bolton inquest heard.
Martin Flitcroft, aged 28, of Wellington Road, Turton, was seen to step from behind bushes and stand with his back to the Blackburn-Manchester Victoria train as it was travelling towards Bromley Cross Station.
Colleagues at Manchester-based Savoy Records and Books, where Mr Flitcroft was publicity director, described him as "a man with a glittering future ahead of him" at the time of his death.
Train driver David Kelly told the Inquest that he had slowed down from 45mph after seeing children on the line, but then, 30 yards further on he saw a man step from behind bushes and stand between the tracks.
He said that he applied the emergency brakes and sounded the horn, but the man made no effort to get out of the way and there was no way he could stop the train in time.
Bolton coroner David Blakey also heard how a 15-year-old Bromley Cross youth, who was playing with friends in woods alongside the railway line saw Mr Flitcroft walk along the line and then crouch down at the side of it near some bushes.
Matthew Wright, of Lord Stiles Lane, said that Mr Flitcroft then saw the train coming and walked into the middle of the line. He added that be heard the screech of brakes from the train and then saw it hit Mr Flitcroft.
Pathologist Dr David Butterworth said that the cause of death was multiple injuries.
The Inquest heard that Mr Flitcroft had taken an overdose or tablets when he was 16, and had visited his doctor three days before his death with a medical problem.
A jury returned a verdict of suicide. •
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