The Story of Savoy



Savoy Dreams
















Lord Horror

Part III (1982—1998)—S a v o y   D r e a m s

Savoy Dreams, published in 1984—the year of Big Brother—was a watershed book. Looking both backwards and forwards it could easily have been titled Savoy Nightmares, but instead it signalled the end of our phase as book publishers and packagers and the beginning of what we came to label (to a panicky media) our Moral Ambiguity Phase.

After losing copyrights as publishers in our 1981 liquidation (ditto all our subsequent packaged titles), we vowed that future publications would belong firmly to Savoy founders David Britton and Michael Butterworth, as producers. All productions from 1984 onwards, with exceptions (we have continued to be Michael Moorcock's occasional publishers), are the creations and copyrights of ourselves.

In 1982 we began courting PJ Proby, set on getting his life story, but changed our minds when we realised that what he—and we—needed most in the dark night of all our souls, was a record deal. The first Savoy Records release, Tainted Love, appeared in 1985—the year we moved back to our Deansgate offices and changed our dilapidated 'Colorol' Aubrey Beardsley wallpaper to a fake Mucha (all we could find, our preferred wallpaper manufacturer having, like so many others, by now achieved the terminal 'condition of Muzak').

The multi-mediaisation of Savoy had its origins too in the genesis of Lord Horror—one motivation for which was Dave's first jail sentence. Dave was released from pre-riot Strangeways Prison at 08.45 on the 11th of June 1982, a stone lighter, having served 19 days of a 28-day sentence for publishing the Platt and Delany novels (The Gas and The Tides of Lust). In the hot summer, prisoners had been setting fires to their mattresses and slashing their wrists. With one wing on fire, banged-up three to a cell and trapped, they looked out of their windows and saw the prison Governor panicking with the wardens on the lawn, and thought they were going to be burned alive. We were in a fighting mood.

Lord Horror's first appearance, as vocalist, on our version of New Order's Blue Monday, was in 1986. The first Savoy Comics' releases, Lord Horror and Meng and Ecker, appeared in 1989. Lord Horror the novel, four years in the writing, was published at the end of the same year. This period also saw the 'other side' collapsing. James Anderton's Vice Squad—responsible for the raids on Savoy—were disbanded on serious corruption charges (drinking after hours, screwing prostitutes on bar-top tables, reselling seized porn back onto the market). In October 1991 Sir Allan Green, the Director of Public Prosecutions, whose offices played a key part in Dave's imprisonment, resigned in disgrace after being caught kerb-crawling (his wife later committed suicide). James Anderton's 1987 anti-gay 'Prophet of God' speech, of "gays swirling around in a cesspool of their own making", had prompted his daughter to come out as a lesbian (Anderton himself eventually resigned, under pressure, in 1991).

Yet, without a trace of irony, the Manchester police continued raiding Savoy, starting with the seizure of Lord Horror several weeks after its publication in 1989 and continuing with a raid on our comics in 1991. (Police raids on Savoy were ongoing up to October 1997. More recent harassment has been from Customs officials, with the seizure of material being returned from the US in April 1999.)

For years, these cases were presided over by Stipendiary Magistrate Derrick Fairclough, who both issued the warrants to the police and insisted (for obscenity cases) on acting as judge, jury and executioner. Dave was jailed again in 1993, this time for four months. He served two. His one consolation was that rioting prisoners at Strangeways Prison had by now forced its closure and rebuilding, and conditions had improved. We sincerely hope our own publications, which we have always sent free to prisoners when they have ordered them, some of which form a record of Dave's first imprisonment inside Strangeways, played their part in bringing down the prison's old regime.

We continued our fight-back, and in 1992, helped by Article 19, the freedom group behind Salman Rushdie, and defended at the Appeal Courts by Geoffrey Robertson QC in the full glare of the national press, the charge on Lord Horror was overturned. But we lost the 'Battle of the Comics'. Our attempt in the High Court in London, July 1996, to get a jury trial to decide on the obscenity charges brought against 4,000 of our Lord Horror and Meng & Ecker titles, failed, and these have since been destroyed by the police; this is the first time this has happened in an obscenity ruling against comic books, all previous rulings having been given jury trials that have overturned whatever restrictive measures the authorities have tried to impose. This is how out of step these benighted islands are with the rest of the free world. One magistrate—Derrick Fairclough's successor in Manchester, Jane Hayward—decided what the rest of the country could read. The Law Lords backed her decision. Plus ça change...

For further articles exploring Savoy's past see the History section.

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